Bryan Davis

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Student Government Assembly heard a resolution Tuesday in support of a pamphlet that would be distributed in courses carrying a cultural diversity flag. 

As the resolution stands, the pamphlet outlines historical incidents of racism and sexism at UT. The authors of the resolution said the pamphlet would help stop the repetition of this racism and sexism in the future.

“We understood that talking about these things wasn’t going to make people comfortable,” said Bryan Davis, government senior and author of the resolution. “But given the history of things that happened at UT over the years, … we kind of want [the pamphlet] to drive home the point that these are issues that need to be taken very seriously.”

The resolution was originally not on the agenda because an SG representative did not turn a copy of the resolution in on time. After several students spoke during open forum and asked the Assembly to hear the resolution, the Assembly voted to add the resolution to the agenda.

Davis said he wanted the Assembly to hear the resolution so it could have the chance to approve the resolution before the end of the semester.  

“I came in here thinking that the bill was dead,” Davis said. “I’m at a loss for words. I didn’t think this was going to happen.”

The resolution will move to the Student Affairs committee and, if passed, will be taken to a vote in SG next week. If SG approves the resolution, the University would still have to approve the pamphlet before it could be distributed in courses with a cultural diversity flag.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Just days after Charlie Strong was introduced as the University’s new head football coach, booster Red McCombs took to the airwaves to voice his thoughts on the new hire. In an interview with ESPN 1250 San Antonio, McCombs, a former owner of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Vikings, described the University’s decision as a “kick in the face.”

“I don’t have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator. But I don’t believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin,” McCombs added.  

McCombs’ comments came off as insensitive, pompous and racist given that he reacted so strongly to the hiring of Strong, the University’s first African-American men’s head coach and only the second African-American head coach in school history. To say that Strong isn’t the right man for the job is one thing, but to dismiss his accomplishments as only warranting a position coach or coordinating job is downright degrading.

Bryan Davis, a government senior and president of the Society for Cultural Unity, felt McCombs’ remarks were “subjective, personal and rooted in something other than football commentary.”  

Kevin Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and of African and African diaspora studies, added, “I think Strong will probably be scrutinized even more closely than perhaps a white coach, in part to see how he deals with the influential big-money boosters who are part of the ‘white Texas good ole boy’ club. Also, given the negative stereotypes that exist about African-American intelligence I would not be surprised if some critics start questioning his play calling and his decision making to a greater degree than occurred with Mack Brown.”

Even though McCombs is the only booster who has publicly spoken out against Strong, it is an indication of the uphill battle to come, especially when considering the fate of the University’s last and only other African-American head coach, Bev Kearney.

Kearney, who filed a $1 million lawsuit against the University, claims she was fired for having a consensual relationship with a student-athlete, while other UT white male employees in similar relationships — particularly Major Applewhite — did not face equal disciplinary action. 

The University has failed to clearly illustrate why Kearney was fired while Applewhite merely received a pay cut for committing the same offense. So it seems as if race and gender play a bigger role in the case than the University is letting on. 

Though the University has only had two African-American head coaches, it is important to note how both have faced questionable treatment seemingly because of their race. From McCombs’ dismissive comments about Strong’s accomplishments to the University’s handling of Kearney’s consensual student relationship, it’s commendable that Strong still wants to accept the position. 

When asked about McCombs’ comments, Strong replied, “There are going to be statements made … once you win some football games, you’re going to change a lot of people’s attitudes.” 

However, there are many people on campus whose opinions differ from McCombs’. 

Curtis Riser, a physical culture and sports sophomore and offensive guard on UT’s football team, said, “I’m glad to have our first African-American [men’s head football coach] at Texas. [Red McCombs] is entitled to his own opinion, but I’m just happy to move forward with our new coach.” 

But under no circumstances is the hiring of Strong enough to compensate for the disproportionately low number of African-Americans on campus. After all, the football team was predominantly black before Strong’s arrival. When the presence of black males at UT expands beyond the football field, then and only then will true progress be made.

“The hiring of Charlie Strong is certainly wonderful and is very exciting for UT. However, I would caution us to not make this a panacea for race relations,” Cokley said.  

Even if Strong’s presence doesn’t immediately fix race relations at UT, having a man of color in a position of such power is monumental, given that black males make up less than 2 percent of the University’s total population. 

“UT hiring its first black football coach is symbolic in terms of exhibiting black leadership that has potential to further discourse about race relations here,” Davis said.  

