Flawn Academic Center

Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Libraries

One-third of the floor space on the first floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library will be renovated into the Learning Commons before the fall semester, according to UT Libraries employees.

The Learning Commons, which will be comprised of approximately 20,000 square feet of the floor, will include the University Writing Center, currently in the Flawn Academic Center, as well as learning labs and the media labs. Students will be allowed to study or collaborate on group projects when the areas are not in use for instruction or writing consultations, according to Michele Ostrow, head of the teaching and learning services for University of Texas Libraries. 

Other universities’ recently opened collaborative spaces spurred UT Libraries to build the Learning Commons, Ostrow said. 

“We wanted to include new teaching spaces since the spaces that we use right now in the libraries are not anywhere that students can find,” Ostrow said. “They’re not really set up to help students learn from each other and to do collaborative projects.” 

The consolidation of student academic services in the PCL will make it easier for students to use the services they need without walking across campus, Ostrow said. 

“We refer people to the writing center all the time, and I would just venture to say that most of them don’t make all the way to the second floor of FAC,” Ostrow said. “They just leave, and so if we just say, ‘Let’s take you to the writing center,’ and we walk 10 feet around the corner, then they’re actually going to get that help.” 

UT Libraries communications officer Travis Willmann said external funding for library projects, such as the Learning Labs, is difficult to secure because UT alumni are less attached to the UT Libraries than individual colleges and schools. 

“The library has the folks who use our resources,” Willmann said. “We don’t necessarily have the same sort of alumni or same sort of loyalties that the individual colleges and units have.”

Kai Lockhart, international relations and global studies freshman, said she believes the Learning Commons will make it easier to find study spaces and collaborate on group projects. 

“When I try to study in PCL, it’s … really crowded and hard to find somewhere to sit,” Lockhart said. “The way that this new layout looks … you can have a lot of other people with you when you’re studying [with groups].”

Student Government President Kori Rady and Vice President Taylor Strickland are currently halfway through their terms.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

With half of their year-long terms behind them, Student Government President Kori Rady and Vice President Taylor Strickland said they hope to use their remaining time in office to extend and perfect the initiatives they implemented in the fall semester. 

In the fall, SG members authored a resolution in support of having the Flawn Academic Center open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This semester, Rady said the FAC will retain extended opening hours, but cut back slightly to 24 hours a day, five days a week. 

“The plan is to work with [the FAC] to take away 24/7 because Fridays and Saturdays weren’t getting that heavy of usage,” Rady said. “We’re meeting with a roundtable group in the next couple of weeks, I hope, but I don’t want to make any promises. We hope that it’ll be back this semester, as it was
quite successful.”

Cherry Chau, human biology and chemical engineering junior, said she uses the FAC to study late at night because of its proximity to West Campus, but a change from last semester’s 24/7 policy would not interfere with her study habits.  

“Until finals come, people don’t really study on Fridays anyway,” Chau said. “If the [FAC] was open Sunday through Thursday, that would be good. I wouldn’t mind the reduction.”

Rady said the Student Services Budget Committee, a collective effort between SG, Graduate Student Assembly and faculty members, approved $52,000 in additional funding to continue Safe Ride, a student driving service that provides users with rides home from downtown Austin. The additional funds will double the size of the program, Rady said.

“We served over 3,000 students overall [last semester] and gave them rides home for free, preventing drinking and driving and giving them another option to be safe while enjoying the experience that is college,” Rady said.   

Strickland said SG will continue to plan Upperclassmen Shadowing Day, a goal Rady and Strickland introduced in their original campaign platform in spring 2014. The event would pair freshmen with seniors, with the hope that seniors can provide advice about the major selection process. Students will be able to attend classes with their senior counterpart.

“We really like that students have engaged us,” Strickland said. “A lot of things we’ve done have been from students’ recommendations and things that students really want to see. We just want to keep that going … and make this the campus [students] want to be on.”

Rady said SG will push to make student IDs an acceptable form of voter ID, and work to plan a unified student tailgate before football games. Strickland said she hopes last semester’s changes will remain in effect after her tenure ends.

