David Villarreal

Editor’s Note: Graduate students Brian Wilkey and Vance Roper were recently elected president and vice president, respectively, of the Graduate Student Assembly. They served together part of this year after David Villarreal stepped down from the presidency early last semester.

Daily Texan: Why did you decide to run again for president? 

Brian Wilkey: Vance and I had an interesting year, both of us starting from different positions. By the time I took office in August, David [Villarreal] had stepped down. By the time we got caught up, it was November. I had only two and half months where I could effectively be working. That’s not a lot of time to do things. But Vance and I have felt we made a great partnership, we are very proud of what we have done. We believe the next steps of GSA are very plain before us, and we thought they are the right direction to take, so we thought, “Let’s do this another year.”

DT: Speaking of change there’s a lot coming to UT. How do you handle the transition to the new president [of UT], the recent transition to a new chancellor and to new leadership beyond UT?

Wilkey: The main job as [GSA] president is relationship building. I look forward to those chances to build relationships, with the new president [and] the new chancellor to make sure that from the start, the concerns of the graduate student body are being heard. I am looking forward to delving in with the relationship with the new Student Government and some college councils. 

DT: Do you think graduate student concerns are being better heard now than they were this time last year?

Wilkey: I think part of it is just that we are little more organized. You have a lot of people talking about graduate student concerns, but some of those concerns are housing, some are stipends, some are academic grievance processes, but if we all yell at the same time, no one is going to hear what needs to be done. Vance and I came in and made a big deal of organizing and made sure we spoke in a resolute voice with the message that we wanted to say. By that standard, I think yes, graduate students are being better heard. I think the same concern raised last year are being raised this year, but we have new and more innovative ways of discussing that with the policymakers and the administrators. 

DT: Can you say more about that?

Wilkey: For example we have the housing committee. Approximately 2,400 responses [came back] from its recent survey. Considering 12,000 graduate students and professional students, that’s about one out of every six for a group that for the most part doesn’t participate  in the University traditionally. This committee reached out to the constituents and made sure they participated. We have people sitting on different committees now that weren’t represented by us before. 

We found some better ways to get everyone engaged. Because every graduate student has a concern. COLA’s very concerned about TA stipends and TA positions, and we are trying to make sure that COLA organizes a college council, just like the graduate student engineering council, a place for them to be just graduate students to make sure they are sharing best practices.

DT: How likely do you think it is that new graduate student housing will be built in the near future?

Wilkey: No administrator is going to say is going to happen in the near future. Everyone is going to tell you the party line is just planning right now. We have no idea. I know it’s a big project which a lot of people are passionate about, so it’s hard to believe that we are not going to see progress.

DT: So maybe first we’ll see improvement in existing graduate student housing?

Wilkey: That’s one thing we are considering. The housing committee is slowly dividing into two sections: the group working on new housing and the group working on current housing situations. Mostly, at this point, we’re just trying to assess and grab all the necessary data.

DT: Are there any differences between your platforms this year and David’s last year?  

Wilkey: One thing we are going to continue trying to do is a database for funding resources and graduate students opportunities. One of the things is that we see an increase of membership and participation, we want to keep going. Our goal is to make sure every department is represented. For me, I’m working on trying to help the GSA to become its “better self.” We get a lot of funding from the Student Services Budget Committee — that’s our primary fund. We don’t have an endowment, we don’t have extra cash for social hours or giveaways or lectures. And we would like to do that. So for me [the task] is to begin the process of helping GSA to find some additional revenue strings.

DT: What do you think of COLA’s task force report?

Wilkey: I think they did a very good job of highlighting just how hard it is to be a TA. Not just the funding issue, but you want to feel appreciated in your work. I think they found sometimes TAs didn’t. 

DT: The GSA called for town halls on issues TAs currently face. Has the administration been interested at all?

Wilkey: I don’t have enough information to comment on it.

DT: Anything else you want our readers to know about GSA for the rest of this term and next year?

Wilkey: It’s Graduate Students Appreciation Month. This month saw some of us in DC to do our advocacy lobbying in Congress. We are concerned about research funding, we are concerned about taxation indebtedness. And some climate issues. We are really excited to have a whole year at the helm. You are going to see more and more graduate students making changes and waves.

David Villarreal stepped down as Graduate Student Assembly president five months into his term. Brian Wilkey, Villarreal's vice president, is now serving as president

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

David Villarreal has stepped down as Graduate Student Assembly president five months into his term, according to an email from the organization Tuesday.

With Villarreal’s decision, Vice President Brian Wilkey was promoted to the presidency. In the email, Wilkey wrote that Villarreal approached him Aug. 21, saying he had made the decision to leave the office.