McCombs has since apologized for his derogatory comments about the hiring of Strong, but his insistence that he was unaware of the racist undertones of his comments further emphasizes that race relations continue to be an issue at UT. While McCombs has taken responsibility for his actions, as a man whose name is plastered across the University’s business school, McCombs should exercise better judgment. 

Johnson is an undeclared junior from DeSoto.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

In the midst of official reports indicating an absence of bleach in the balloon attack of government senior Bryan Davis, the Black Student Alliance organized a rally at the West Mall on Tuesday afternoon to plan for further activism and to oppose a climate of intimidation perceived by minority students at UT.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said Davis’ clothing and balloon fragments collected at the scene on the Aug. 22 incident were sent to an independent forensic lab for further testing. 

“The lab has indicated that through their visual, microscopic and spectroscopy tests, all samples of clothing — shirt, shorts and socks — as well as submitted balloon fragments show no indication of bleach or other contaminant,” UTPD officials said in a statement. 

At the rally, students and staff voiced their dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of reported balloon attacks against minorities in the West Campus area. Speakers at the rally said the ensuing controversy — whether bleach was in fact used in the balloons — glosses over an overarching safety and civil issue.

Davis said despite the reports that bleach was not used in his attack, student concern over the issue is still very much alive.

“These targetings and attacks, as I’m sure all of you know, won’t stop until the University more seriously considers them to be an issue that isn’t going away until a proper solution is found,” Davis said.

Chas Moore, a former student who spoke at the rally, said he does not think every balloon attack in West Campus that involved a minority student is necessarily racially motivated. But Moore did say such attacks will not be taken lightly by minority students. 

“If [my racial demographic] makes up only 3 to 4 percent of the student population on this campus, and I’m getting balloons tossed at me from elevated levels in West Campus, I am going to internalize and think about those incidents in a different way than my non-colored constituents,” Moore said. 

Eduardo Belalcazar, an international relations and global studies junior, who is the latest victim to speak out against the attacks, shared his story at the rally. Belalcazar said he has not heard from UTPD regarding his investigation.

English professor Snehal Shingavi said the “boys will be boys” narrative used to justify or dismiss the balloon attacks evades what he considers some of the worst behavior on campus.

“It’s irresponsible to cite prankish behavior as an excuse for what is clearly a climate of intimidation,” Shingavi said. “The fact that it happens to sorority women more is not an excuse. It’s actually disgusting that sexism is being used as an apology to forgive racism.”

In response to the incidents, Reva Davis, African and African diaspora studies senior and president of BSA, announced that the group will be starting a letter-writing campaign to further voice student sentiments and the perceived racial tension on campus. Reva said the BSA will draft letters and send them to city and University officials. 

“It’s time for us to initiate change,” Reva said. “If people knew more about the demographics on color, they would empathize with the way these attacks are perceived. Every victim that has come forward has been a student of color. We need to cater to our reality.”

Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of the University Towers on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and speculates similar instances are more common that publicly perceived. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: UT Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of University Towers in West Campus on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and has sought to increase awareness of racial tensions at UT since the incident.

Despite this publication’s statement that I was assaulted with a balloon filled with water instead of bleach, I would like to clarify that, as last week’s story later mentioned, there has been no public statement from APD regarding the possibility that what I was attacked with was a water balloon. This mistake was later corrected, but what has bothered me most is not the misinformation but some of the responses the case has gotten from others in the community.

Although many students and faculty members have reached out with words of encouragement and support, I was shocked not by the fact that the story had gotten backlash, but by what it was getting backlash for. I knew after the story erroneously called the assault a “water balloon attack” that people would assume the entire situation was a misinterpretation of my assault on my part. However, what I didn’t anticipate was the degree of indignation, rejection and denial the issue would receive from various students and commentators. 

There seems to be a consensus among some students who are aware of my case that my assault isn’t really indicative of any issue at all. The most common response from these individuals is, “I’m white, this has happened to me before, therefore it’s no big deal.” 

Although many of these people are individuals who have not taken the time to carefully and thoroughly understand the details of my case and whose uninformed comments usually wouldn’t merit any attention, they make for a great example as to why these assaults are indeed more significant than they believe them to be. 