“We’re going to be fighting until the end,” Strickland said. “Nothing is dead in our eyes. We’re going to be pushing for all of our platform points, so we’re really excited to see things develop.”  

Paper IDs can prove voting eligibility but not drinking age

A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.
A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.

On Tuesday, I voted at the Flawn Academic Center for the mayoral runoff election. Early voting for this important race, as well as a few lower ballot contests, will run through Dec. 12. Unfortunately, the FAC will only be open for voting through Saturday, presumably because classes end Friday. Election Day will be on the last day of finals, Dec. 16, so students should take advantage of the opportunity to conveniently make their selections before that day.

During early voting ahead of November’s election, I had to wait in a short line at the FAC, but my experience Tuesday was totally different. I was in and out of the door in less than five minutes, and although the FAC was packed with students, no one else was at the voting booths. Granted, when compared to the November election, this ballot’s length was a tiny fraction of last month’s ballot, but this should practically be more of an incentive to vote; it took a mere 30 seconds to make my selections.

Aside from the FAC’s shortened early voting period and the unsurprising lack of student voters, perhaps what stuck out to me the most was the rather capricious way the enforcement of Texas’ contentious Voter ID Act was handled. Under the law, which the editorial board of this paper, as well as many — if not most — politically involved groups on campus vehemently oppose, all voters must present a valid, government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, passport or concealed handgun license. A student ID, even from a public university such as this one, is insufficient.

A few weeks ago, I misplaced my driver's license, so the DPS office gave me a temporary paper certificate. On Tuesday, the election judge accepted it. Despite the fact that these paper certificates are relatively easy to fake, I was permitted to vote (I had brought my passport just in case). These paper certificates are fairly unreliable; most bars on Sixth Street refuse to accept them as valid IDs. Accordingly, it looks like the ostensible integrity of our voting system is more liberal than that of bars downtown.

All this is not to say that the election judge shouldn't have taken that piece of paper, and I don’t think someone would forge a fake temporary driver’s license in order to vote. Rather, it is to illustrate just how unnecessary and illogical the underlying law requiring all this fuss is.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The Perry–Castañeda Library is no longer the only study spot on campus to be open for all-nighters. 

On Wednesday, Student Government President Kori Rady announced in an email to students that the Flawn Academic Center will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of the semester. The FAC previously closed at midnight on weekdays. The plan to extend the hours has been in the works since the start of the semester, when Rady co-authored a resolution with other SG members in support of the initiative. 

“Initially, I was confident that it would get done this semester, and it did,” Rady said. 

This is not the first time SG has worked to open a UT facility for 24 hours a day. In 2012, SG worked with administrators to open the PCL on a 24/5 schedule. Since then, the PCL has run on a 24/5 basis each semester, beginning around midterms.

According to government senior Alexander Dickey, who originally brought the idea of a 24-hour FAC to SG, having multiple study spaces open all day and night on campus is long overdue. 

“If we’re going to cultivate young minds of the future, then we’re going to have to accommodate their odd times of sleeping, especially in the college environment where you’ve got cramming sessions all night,” Dickey said. “The PCL 24/5 is great, but why not make it all year round?”

Taral Patel, an author on the resolution to keep the FAC open on a 24/7 basis, said administrators and the FAC building management staff were supportive of having an around-the-clock study facility.

“As it came closer and closer, the administration really thought this was a vital thing that students needed,” Patel said.

Patel said he has also seen support from UT students for the 24-hour building.

“A lot of students have been wanting this option too, so I think it’s a perfect time for the FAC to be open 24/7 because finals are coming up,” Patel said.

To keep the building secure, Patel said they selected a security plan that hires three UTPD guards at $35,000 each per year.

Rady said they had to make few other technical changes to keep the building safely operating 24/7.

“We have security guards this semester that are going to be making sure students are safe,” Rady said. “There’s not too much too different in terms of logistic use. You just have to keep the lights on. And, of course, there are student proctors that are being trained to help students at the FAC when it’s 24 hours.”