“[Villarreal] is pursuing his own goals right now, and we totally support this,” Wilkey said in an interview. “None of us come to graduate school at UT-Austin, or anywhere for that matter, to be the president or vice president of the graduate student body. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for our academics.”

Wilkey said he was surprised by Villarreal’s decision. 

“This is always a possibility when you sign up to be vice president,” Wilkey said. “You hope it’s not because, obviously, [Villarreal] and I ran together, and I thought he was doing a wonderful job.”

Wilkey said the platform goals started under Villarreal will remain unchanged, including the creation of an academic database for graduate students, reconstructing GSA’s governing documents and various health initiatives. 

“Better treatment, better housing and a more efficient GSA — those things are all going to happen regardless of me being in charge or [Villarreal] being in charge,” Wilkey said.

Since Villarreal’s decision, Wilkey said he has been learning the duties of the president and getting updated on Villarreal’s work with different committees over the summer.

According to Wilkey, as the vice president, he had little interaction with projects in their beginning stages. He said his job was to review the end product, but now, as president, he is working more directly with
GSA members.

“What is really happening is I’m listening to my executive members talk about what they have been working with [Villarreal] on over the summer,” Wilkey said.

Jennifer Jendrzey, director of the communications committee, said she and other executive members of GSA have been meeting with Wilkey and are confident in his abilities as president.

“The executive committee and the GSA worked together really closely already, so this transition to [Wilkey] taking leadership has been pretty seamless,” Jendrzey said. “We’re confident that the rest of the year will go really well.”

According to the GSA constitution, when a president steps down, the vice president takes over his role and is required to appoint a new vice president, who must then be approved by a two-thirds majority of the assembly. The candidate can be appointed internally or externally from GSA.

“It’s an appointment process, so [the assembly has] all the right to ask the appointee all the questions they want,” Wilkey said. “And if they choose otherwise, I’m back to the drawing board.”

Wilkey said the vice president position will be filled by Sept. 16 — the day of the first GSA meeting — at the earliest. 

“I do not believe there is a shortage of qualified candidates on this campus,” Wilkey said.

Phone calls and emails to Villarreal were not returned.

Alberto Jorge Vazquez Anderson and his wife were on a waitlist of more than 800 people before moving into the Colorado University Apartments. Last week, the Graduate Student Assembly passed a resolution requesting new opportunities for graduate housing. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Alberto Jorge Vazquez Anderson, a graduate student from Mexico, came to the University in 2011 to study chemical engineering and quickly realized Austin is an expensive place to live. 

Vazquez and his wife put their names on a waitlist more than 800 people long to get into more affordable graduate student housing offered by University Apartments. Some people on the list have been waiting for housing since 2008. 

University Apartments — Brackenridge, Gateway and Colorado — offer 715 units to all students with at least 30 credit hours. 93.2 percent of its occupants are graduate and professional students, and 74.9 percent of its occupants are international graduate students with spouses and children, according to Sheril Smith, associate director for University Apartments. 

The average wait time for students who apply to the University Apartments is six months to one year or longer, according to Smith.

“I think there is a need for housing in Austin in general,” Smith said. “It’s a very challenging market.”

Because the amount of students on the waitlist is more than the amount of apartments available, the Graduate Student Assembly passed a resolution last Wednesday requesting the Division of Students Affairs investigate opportunities to expand affordable graduate student housing.

According to Smith, although the apartments are in ongoing renovations, there are no plans for any new construction. John Dalton, assistant dean of graduate studies, said he was also unaware of any plans for new housing projects.

“We are always talking and thinking about housing that is affordable and dedicated to graduate students, but I am unaware of any plans to build new facilities,” Dalton said.

GSA President David Villarreal said the Dell Medical School, which will accept its first class in 2016, would bring a greater need for graduate student housing to the already competitive housing market in Austin.

Graduate students are eligible to live in on-campus housing, but Villarreal said the length of time these students stay on campus makes it difficult to live in contracted dormitory housing. The University Apartments allow students to occupy an apartment unit for up to seven years without reapplying each spring.

“Dormitory housing, which is convenient for undergraduates, is more challenging for graduate parents, their families and international students,” Villarreal said. “University Apartments is really the last affordable housing option for [graduate] students.”

Former GSA President Columbia Mishra, who authored the legislation in support of affordable graduate student housing, said there was a need for more affordable housing closer to campus.

“We would also like the areas closer to campus, such as the Red River and North Campus area, to be further explored for affordable graduate student housing opportunities since they are closer to campus or well connected to campus,” Mishra said. Mishra said graduate students tend to live in areas such as Far West and Riverside because of their affordability, but these locations tend to make it difficult to get to campus and are not as safe.