These commenters’ ignorance of and insensitivity to the social experiences and histories of minorities locally and nationally mirror the same insensitivities that led to myself and other students of color being assaulted in West Campus recently. When you’ve been insulted and denigrated because of the color of your skin and are aware of the heightened racial tensions reflected in controversies such as the Trayvon Martin and Larry Jackson shootings, trust me, you don’t want to be anyone’s target — no matter the situation. 

It is not, however, the individuals targeting minorities who should be faulted for this kind of unawareness. 

The blame instead lies with the educational institutions that let such ignorance go unchecked. For so long, we’ve been told that cultural diversity is simply a matter of getting students of color into institutions of higher learning, but cultural diversity is not only about fostering a socially and ethnically balanced student body. Genuine diversity is about making sure all students acknowledge, understand and appreciate the various cultural backgrounds and histories of their peers.

Consequently, it is not until we are forced to sit down and learn about the issues that concern all of our fellow students, not just those with similar cultural backgrounds, that we will begin not only to learn but also to practice cultural diversity. 

Why expect someone to know something they haven’t even been told about? Recently, I discovered that two friends of mine didn’t know who Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot by George Zimmerman last year, was, or how his case affected other black males such as myself.  Unbelievably, they thought he was a comedian from a TV show. 

But we reach that level of unawareness where there is no forum for students to discuss and comprehend each other’s complex and different cultural backgrounds.  Because of UT’s refusal to more effectively address the issue, students are led to become ignorant and/or simply indifferent to these kinds of community problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if another assault happens because of it.

Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of the University Towers on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and speculates similar instances are more common that publicly perceived. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: UT Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of University Towers in West Campus on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and has sought to increase awareness of racial tensions at UT since the incident.

Despite this publication’s statement that I was assaulted with a balloon filled with water instead of bleach, I would like to clarify that, as last week’s story later mentioned, there has been no public statement from APD regarding the possibility that what I was attacked with was a water balloon. This mistake was later corrected, but what has bothered me most is not the misinformation but some of the responses the case has gotten from others in the community.

Although many students and faculty members have reached out with words of encouragement and support, I was shocked not by the fact that the story had gotten backlash, but by what it was getting backlash for. I knew after the story erroneously called the assault a “water balloon attack” that people would assume the entire situation was a misinterpretation of my assault on my part. However, what I didn’t anticipate was the degree of indignation, rejection and denial the issue would receive from various students and commentators. 

There seems to be a consensus among some students who are aware of my case that my assault isn’t really indicative of any issue at all. The most common response from these individuals is, “I’m white, this has happened to me before, therefore it’s no big deal.” 

Although many of these people are individuals who have not taken the time to carefully and thoroughly understand the details of my case and whose uninformed comments usually wouldn’t merit any attention, they make for a great example as to why these assaults are indeed more significant than they believe them to be. 

These commenters’ ignorance of and insensitivity to the social experiences and histories of minorities locally and nationally mirror the same insensitivities that led to myself and other students of color being assaulted in West Campus recently. When you’ve been insulted and denigrated because of the color of your skin and are aware of the heightened racial tensions reflected in controversies such as the Trayvon Martin and Larry Jackson shootings, trust me, you don’t want to be anyone’s target — no matter the situation. 

It is not, however, the individuals targeting minorities who should be faulted for this kind of unawareness. 

The blame instead lies with the educational institutions that let such ignorance go unchecked. For so long, we’ve been told that cultural diversity is simply a matter of getting students of color into institutions of higher learning, but cultural diversity is not only about fostering a socially and ethnically balanced student body. Genuine diversity is about making sure all students acknowledge, understand and appreciate the various cultural backgrounds and histories of their peers.

Consequently, it is not until we are forced to sit down and learn about the issues that concern all of our fellow students, not just those with similar cultural backgrounds, that we will begin not only to learn but also to practice cultural diversity. 

Why expect someone to know something they haven’t even been told about? Recently, I discovered that two friends of mine didn’t know who Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot by George Zimmerman last year, was, or how his case affected other black males such as myself.  Unbelievably, they thought he was a comedian from a TV show. 

But we reach that level of unawareness where there is no forum for students to discuss and comprehend each other’s complex and different cultural backgrounds.  Because of UT’s refusal to more effectively address the issue, students are led to become ignorant and/or simply indifferent to these kinds of community problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if another assault happens because of it.

Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of the University Towers on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and speculates similar instances are more common that publicly perceived. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Government senior Bryan Davis maintains the balloon used in his attack was filled with bleach, despite preliminary investigations indicating otherwise. 