Rady said the 24/7 FAC is in a trial phase, but if it is successful, it could become permanent.

“Everything is kind of a test in this kind of a situation,” Rady said. “You want to make sure people are using it, but of course, if no one is utilizing the extended hours, things could change. I’m confident people will.”

This election season’s early voting turnout increased by only 39 votes on campus since the last gubernatorial and midterm election in 2010. 

This year marked the start of new changes in Austin: City elections were moved from May to November to coincide with state and federal elections, and the Austin City Council was restructured from six citywide members to 10 members, each representing geographic districts. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she thought the new districts in Austin, as well as the county’s updated ballot, would increase voter turnout. 

“This ballot is kind of a record breaker,” DeBeauvoir said. “It’s the longest ballot we have ever had, and it is new in the sense that it’s the first time that the City of Austin has done single-member districts. It’s the first time that we’ve had all of our large local entities on the November ballot. This is all brand new for Travis County voters.”

Max Patterson, director of Hook the Vote, a Student Government agency focused on increasing student voter turnout, said he thought the publicity of this year’s race would increase the number of early voters at the University. At the Flawn Academic Center, 6,164 voters cast their ballot, compared to 6,125 in 2010. 

“You would think that they would be a little bit higher, and I think they will be on Election Day, as opposed to in 2010 just because it’s a little bit more popular race,” Patterson said. “More people know about it.”

According to DeBeauvoir, she expected voter turnout in Travis County to be higher with the new system. 

“That is a nice turnout, right in line with the usual gubernatorial turnout,” DeBeauvoir said. “We were hoping for a little better this time around.”

Compared to other Travis County poll locations, the FAC poll location ranked eighth in voter turnout. The lowest early poll numbers are at the Dell Valle Administration Building which totaled 395 voters, with the poll closed on the final voting day. The highest early turnout in the county was at Randall’s on Research Boulevard and Braker Lane with 13,706 voters. 

Despite the similar early voting rates, Patterson said he saw more participation by students in this gubernatorial race. 

“I think we saw, not necessarily in Hook the Vote but in other organizations that have gotten involved in the political process — there’s a number of political organizations on campus, but I think we’ve seen a lot more membership, a lot more action, in them,” Patterson said.

Neurobiology senior Morgan Merriman said she tries to keep her friends accountable and politically involved. Merriman said she thinks low student voter turnout is definitely a problem.

“Civic engagement in general is really important to being a citizen in America, and exercising our right to vote is the most important duty that we have,” Merriman said. “Students who don’t participate aren’t putting their say into their own future.”

Alex Keimig, human development and family sciences sophomore, said her friends all encourage each other to continue to be politically involved and vote.

“Most of my friends are civically/politically engaged, but more so my long distance friends than my local ones,” Keimig said in an email. “We’re all pretty personally motivated to stay engaged, so we support each other but don’t really need to push.”

Merriman said voting at the FAC was ideal location-wise.

“I early voted out of convenience since I am in another district and the place I would have to vote on Election Day is really far out,” Merriman said

Even with the convenience of on-campus voting, Merriman said she didn’t see many other voters at the polls.

“I don’t think the student voting turnout was high because there was literally no line at all ever,” Merriman said. “Students should start caring now about voting because it is our future, which is coming up really quickly, that we are voting for.”

DeBeauvoir said she is expecting about 150,000 people to vote in Travis County on Tuesday, consistent with Election Day turnout in previous years.

Three important polling places were available to students on Election Day in 2012 that will not be available for this year’s election. On that day, a cumulative 1,890 residents voted in the student-dense precincts 313, 277 and 274. It is vital that students familiarize themselves with the new voting structure to know where they can and cannot vote Nov. 4.

Since the 2012 presidential election, the voting process has changed in Travis County. Previously, a select few polling stations were open for early voting where anyone could vote. Many more opened on Election Day, but voters were restricted to voting in their designated precinct. In the past 18 months, the county has switched to a “vote center” model. In this model, a few polling stations were consolidated, but more stations are available through early voting to Election Day, and on Election Day citizens can vote at any vote center convenient to them. According to Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, this model allows the county to keep open polling places located at retail and grocery destinations that are more convenient for voters.