“Austin is a growing city with housing rents on the rise, and these rents will only continue to become more expensive,” Mishra said. “It makes UT-Austin less competitive when it comes to attracting the best and the brightest graduate students.”

Unlike most graduate students who are unable to be placed in the popular complexes, Vazquez and his wife found out they would be living in the Colorado Apartment within six months of applying.

According to Vazquez, he has had almost no problems in the 52-year-old Colorado Apartment complex. Vazquez said its location near running trails, bus routes and Lady Bird Lake made it the perfect place for the couple, who will be expecting a child in September.

“When I applied here, I basically knew there was a long waitlist, and I didn’t think I was going to be offered an apartment so soon,” Vazquez said. “It’s the best value and a very good deal.”

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

At the most recent meeting of the Graduate Student Assembly, on March 5, representatives of UT’s Information Technology Services presented a proposal to charge students for wireless Internet access on campus. 

The new “Student Bandwidth Strategy” would replace UT’s current system, which allows students to use up to 500 megabytes of bandwidth per week for free, with one in which students would no longer receive minimum allocations and would have to pay $4.25 a semester for 5 gigabytes of data. The University has cited concerns about funding and the need to protect itself from liability in criminal cases as reasons for the plan’s necessity. 

ITS’ proposal should be more sensitive to the needs of students who operate on limited budgets and students who use campus Internet infrequently and irregularly, such as those students who have a limited number of classes on campus or whose classes do not require internet access. 

ITS governance suggests that the proposal, which will legally make it easier for the University to have the appearance of being an Internet service provider, is a necessary measure to raise funds for the growing technological needs of our campus. William Green, ITS’ director of networking and telecommunications, said non-residential student wireless usage, which accounts for 48 percent of all bandwidth used on the UT campus at peak hours, has been increasing in bandwidth use by 27 percent per year.

Admittedly, the new policy will help protect the University against liability issues that occur when a student does something illegal using Internet provided to them by the University. 

“Freedom is a key reason for this approach,” Green said. “In aggregate network samples and discussions with students, the majority of wireless bandwidth consumption does not appear to be related to education or research activities. Charging for bandwidth, acting as an Internet Service Provider, ensures students can continue to make their own choices without restrictions to sites/applications or slowdowns as some universities have implemented — no perceived conflict for non-mission related activities utilizing University funds. Acting as an ISP for all bandwidth consumed solidifies ‘Safe Harbor’ protections for the University.” 

Despite the proposed strategy’s advantages in terms of liability, some students still have concerns with the potential plan. And at the recent GSA meeting, some students were very vocal about their disagreement.

“[At the March 5 meeting], one graduate student, in particular, seemed surprised that UT had chosen this route especially since the vast majority of our peer institutions have not adopted a similar policy,” GSAPresident-elect David Villarreal said.  

Villarreal also expressed concern for students in financial need.

“While the fee of $5 per semester may seem nominal, it’s only one additional charge that combines with other little fees that can quickly add up for students on limited budgets or financial aid, and who’s to say the charge will still be $5 in five or 10 years?" Villarreal said.

Under the current wireless system, in addition to the free 500 megabytes, UT also allows users to download or upload an unlimited amount of information to and from University websites such as Blackboard. This is especially valuable for students who use small amounts of data specifically for class. While Green may have found that the majority of total student bandwidth consumption is non-school related, given the limits on the free bandwidth available to students, it is doubtful that the people participating in these high-bandwidth activities, such as watching Netflix, are using the free tier to begin with. Unfortunately, the University has no data on the type of bandwidth students use strictly for school-related activities, so this hunch will have to stay unconfirmed. But if it is true, then under the proposal, the first group of students — those who use only use small amounts of bandwidth and only for school-related purposes — will be stuck with yet another unnecessary fee. 

It is important to note that the Student Bandwidth Strategy is just a proposal and no official action has been taken. However, before rushing into a decision that may be detrimental to students in financial need or unfair to students who use Internet infrequently, ITS should consider alternatives modeled after other major universities. ITS should also be cautious about establishing yet another fee which, like so many other student expenses at UT, may be ever increasing in years to come.

Almeda is a marketing senior from Seattle. 

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Administrators call the program a cost-saving, centralization initiative. Student protestors and some members of faculty council claim the plan will “dehumanize” certain University services, lead to an undetermined number of layoffs and increase the pressure on the staff who remain. Amidst the controversial claims, one fact is certain: as Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, told The Daily Texan in January, “Shared Services is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

The Committee on Business Productivity, a group charged with identifying ways for UT to cut costs, first introduced the idea of Shared Services in January 2013. Since then, the Shared Services Steering Committee has worked to determine how to implement the initiative on campus. The committee presented its final report and recommendations to President William Powers Jr. earlier this month.  

