Dan Luiton

History freshman Dan Luiton sits on the steps of the Capitol on Monday afternoon. During the 84th legislative session, Luiton and several other UT students will intern as the House of Rep- resentatives and the Senate work on Texas laws and policies.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Hundreds of UT students will work alongside state lawmakers in the 84th Texas Legislature to craft policies the lawmakers will propose during the 140-day legislative session. 

“Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada?’” said Dan Luiton, history freshman and intern for Rep. Mary González (D—Soccorro), when describing his first day on the job. “I felt like Anne Hathaway my first day. People walk inside assuming that you know who they are, but you don’t know, and you have to know.”

For the next four-and-a-half months, lawmakers will fill the House and Senate chambers and work to shape Texas law while, in the background, student interns help keep administrative work at bay.

Genevieve Cato, legislative director for González, said interns are vital to the success of the session and the administrative offices need all the help they can get.

“There’s only 140 days to get everything done here,” Cato said.  

Finance senior Anna Hiran, an intern for Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said Whitmire encourages hands-on work, something she appreciates in an internship.

“He provides us with tasks where he believes that we can learn as much as possible, and it’s not menial things like making copies and hole punching,” Hiran said.

Hiran said she learns more by working in a real-world environment than she would in a classroom. 

“The benefit of it is getting to observe all of it on a firsthand basis,” she said. “There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom, and I feel like this internship is very hands-on. I feel that I have been given a lot of responsibilities, and I’m learning a ton.”

Cato said an intern’s job description often changes day-to-day. 

“Things happen so quickly, and things come up so fast that a lot of times, like other staffers, interns are doing everything from answering phones to researching bills to talking to constituents,” Cato said.

According to John Falke, a finance sophomore interning for Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), legislative internships require students to master time management skills.

“There’s less time in the day to do the things that I want to do, but it also keeps me focused on my schoolwork,” Falke said.

Cato said students interested in government and public policy are most likely to apply for internships during the legislative session.

“There are people who are [political science] or government majors,” Cato said. “They’re interested in getting law degrees and running for office. They want to get into working on policy or government, so this is their first step to that goal. Then there are other people who are interesting in policy issue areas.”

Luiton said he hopes to become the first Hispanic president of the United States and believes his internship is a means to reaching that goal. 

“My parents are like, ‘Why are you doing it if they don’t even pay you?’ but I love it,” Luiton said. “It’s going to help me know people inside. It’s going to help me achieve my goal.”

Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Three years ago, history freshman Dan Luiton’s uncle disappeared in Mexico. When Luiton heard about 43 students who went missing in Mexico over a month ago, he said it hit close to home. 

“I’m from the border,” Luiton said. “I’ve seen it happening — people disappearing.”

The case of the missing students of a rural teaching college in Ayotzinapa has sparked global attention. It is suspected that the students were kidnapped during a mass protest and handed over to a local gang by police. Many universities, including MIT, Boston University and Harvard, recently made a video together in support of finding justice for the missing students. Luiton said this video inspired him to make a similar one at UT.

“I was like, ‘Where’s UT? UT should be there because we’re in the South,’” Luiton said. “I was thinking we should bring more people to this cause.”

After seeing the video, Luiton started the “#Ayotzinapa UT” initiative on Facebook by inviting students to help him make a video in support of seeking justice for the Mexican students. The group, which is composed of about 30 members, plans to produce a video by the end of the semester. Undeclared freshman Devany Cantu used to travel to Mexico every weekend with her parents but said they stopped going when the gang violence worsened. She said she joined the initiative because of this experience. 

“I wanted to join as a way for me to contribute in any way — whether it’s speaking my mind that would help this cause,” Cantu said. “Just knowing that there are students speaking up for Mexico can allow the word to be spread.”

Luiton said the main purpose of the video is to inform people because he thinks the news is not informing people enough on the issue. In the video various students will hold up posters saying, “#Justice for Ayotzinapa.” He also plans on having them hold up signs numbered one through 43 each, representing one of the missing students.

“[The news] is just hiding it,” Luiton said. “I just want to raise awareness. People need to know about this. We want justice.”

Santiago Rosales, business and economics freshman and member of Student Government, said he joined the initiative because he believes SG can do something to support this cause. He cited a one-day fundraising initiative called “Hold Up for Haiti” put on by SG and more than 15 other campus organizations in 2010 as an example of a
successful initiative.  

“I myself am of Mexican heritage, so to know that students who are pursuing similar interests in a similar institution to that of UT down in Mexico aren’t able to do so because of political and organized crime reasons is a very detrimental thing for me to hear,” Rosales said. “I believe that Mexico deserves justice for the crimes that were committed against the people. We, as students who do have the freedom to express — we have an obligation to do so.”

Through the sharing power of social media, Rosales hopes the video will go viral. 

“Given that we are in a different country and we don’t have any legislative authority or any voting rights in Mexico, we can’t do anything politically,” Rosales said. “Voicing our opinions in support and in unison with all university students across the globe is a very powerful statement that we can make.”

Luiton, Cantu and Rosales hope that the video will bring them one step closer to getting justice for those who have disappeared in Mexico.

“We’re just letting everyone know that we’re here ,and we know what’s happening, and we’re tired of it,” Cantu said. “We’re standing up for others.”