What this means for students living in West Campus, however, is that the polling stations previously located at the North Lamar Senior Activity Center, the First English Lutheran Church and the University Co-op have been consolidated with neighboring precinct vote centers and will not be available come Nov. 4. The closest vote centers for Election Day are the Flawn Academic Center on campus, Austin Community College’s Rio Grande campus at 12th and Rio Grande streets and Baker Center on 38th Street. DeBeauvoir said the combined centers will have more individual voting booths to accommodate the additional voters. While there were other consolidations throughout the county, these three are clustered in the UT community, and we think the consolidations disproportionately affect the student population.

In light of this change, we urge Longhorns to overcome the negative habit ubiquitous among the student population: procrastination. Come Election Day, the most convenient polling place for students living in West Campus will be the FAC. While two of the three combined precincts have accommodations made at other vote centers, familiarity and convenience will undoubtedly draw most students to the campus vote center. Since residents are no longer restricted to their designated precinct, this particular polling location will become overrun with students who waited until the last minute. While the lines may not be as long as they were in 2012, a presidential election year, long lines would significantly deter voting.

The solution is simple: Avoid the lines and vote early, at the FAC between classes or at the center of your choice. We applaud the flexibility of this new voting model, but it is vital that students are familiar with their options and take advantage of early voting while it is available. 

Student Government President Kori Rady speaks about extending the FAC’s hours at a meeting Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

The Student Government Assembly approved resolutions at a meeting on Tuesday regarding the city’s proposed urban rail route and opening the Flawn Academic Center on a 24/7 schedule.

The assembly also passed a resolution in support of the city’s Proposition 1. If approved by voters, the proposition would dedicate $600 million in bond money to an urban rail route, which would run from East Riverside to ACC-Highland. The route would stop three times on campus along San Jacinto and Trinity streets. The proposition also requires to city to acquire $400 million toward road projects and corridor studies. 

University-wide representative Taral Patel said the rail would give students who live off campus more transportation options. SG passed resolutions in April and October 2013 in support of the line running by campus on Guadalupe Street.

“By bringing this infrastructure, we have the option to reach out and explore the routes that we do want,” Patel said.

The assembly unanimously passed a resolution in support of the University operating the FAC on a 24/7 basis. Patel said the plan to implement the change is ahead of schedule and the project may be funded sooner than originally anticipated.

“It’s really important that this happen so we have a solid 24/7 study space on campus like a lot of universities do,” Patel said. “I have a lot of friends at other universities [with] exams going on right now, and they are very happy that they get to stay on campus all night. Well, I mean they are not happy about the tests, but at least they have a place to study for it.” 

SG President Kori Rady said he anticipates the new FAC hours may start by next month.

“I don’t want to get too much into detail or make any promises too early on — but potentially before November,” Rady said.

The Perry–Castañeda Library will begin operating on its 24/5 schedule Sunday at noon.

Also at the meeting, Melysa Barth, Rules and Regulations Committee chair, said the SG’s code of rules and procedures was still under review in committee. The code is being formatted into a single, detailed document that clarifies SG rules, removing contradictions and adding compliance with the Dean of Students’ office.

“We recalled the vote per a few requests, and it is still in committee, which is why we are not hearing it tonight,” Barth said. “There were a few edits that were brought to our attention that were not brought to the last meeting, which is why we recalled the vote.”

In a fast-track vote, SG members also approved a resolution standing by Relationship Violence Prevention Month, hosted by Voices Against Violence. 

“It’s finally becoming a mainstream conversation where people are coming together and saying that we will not stand for sexual assault or domestic violence,” Patel said. 

A new resolution was proposed at the meeting that called for equal access to all course materials. The resolution proposed that students registered with Services for Students with Disabilities have access to course materials that accommodate their needs. 