Since its introduction, Shared Services has been defined in many ways by different parties across campus, and the steering committee itself has undergone multiple roster changes at the request of student and faculty governance groups. Student protestors also oppose the involvement of Accenture, a consulting firm with a controversial history, in the plan’s development. Meanwhile, across the country, other universities have begun to adopt Shared Services plans — with varying levels of success. 

For administrators, Shared Services means cutting costs by centralizing services. At present, various colleges, departments and units across campus organize and deliver their procurement, finance, human resources and information technology services in different ways. According to Hegarty, 500 positions will be eliminated through the centralization process — ideally through natural attrition and retirement.

“Rather than Shared Services, it’s really sharing resources — sharing people,” Hegarty said. “We have people all over the campus, down to the department level, that do very similar activity. … These people do essentially the same thing. This whole concept is, if you amalgamate that work into fewer, more concentrated units, you achieve potentially a different result.”

According to the steering committee’s report, implementing Shared Services will cost the University approximately $35-$40 million. Each year thereafter, the University’s projected savings will sit somewhere between $30-$40 million annually, Hegarty said.

Some members of the UT community have voiced their concerns about the limited amount of hard data and evidence currently available to support the administration’s claims of increased productivity. The Faculty Council passed a resolution in January requesting more information about Shared Services and also asked the committee to add two non-administrative UT employees to its ranks. After the resolution passed, one faculty member and one staff member were added to the committee. 

A month later, the Graduate Student Assembly also passed a resolution regarding Shared Services, requesting more information about the initiative and for a graduate student to be added to the committee. A graduate student was added to the committee after the resolution was passed.

“The issue isn’t with Shared Services; The issue is with the manner in which it’s being rolled out,” said David Villarreal, communications director and president-elect for GSA and one of the resolution’s authors. “The only thing we really need is our involvement. At the end of the day, we’re not trying to stop Shared Services in its tracks. We’re just saying, as it’s being developed, let us know what’s going on so that we know and so that we can be part of the conversation.”

Villarreal said he is concerned about the projected elimination of 500 positions.

“[Hegarty] has outlined a plan that explained how this would happen, under the assumption that those 500 jobs would be voluntarily eliminated within an extremely short calendar,” Villarreal said. “If he had given a more realistic plan and one that just didn’t paint the rosiest of pictures on the job loss, I would probably have helped him and supported him at the end of the day.” 

According to Hegarty, UT already lays off 150-200 individuals every year. Hegarty said individuals criticizing the plan do not understand that the University’s current business model is not sustainable.

“We’re getting starved on the academic end for dollars to hire teachers and retain people,” Hegarty said.

In February, hundreds of students, university employees and community members marched on campus against the Shared Services Plan. Bianca Hinz-Foley, Plan II junior spokeswoman for United Students Against Sweatshops, said she is primarily concerned with Accenture’s involvement in the Shared Service initiative.

As well as assisting in the project management of the Committee on Business Productivity, Accenture also played a role in collecting data for the steering committee. According to Hegarty, the combined cost of these services amounted to more than $4 million. Two members of the Committee on Business Productivity and one member of the steering committee are former Accenture employees.

“Some of the big movers and shakers behind the Shared Services Plan at UT are either current or former Accenture executives,” Hinz-Foley said. “That’s troubling because we want the University to make changes the community wants and not something an outside corporation wants to implement.” 

In 2006, the legislature outsourced the call centers for the state’s food stamps and Medicaid programs to Accenture in an effort to save money. The state terminated the contract in 2007 after issues with technical operations led to problems with benefit distribution. According to a report from the Austin-Statesman in 2009, the state of Texas paid Accenture approximately $243 million for their services.

UT is not the only university with ties to Accenture. The University of Michigan has an approximately $11.7 million contract with Accenture for cost-cut consulting, including Shared Services. Since 2003, the University of Michigan has paid Accenture a total of about $19.4 million, according to documents provided by Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald. 

“We used Accenture, the consulting firm, to help us identify areas [conducive to shared services], how much we might save, what the scope of the operations that could be pulled into a shared services operation — so that’s been going on for a couple of years,” Fitzgerald said.

In November 2013, approximately 1,000 faculty members signed and submitted a letter to Michigan administrators, criticizing the centralization efforts. Fitzgerald said Michigan’s plan for implementing Shared Services was altered as a direct result of this sort of feedback from faculty.