According to UTPD, Davis sustained no personal injury and a preliminary investigation found no trace of bleach on Davis’ clothing. In an interview with The Daily Texan on Sept. 5, Davis indicated that he still believes bleach was used in the attack.

“I’m conscious of the other possibility because of the nature of last year’s incidents,” Davis said in reference to similar allegations made in fall 2012. “I do believe [the balloon] was filled with bleach.” 

In 2012 UTPD investigated more than 20 reports of balloon attacks in the West Campus area. No evidence of bleach was found.

“Even if the balloon was filled with butter or pudding, or whatever, [these incidents] are certainly symbolic because people know what those balloons mean to us,” Davis said.

According to Davis, the investigation cannot continue until the Austin Police Department receives the results of a UTPD investigation — including a final analysis of balloon fragments and Davis’ clothing. Both APD and UTPD could not be reached for comment yesterday. 

The APD investigation has not progressed significantly, according to Davis. 

“They’ve only asked for details of my account,” Davis said. “Whether I saw anybody, and if I could specify what balcony the balloon was thrown from.”

 University Towers, the West Campus apartment complex where the alleged bleach bomb attack on UT student Bryan Davis took place

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

The reported “bleach bomb” attack on student Bryan Davis that occurred on Aug. 22 is one chapter in our campus’ long narrative of violence against people of color. Last Wednesday, thousands of new students attended their first day of undergraduate classes. Some, like me, grew up in a predominantly homogeneous, alienating city (In my case, College Station) and made the exodus to Austin hoping that its mythic status as a “blue dot in a sea of red” would provide a more accepting, engaging space. Much of this is folly. Here are three things you should know about your University: 

1) UT is not a color-blind, post-racial, or anti-racist oasis.

The university as an institution has always been America’s laboratory of the multicultural project. Our University is no different in its attempts to foster a more “inclusive” environment. There are constant forums, events and presentations dedicated to crafting solidarities, educating students and creating a plural environment. However, these initiatives are lacking as an ameliorative policy. Although The Daily Texan’s coverage of the incident has explained the confusion surrounding whether the attack on Davis was racially motivated, most people of color with experiential knowledge of our University will attest to experiencing either implicit or explicit racism. As a member of a South Asian-Interest fraternity and a student in the African Diaspora studies department, I am able to interact with a multitude of communities on the subject of race and racism. You shouldn’t be surprised if you feel ostracized by the pervasive culture of privilege. The Bryan Davis incident is not isolated; he just chose to report it.

2) West Campus is kind of scary sometimes. 

During the day, the neighborhood is a picturesque cloistered college town. At night, as the drinks get poured, the area becomes raucous. This is when and where assaults of all sorts are made. Student Government President Horacio Villarreal released a tactful statement concerning the attack, in which he made the claim that “our campus has become increasingly inclusive since I first stepped onto the 40 Acres.” I appreciate Villarreal’s comments, but I disagree that our school has become holistically more inclusive in the past four years. As The Daily Texan pointed out last month, West Campus is becoming increasingly insulated. Skyrocketing property prices don’t just “strain” students; they filter the students who can afford West Campus’ convenient location and amenities from those who cannot. As a result, the student body is becoming compartmentalized. West Campus, which is home to a saturnalia of Greek houses, is also arguably  home to the majority of attacks on students of color. Some strides have been made but Greek institutions of all types need to continue to stamp out racism. 

3)There’s reason to be optimistic. 

Despite our University’s chronic problems dealing with race, I am optimistic that the hate and bigotry will be reconciled. There are great organizations all over campus and I am sure you will find your niche — perhaps many. If you ever encounter an attack, racially motivated, verbal, physical, whatever it may be, do what Davis did and have the courage to talk about it. You have allies here.

Venkatraj is a government senior from College Station.

Government senior Bryan Davis was targeted by a balloon outside of the University Towers on Aug. 22. He believes he was targeted because of the color of his skin and speculates similar instances are more common that publicly perceived. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Updated for clarity on Sept. 5 at 3:49 pm: The contents of the balloon allegedly thrown at Davis has not yet been determined pending an investigation by the University and APD.

Government senior Bryan Davis said he used to be “flippant” toward issues of race and racism. That was before a water balloon was hurled at him outside the University Towers apartment complex — an assault, Davis says, that was motivated by the color of his skin. 