International relations junior Sarah Wilson studies at the Flawn Academic Center on Monday afternoon. Student Government representatives have proposed extended hours for both the Flawn Academic Center and the Belo Center for New Media.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Students looking for late-night study spots when the Perry-Castañeda Library is packed may be in luck. Student Government representatives proposed two resolutions requesting more late-night study options on campus.

The first resolution calls for extended hours at the Belo Center for New Media. The Moody College of Communication building located on the corner of Dean Keeton and Guadalupe streets is currently open until 11 p.m. If the resolution is implemented in the building, it may be open until 2 a.m. all week.

The second proposed resolution is in support of opening the Flawn Academic Center on a 24/7 basis. This semester, the FAC is open until midnight on weekdays until finals week, when it becomes open for 24 hours.

The recent proposals do not mark the first time SG has worked to open a building on a 24-hour basis. In 2012, an SG resolution led to the PCL opening for 24 hours, five days a week. The PCL has continued to operate with a 24/5 schedule beginning around the midway point of each fall and spring semester.

“Gate counts definitely rose after the institution of 24/5; in 2011 (prior to 24/5) we had 1.67 million visits to the PCL, and that number was over 1.71 million last year,” UT Libraries spokesman Travis Willmann said in an email. 

Currently, other late-night study spaces on campus include: the Texas Union, open until 3 a.m.; the Student Activity Center, open until 3 a.m.; and the PCL, which is open until 2 a.m. On Oct. 12, the PCL will begin operating on its 24/5 schedule.

Ruben Cardenas, Moody College of Communication representative for SG, said the Belo Center for New Media would be an added convenience for students who live far from the PCL.

“We thought this is an area close to West Campus, close to the dorms, that students utilize,” Cardenas said.

The FAC would serve the same purpose, according to SG President Kori Rady.

“There’s always a need for more collaborative study space on campus,” Rady said. ”The PCL is often filled to the brim, and this gives students another place to go.”

Rady said the proposal for extended hours at Belo is still in the beginning stages, but Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, agreed to look over the plan and discuss it with college officials.

He said he hopes to implement the 24-hour FAC plan within the current school year.

“It’s simply just a funding issue,” Rady said. “They have every capability of doing it 24/7 FAC. We just need more money.”

The cost for extending the FAC hours is $81,790, according to Rady. Taral Patel, author of the resolution and University-wide representative, said SG representatives working on the proposal are seeking funding from the Student Services Budget Committee and the President Student Advisory Committee.  

According to Willmann, the 24/5 PCL schedule is funded by University Athletics. He said it costs more than $40,000 to keep the building operating with its current schedule.

Rady said security measures have not been fully explored at Belo since the plan is still in the works, but, at the FAC, there are options for student security guards, a hired security guard or UTPD patrol in the surrounding area — the current security method during the 24-hour schedule for finals week.

“We need consistent 24-hour places to work,” Patel said. “I understand the PCL does this during midterms and during finals, but people have plenty of tests scattered in between year round.”

Recently, Student Government, at the urging of government senior Alexander Dickey, began deliberating a proposal to make the Flawn Academic Center, currently open 18 hours a day Monday through Thursday for most of the semester, a 24-hour building. This is not without precedent, as the building — previously known as the Undergraduate Library — once indeed opened its doors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Back in February, we even ran a letter from Dickey lamenting the apparent decline in student services resulting from the elimination of an all-hours student center. Today, sadly, no building on campus is open to all students throughout the day and night.

Although the Perry-Castañeda Library is open 24 hours on weekdays in the middle of the semester and 24/7 closer to final examinations, a perpetual place for nocturnal and otherwise up-at-4 a.m. students to congregate is absolutely vital. We commend Student Government for bringing renewed attention to this important matter. 

A section of the library at the University of Houston already opens its doors around the clock, while Texas A&M at least does so throughout the academic week. Just in the past few days, Louisiana State University announced plans to make its library 24 hours. 

But the beauty of a 24-hour FAC study space is that the facility can easily accommodate the transition, easing resource requirements for the more expansive PCL. Students merely need a quiet space for preparation, or even just a computer. For the students who lack ownership of our electronic staple, or perhaps have checked it into a repair shop, university facilities can often be the only way to engage with the online world. For all of us who have checked our emails or text messages in the middle of the night, we should be able to empathize.