“What we found as we started rolling this out is that the campus community, primarily the faculty, didn’t really have enough information about how [shared services] would be working,” Fitzgerald said. “We learned that we needed to slow down the process and make sure we gave the schools and colleges more time to figure that out.”

The University of California-Berkeley is currently in the process of finalizing the implementation of shared services on their campus. According to Berkeley spokeswoman Melanie Hurley, Campus Shared Services, which was launched in January 2013, currently provides business and financial services to 60 percent of the campus. 

Hurley said Campus Shared Services was developed through more than 20 “work groups” on Berkeley’s campus. 

“Throughout implementation, the team has relied on campus work groups made up of staff, faculty and students who collaborate with [Campus Shared Services] staff to identify the most effective processes for Berkeley,” Hurley said in an email. 

According to Hurley, savings will not actualize until the 2016 fiscal year, when Berkeley will see $6.9 million in annual savings. Hurley said, by 2020, annual savings are predicted to increase to $13.7 million.  

At UT, Hegarty said the end goal of Shared Services is to ensure that the University can operate efficiently.

“We want to minimize administrative costs to maximize investment in our core missions,” Hegarty said. “We’re not in the business of just doing administration for the sake of doing administration. We’re not in the business of just employing people for the sake of employing people.”

Two U-Wide candidates forced into runoff, Villarreal-Wilkey to take GSA helm

Government and corporate communications senior Kori Rady embraces current Student Government president Horacio Villareal after being elected SG president Thursday night. Rady plans to deliver on platform points including an extended Thanksgiving break, creating a SafeRide program to taxi students home from downtown and creating an upperclassman shadowing day to pair freshmen with seniors.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

For a complete list of election results, scroll to the bottom.

After two days of voting and two hours of technical delays, Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland were elected Student Government president and vice president Thursday night.

Rady, a government and corporate communications senior, and Strickland, a corporate communications junior, defeated government senior Kenton Wilson and Caroline Carter, a marketing and international relations and global studies senior, with 51.9 percent of the vote. 

According to Election Supervisory Board chairman Ryan Lutz, 7,822 students voted in the election — a voter turnout rate of roughly 15.02 percent, using fall enrollment numbers. 

“We ran such a positive campaign,” Rady said. “I feel like we deserve all that has happened here tonight, and we can move forward and do great things for the University.”

In addition to the executive alliance election, students also cast ballots for University-wide representatives, representatives for each school and college, the president and vice president of the Graduate Student Assembly, Texas Student Media, the University Co-op and University Unions.

According to Lutz, the two-hour technical delay, which began when the voting website crashed 15 minutes before the polls closed, was caused by a third-party technical difficulty. Lutz said the board will resolve the issues before the runoff election for the eighth University-wide representative position, which will be held Wednesday and Thursday. The two candidates in the run-off, Wes Draper and John Brown, each received exactly 2,080 votes for the position. 

Rady continued campaigning on social media when it was announced that polls would close almost two hours later than expected. 

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said approximately 50 additional students voted between 5 and 6:45 p.m., when polling hours were extended.

“Technology can be your best friend, it can be your worst enemy and something somewhere in the middle,” Reagins-Lilly said. “I think people just understand technology can be unpredictable.”

Rady said he plans to deliver on platform points including an extended Thanksgiving break, creating a SafeRide program to taxi students home from downtown and creating an upperclassmen shadowing day to pair freshmen with seniors.

Wilson said he was happy his campaign was able to increase involvement among students who did not have Student Government experience.

“It was close, and obviously we would have liked to come out on top, but overall [Rady and Strickland] are highly qualified and they’ll do a great job next year,” Wilson said. 

The Election Supervisory Board heard four complaints Wednesday night, with one resulting in Graduate Student Assembly candidates David Villarreal and Brian Wilkey being forced to cease campaigning until 5 p.m. Thursday because of a campaign worker sending unsolicited emails. 

Despite the board’s decision, Villarreal and Wilkey won the executive alliance race for GSA. There were 507 graduate students who voted in the GSA presidential election.

Student Election Results

Executive Alliance: Kori Rady (President) and Taylor Strickland (Vice President)

University-Wide Representatives: Braydon Jones, Andrew "Cowboy" Rindler, Piper Vaughn, Taral Patel, Conner Patrick, Chandler Foster, Shannon Geison

The eighth university-wide representative will be determined in a run-off election March 5 and 6. Candidates John Brown and Wes Draper each received 2080 votes.