Davis soon became the central figure in a racially charged controversy. Tensions emerged as Davis’ own account of the incident conflicted with the police investigation, the University’s statements and news coverage, culminating in a student-led rally on campus. A second student reported a similar incident this past weekend, fueling the controversy.

On Aug. 22, Davis was on his way to a friend’s house when he heard an explosion and felt a “slight sting” on the skin of his right calf. 

“It felt like something small had jumped up and bit me,” Davis said, “I turned in the direction of the explosion. I saw the balloon and immediately went into a kind of shock. I was aware of the targeting and profiling of minorities in the area, so it all came together.”

After consulting with friends, Davis reported the incident to police, University officials and the media. Davis’ case garnered national attention, and Davis said he received several phone calls and emails from students saying they had been assaulted in similar ways. 

“Some said they were spit on,” Davis said. “Others said they had been assaulted with glass from broken bottles.”

Davis speculates that the number of students who have been subjected to these attacks is higher than what is publicly perceived, saying that many believe the incidents to be the “status quo” in the West Campus area. 

Over the weekend, the Campus Climate Response Team received a report of another balloon attack in the West Campus area.

Ryan Miller, an educational administration graduate student and associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, was unable to provide the location of the incident, name of the student or contents of the balloon because of the ongoing nature of the case.

Though Davis said he does not know what the second balloon was filled with, he thinks focusing on the bleach issue is secondary to a larger issue. 

“We’re beginning to see a pattern,” Davis said. “Even if the balloon was filled with butter or pudding, or whatever, [these incidents] are certainly symbolic because people know what those balloons mean to us.” 

On Aug. 27, UTPD told Davis that the APD detective assigned to his case was unavailable. Davis said UTPD proceeded to handle the investigation “unilaterally.” The APD detective assigned to Davis’ case could not be reached for comment.

APD Cpl. David Boyd told The Daily Texan that APD’s investigation could not continue without a sworn statement from the victim. Boyd’s statement was inaccurate, as he was referring to pending investigations from 2012. Davis delivered his statement that same day. 

In the fall of 2012, several students reported similar incidents to police and University officials.

“The people involved last year never showed any evidence,” Davis said. “APD hasn’t made any official public statements about my case yet.” 

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey confirmed Davis’ story.  

Posey said UTPD put considerable resources toward confirming the report of minorities being targeted with bleach-filled balloons last year, but were unable to confirm it after repeated requests for evidence went unanswered. 

“After media reports of a possible balloon incident, [former UTPD Chief of Police] Robert Dahlstrom asked students during a local media interview to come forward and report any incident where they were hit with a liquid filled balloon or witnessed such an event,” Posey said. 

Posey said UTPD received more than 20 reports. However, the majority of reporting students were “Caucasian sorority females.” 

“Students came forward and confessed to throwing water-filled balloons, targeting no particular groups,” Posey said. “They were referred to Student Judicial Services.”

Although his perception of Austin as a culturally diverse and tolerant place has not changed, Davis said racism is ingrained in many students attending UT. 

“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, it’s just a balloon,’” Davis said. “But for others, it’s really not funny. It’s a reminder of the racial exclusion that pervades this campus.” 

 

Government senior Bryan Davis speaks at a rally held in response to a hate crime in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue Wednesday afternoon. The rally was organized by the Black Student Alliance and held on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Another student has reported a West Campus balloon attack, according to a statement submitted to the Campus Climate Response Team.

The report was filed nearly two weeks after government senior Bryan Davis received national media attention after he said he was targeted by a “bleach bomb” balloon. Similar allegations were reported in the fall of 2012. Ryan Miller, an educational administration graduate student and associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, said this most recent incident occurred Saturday night, but he was unable to provide information about the location, the name of the victim or contents of the balloon — whether water or bleach.

Miller said the investigation is ongoing.

“Each case is unique,” Miller said. “If there’s an incident that requires a criminal investigation, we work with UTPD and the Austin Police Department.”

Otherwise, Miller said, incidents violating institutional policy are taken up with the Dean of Students. 

Davis, the victim of the previous balloon attack on Aug. 22, wrote an op-ed for the Burnt Orange Report on Friday in which he claimed that University and police officials made quick and uninformed statements to “scoot the [race] issue under the rug.” Davis wrote the op-ed in response to a University statement that said the balloons used in his attack and the 2012 incidents were likely filled with water. 