Keeping a building open for six more hours while the vast majority of us are sleeping or engaged in other nocturnal activities likely will not mean much at all to most. But it will mean the world to those who truly need the expanded service. For the sake of the 3 a.m. studier or for the student who just wants to chat with friends a few minutes after midnight, extending the hours at the FAC would change our University for the better.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Fall is just around the corner, and for incoming freshmen that means getting acclimated to campus. As the new Longhorns settle into their dorms, they will surely start to think about books and other materials for their new classes. Most will find their way to the University Co-op.

For many students, outside of purchasing their textbooks, they won’t revisit the Co-op until the time comes to purchase graduation regalia. However, the Co-op is much more than just a place to buy textbooks and gowns. The Co-op has a rich history and partnership with the University, and there is a lot you may not know about the conveniently located store. Here are five little known facts:

1. The Co-op is a not-for-profit entity.

That’s correct. The Co-op gives it profits back to the University and is not an entity of the University but, rather, a standalone company. Many of the company’s proceeds go toward grants, scholarships and awards such as the Hamilton Book Author Awards. The Hamilton Award, which goes to a faculty member with outstanding research as judged by a panel of University scholars, is just one of many examples of the Co-op’s giving. Other awards include the Mitchell and Granof Awards for undergraduate and graduate students, respectively.

Additionally, the Co-op has provided money for many buildings on campus such as the Flawn Academic Center, the renovation to the Fine Arts Library and many technical and nursing programs.  

2. The Co-op has history.

In 1896, the Co-op was formed by UT faculty and students. It was originally intended to support the UT community at large and still aims to serve that purpose today. Initially housed in the Tower, it was a place to buy pencils and basic school supplies.

The Co-op exists in its current form as a result of the University’s needing a larger book store. The Co-op has since expanded into one of the nation’s largest collegiate bookstores. It is also among the world’s top 25 companies in mobile development (thanks to mobile shopping).

3. The Co-op is probably covering more ground than you thought.

The Co-op currently has two locations in Austin, as well as stores in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. The company also owns the art supply store on the Drag and the picnic area located behind its flagship. All of these locations offer the widest array of UT merchandise offered anywhere.

4. The Co-op offers competitive pricing with an eco-friendly twist.

According to Co-op student representative Jake Schwartz, the Co-op is “giving people good deals. [It helps] that were are so close, convenient and competitive. Realistically, the more you buy the more you help the University." Schwartz also stated that any item the Co-op sells is within roughly $5-$10 of prices listed on Amazon, which, given the proximity of the store to campus, is really just negligible once you include shipping fees.

Outside of competitive pricing, the Co-op aims to be a green company. Almost all of the graduation hats and gowns are made from recycled material. The company ships with the most earth-friendly material available and has phased out the use of styrofoam, replacing it with a biodegradable material made from recycled paper.

5. The Co-op gives directly to students.

The Co-op is a multi-million dollar company with six student board members. The representative positions are an opportunity for students to oversee a $40 million company, and yet only six people ran this past year for the two open student seats.

The Co-op also has the largest appropriations process of any UT entity and gives out tens of thousands of dollars directly to student organizations every semester. But the Co-op doesn’t stop there. Not only does it give heavily to student organizations, but it also supports the College of Fine Arts and the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Sadly, despite the Co-op’s largesse and integral role in the University’s history, many students are left in the dark about its function. I would argue that the Co-op has done a poor job of reaching out to the UT population. Its contributions to entities such as the Flawn Academic Center are only listed on small plaques, leaving large but, for all intents and purposes, unsigned marks of its contributions to campus. Not only is the Co-op our bookstore but also a great University benefactor.

So next time you go in to purchase books, remember that you are not at a University-owned store but, rather, a non-profit company whose sole purpose is to serve the University. Perhaps the above information doesn’t alleviate the cost of that $300 MIS textbook, but it should broaden your understanding of this campus fixture.