Student Government Representatives:

Architecture Representative: Valentina Rodriguez

Business Representatives: Jackson Clifford, John Falke, Meredith Rotwein

Communication Representatives: Ruben Cardenas and Marisa Beyerlein

Education Representative: Melysa Barth

Engineering Representatives: Jamie Nalley, Edward Banner, TJ Egeland

Fine Arts Representative: Austin Ferguson

GeoScience Representative: Jessica Sherman

Liberal Arts Representatives: Annie Albrecht, Sergio Cavazos, Tanner Long, Adit Bior

Natural Science Representative: Caroline Starling, Anish Patel, Cameron Crane, Adam Sacks, Donald Egan

Social Work Representative: Alissa Osgood

Undergraduate Studies Representative: Will Smith

Graduate Student Assembly: David Villarreal (President) and Brian Wilkey (Vice President)

University Co-op Board of Directors: Alex Bryan and Jake Schwartz

University Unions Board of Directors: Matthew Ealy and Vicky Nguyen

Campus Events + Entertainment President: Christopher Nickelson

The Daily Texan Editor-in-Chief: Riley Brands

Student Government president and vice president candidates Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland listen to their defense given by senior Kent Kasischke to the Election Supervisory Board regarding a complaint filed by finance senior Danny Zeng.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Updated (3:10 p.m.): Thursday afternoon, the election supervisory board released an opinion to dismiss the complaint brought against the Rady-Strickland campaign. At a hearing Wednesday night, Danny Zeng, finance and government senior, accused the alliance of committing privacy violations by sending him unrequited emails.

The board dismissed the complaint on grounds that there was a direct connection between Zeng and Rady-Strickland worker Joshua Tang, a history major.

Tang and Zeng both said they had a direct connection to each other through their involvement in Up To Texas, a case competition to raise awareness about the national debt deficit.

According to the opinion released by the board, “the executive alliance acted within campaign guidelines when collecting the plaintiff’s e-mail.”

Updated (11:40 a.m.): Thursday morning, the Election Supervisory Board determined the Villarreal-Wilkey executive alliance in the Graduate Student Assembly elections was guilty of sending of unsolicited emails and ordered the alliance to cease all campaigning until 5 p.m.

According to the board's opinion, “the worker, though ignorant that her actions were in direct violation of the Election Code, was found to be the source of mass emails sent to multiple, substantial academic listservs within graduate departments.”

The board determined the executive alliance committed a Class B violation and must remove all campaign material and cease all campaigning until 5 p.m.

The board released opinions on three of the four complaints it heard late Wednesday night. A resolution regarding the Rady-Strickland hearing in Student Government executive alliance elections has not been released.

ESB chose to dismiss the second complaint involving the Villarreal-Wilkey campaign. Their opposing candidates accused Villarreal and Wilkey of using platform points that were not their own. The board dismissed the case stating there was not enough proof to make a decision.

“We concluded that we could not determine any possible similarities between the platforms were a result of coincidence or not,” the opinion stated.

The board also dismissed a complaint against University Co-op Board of Directors candidate Ben Tillis in a case involving destruction of campaign property. The board determined there was not sufficient enough evidence.

Polls close at 5 p.m. Thursday and results are announced at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Building.

Original Story: Late Wednesday night, after the first day of voting, the Election Supervisory Board heard four allegations of misconduct, including one that the Rady-Strickland executive alliance campaign had violated students’ privacy by adding students to an email listserv without permission.

The hearings, which began at 10:30 p.m. and continued on past 1 a.m., also addressed two charges filed against Graduate Student Assembly executive alliance Villarreal-Wilkey including allegations they were campaigning on platform points that were not originally their ideas. The board also heard complaints from two candidate for the Co-op board of director position who claimed an opponent had torn down their fliers.

Danny Zeng, finance and government senior, accused Student Government presidential candidate Kori Rady and running mate Taylor Strickland of unauthorized use of his email address.

“I really don’t know the scope and reach of this operation,” Zeng told the board. “I just know my privacy is being intruded from the negligence on their part.”

History senior Joshua Tang and Kennon Kasischke, a biology and psychology senior, represented the Rady-Strickland campaign at the hearing. Tang, who is registered as a worker for the Rady-Strickland campaign, said he was not speaking in any way in his capacity as SG administrative director.

Tang said Zeng was added to the campaign’s listserv after Rady and Strickland asked their agents and workers to contact the leaders of the student organizations in which they held membership. Tang and Zeng both said they had a direct connection to each other through their involvement in Up To Texas, a case competition to raise awareness about the national debt deficit.

“The emails that I submitted were sent to people I know are engaged on political matters on campus,” Tang said.

Kasischke, a Rady-Strickland agent, said he felt the campaign team was selective in choosing whom the emails were sent to, and kept well within the boundaries of the guidelines about email messaging in the board’s code.