“Unfortunately, both the report and the statement given by UT are a result of poor investigation and utter negligence in handling the details of my case,” Davis said in the op-ed. “From the very beginning, I have consistently stated in all three reports I have given to the UTPD and APD that the bleach balloon did not directly strike me but had landed approximately 4-5 feet away from me.” 

According to Davis, the only liquid that made contact with his body did so on his right leg and nowhere else. In the op-ed, Davis said UTPD’s sending his clothing to an independent forensic lab for further testing will not yield any new developments. 

“UTPD and APD are analyzing ‘evidence’ that tells no more about the assault that happened than does anything else from or on my body except the calf-area of my right leg,” Davis said in the op-ed. 

In their coverage of the balloon attack, Davis argues, several media organizations wrongly reported his story and printed inaccurate information. Specifically, Davis mentions a statement given to The Daily Texan by APD public information officer Cpl. David Boyd. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Boyd told the Texan an official APD investigation could not proceed without first receiving a sworn statement from Davis. In the op-ed, Davis said the investigation was held up because the detective assigned to his case was out of the office. Davis said the detective assigned to his case could not speak for Boyd’s statement about needing to hear an official report from Davis. 

“Ultimately, the blame must be shared between The Daily Texan, UT’s Dr. Greg Vincent [vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement] and the APD for failing to be accurate in their interpretation of details and evidence from the case,” Davis said in the op-ed. “I would rather the case go cold from a dead end than public officials making quick and uninformed statements to hurriedly scoot the issue under the rug.”

Davis said whether or not the liquid used to fill the balloon was actually bleach is “irrelevant” to the larger issues that “encouraged” the attack. 

“The underlying issue is the cultural ignorance and insensitivity that encouraged these assaults in the first place,” Davis said. “When minorities in an area have historically been discriminated against and targeted because of the color of their skin then perpetrators of an attack had better consider how their prank or game might be perceived by the minority they intend on targeting.”

A freshman new to the 40 Acres sheds a tear while discussing racial relations on the University campus during a rally Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Dan Resler | Daily Texan Staff

Feelings of unrest spurred in a rally yesterday to oppose perceived racial insensitivity on campus after a balloon was thrown at government senior Bryan Davis while he was walking outside the University Towers apartment complex on Aug. 22. According to officials, the balloon — originally alleged to have been filled with bleach — was likely filled with water.  

Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said preliminary tests showed the balloon was filled with water.

In response to the incident, a rally was held in front the Martin Luther King Jr. Statue in the East Mall. It was organized by the Black Student Alliance on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. At the rally, UTPD Chief of Police David Carter, who was among several UT officials in attendance, said the protest was a positive step forward in ensuring the safety of students on and off campus. 

“[Last week’s] incident doesn’t appear to be a hate crime,” Carter said. “Regardless, it created a sense of fear. People ultimately police themselves, and a safe community is one in which people have an open dialog and understand the impact of something like this.”

Carter said the investigation into the alleged bleach bombing is ongoing. On Tuesday, Davis met with UTPD officers to deliver the socks, shorts and shirt he was wearing on the day of the incident. 

The clothing was sent off to an independent forensics lab for further testing. UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the University will pay $500 to have the clothing analyzed and said she is uncertain as to when the test results will be made available. 

Speakers at the rally maintained that racism and bigotry are prevalent in many facets of UT culture and urged UT officials to address issues of race. Racist targeting of students in West Campus is a common occurrence and is indicative of larger issues within the University, said Snehal Shingavi, an assistant English professor who spoke at the rally.

“Whether there’s bleach in the balloon or not, the sentiment behind that balloon is exactly the same,” Shingavi said. “You are not welcome here if you’re different … These things continue to happen, but the response both from students and the University is inconsistent.”

Rally attendees were invited to share their stories of racial injustice. 

Government junior Mirusha Yogarajah said students of color feel unsafe in West Campus, an area she claims is dominated by a largely white population.

Vincent said throwing balloons filled with any substance is considered an assault, which is a criminal offense, and is punishable under chapter 11 of the University’s Institutional Rules and Regulations.

“Any person who believes such actions are merely schoolyard pranks is mistaken,” Vincent said.

Cpl. David Boyd, a public information officer for the Austin Police Department, said the department is still waiting for the victim’s official statement but added that a detective has been assigned to the investigation. Without a sworn statement, Boyd said, Davis will be unable to press charges. 

“It’s difficult to say whether this investigation will yield anything,” Boyd said. “Once the statement is made, then the investigation can proceed.”