“If your team is using the directory to email someone you know, you need to have someone on your team to have a direct connection to him,” Kasischke said. “We developed a list of 668 emails.”

Zeng said he felt the campaign should not have assumed he wanted to get the campaign email.

“I appreciate what they said, but in this country, with mass marketing, we have an opt-in system rather than an opt-out,” Zeng said.

Tang asked the board to have the case dismissed. Board Chairman Ryan Lutz said the board was required to release a resolution and would have the response within 24 hours.

The board also addressed two separate complaints filed against Graduate Student Assembly presidential candidate David Villarreal and running mate Brian Wilkey. Their opponents, presidential candidate Frank Male and running mate Virginia Luehrsen, filed a complaint against executive alliance Villarreal and Wilkey over “misleading campaign activities.” Luehrsen said the duo claimed other candidates’ platform points as their own.

“Misrepresentation of facts and the work involved is damaging to our campaign and to the Graduate Student Assembly,” Luehrsen said. “If students did this in my class, I would report them to Student Judicial Services.”

Villarreal said he was alarmed by the lack of specifics the opposing candidates brought forward.

“We fundamentally believe it is our job to campaign for ourselves,” Villarreal said.

A second hearing was called to address allegations against Villarreal and Wilkey concerning an economics graduate coordinator forwarding an email to several departments endorsing their campaign.

Economics graduate student Anna Klis accused a worker of sending a Villarreal-Wilkey endorsement email to the economics graduate coordinator, which was then passed along through graduate departments in the College of Liberal Arts. Klis said she believed the email could be confused by graduate students as an endorsement by the college.

“In a case like this — this is almost cause for disqualification,” Klis said.

Villarreal said the worker had been his close friend for several years, and said she was likely unfamiliar with UT student election codes. Wilkey said if his team had been aware of the worker's plans to send the email, he and Villarreal would have prevented her from doing so.

“We apparently have a rogue agent — we are upset about this,” Wilkey said. “There may be no way to rectify this.”

The board also addressed allegations made by business senior Alexander Bryan and undeclared freshman Christian Trudeau, both candidates for the Co-op board of director position. Bryan and Trudeau claimed that finance sophomore Ben Tillis, who is also running for the position, removed their campaign fliers in the McCombs School of Business.

Bryan said he and Trudeau could not offer proof Tillis had torn down the fliers because they did not have video camera footage, but said he knew of at least nine fliers that had disappeared that were at one point clearly visible in McCombs.

“It seems like somebody was directly targeting [Trudeau] and I’s campaign,” Bryan said.

In response, Tillis said his fliers were also removed from their original locations and encouraged the board to check security footage. ESB chairman Ryan Lutz said he would consult with McCombs representatives Thursday.

At roughly 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning, when the hearings ended, Lutz said the board would release resolutions for all four allegations within 24 hours. Student election polls will close Thursday at 5 p.m.

Additional reporting by Bobby Blanchard

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

When graduate students vote in Graduate Student Assembly elections Wednesday and Thursday, they will choose between executive alliances running for the presidential and vice-presidential positions for the first time in the organization’s history. 

In the past, students ran independently, and those elected president and vice president had no say in their partnership.

Presidential candidate Frank Male and running mate Virginia Luehrsen will run in alliance against presidential candidate David Villarreal and running mate Brian Wilkey. Both pairs focus on issues including graduate student tuition policies and the need for increased community involvement. 

Last year, roughly 1,000 of the 11,000 graduate students at UT voted in the elections. 

Villarreal, a history graduate student, said that he and Wilkey would focus on promoting graduate health and self-care, affordable housing, expanding the graduate-student voice, and maximizing graduate student resources.

Villarreal said he chose Wilkey as his running mate because of Wilkey’s desire for efficiency in GSA. Although both candidates each have one year of experience in GSA, Villarreal said his close relationship with Columbia Mishra, the current GSA president, makes him qualified for the position.

“In some ways we’re running as outsiders, which I think is actually a strength of ours,” Villarreal said. “The job of the vice president is to manage and run the assembly meetings, and I thought, in many ways, [Wilkey] is already doing this job, so he would be an ideal candidate to carry over.”

One of the pair’s biggest goals, Villarreal said, is to institute a campaign to promote mental-health awareness. Villarreal, who suffers from narcolepsy, said he understands the challenges of finding resources on-campus for health issues.

“One of the only reasons I learned about disability services was from a friend,” Villarreal said. “People shouldn’t learn about their fundamental rights by word of mouth.”

If elected vice president, Wilkey said he hopes to create a central database for all the resources available to graduate students. Wilkey, a human development and family sciences graduate student, said students approaching him with questions made him realize University services are not well-advertised. 

“Very often those resources are available for graduate students, but they are not promoted and often under-utilized,” Wilkey said.

Villarreal has also been working closely with GSA student affairs director Jaime Puente to write a graduate student bill of rights aimed at creating a baseline minimum stipend to help graduate students cope with the cost of living.

Wilkey said although he has not worked directly on the bill of rights, it is one of the most important things he and Villarreal hope to continue pushing if elected.

“It kind of goes unmentioned because it is priority number one for us,” Wilkey said. “That’s something that affects change at a campus-wide level.”

Wilkey and Villarreal both said their four platform points contribute to their overall goal of increasing representation for graduate students.

According to Wilkey, only about 60 percent of GSA members show up to the assembly’s meetings. 

“We claim to speak as a representative body for all graduate students,” Wilkey said. 

Physics graduate student Frank Male and information studies graduate student Virginia Luehrsen will run on a platform centered on graduate student housing, community, time-to-degree and dismissal procedures. Male and Luehrsen are currently in their third and fourth year as GSA members, respectively. 

Luehrsen said the positive feedback she’s received from her department prompted her to run for the vice-presidential seat, and she asked Male to join her at the top of the ticket.

“I’ve been in [GSA] for so long, and it’s important to me that it stays strong,” Luehrsen said.

The 99-hour rule is one of Male’s main concerns. Currently, if graduate students exceed 99 hours in pursuit of their degrees, they may be subject to out-of-state tuition. 

“Graduate students tend to already live on a shoestring budget so having that happen would just be devastating,” Male said.

Male said he also hopes to expand the current Milestones Agreement Program, which was created to help individual graduate students stay on track for finishing their degree. Male said the current system often notifies students they are being dismissed only several weeks before the end of a semester.

“Because it’s so nebulous, it’s difficult to know how well you’re achieving your goals and working towards graduation,” Male said.

Luehrsen said the duo’s experiences in GSA make them a good combination to help broaden the scope of what the organization can do.

“Between my skill set of navigating with the other legislative student organizations and my ability to network with representatives in other departments, and [Male’s] working with administration, makes a really good combination,” Luehrsen said.

Clarification: Due to an editing error, this story has been updated from its original version. GSA candidate Virginia Luehrsen is in her fourth year as a GSA member. 

Photo Credit: Erica Reed | Daily Texan Staff

In front of a crowd of graduate students Wednesday, President William Powers Jr. acknowledged a $96 million per year budget cut has slowed the University down.

Powers assured the group — convened for the first Graduate Student Assembly meeting of the semester — that all increases in graduate tuition have gone back to graduate students.

“It’s a big concern, and one of the challenges we cannot fall through [on],” Powers said. “We do give tuition waivers, but most departments are trying to be more strategic on how they use them.” Tuition wavers at many universities are also included for teaching assistants and researchers.

David Villarreal, communications director for GSA, said the meeting was his first time seeing Powers in person in his five years at the University. He said he hopes people realize how much the GSA can do on campus.

“We’re often just seen as workers in the background and in many ways taken for granted,” Villarreal said.

The Graduate School at the University is home to 13,000 students. Columbia Mishra, Graduate Student Assembly president, said the assembly’s goal is to make it easier for graduate students to interact with each other.

Powers addressed GSA on his thoughts about graduate education at the University.

“We really do take seriously the input you all give us,” Powers said. “You all bring our attention to some very important things and shape the trajectory of the University.”

Villarreal said GSA’s biggest goal that was met during the fall semester was the Graduate Student Exit Survey.

The survey was an initiative created by GSA to assess the University’s strengths and areas for improvement to help graduate students be successful.

In reaction to the elimination of the Cameron Road and Wickersham Lane UT shuttle bus routes, the Graduate Students Assembly unanimously passed a resolution aimed at reversing these changes and preventing the closure of routes in the future.

The resolution also requested that Capital Metro allows a longer period of UT community feedback and an on-campus public forum for increased student accessibility.

David Villarreal, communications director of the Graduate Students Assembly, said he is worried about the possibility of further route eliminations in the future.

“To me, it seems that Parking and Transportation Services wants to shift the sizable financial burden of transporting students to campus over to the city of Austin,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal said the problem is UT administrators and CapMetro are not being honest or up front about the process with student riders, who are the most vulnerable and financially precarious.

Columbia Mishra, president of the Graduate Students Assembly, said it was impossible to make sure students were aware of the changes to the UT shuttle bus routes because it was done within the first few weeks of school. Mishra said she hopes to see an open forum in the coming weeks involving students, administrators and representatives of both Parking and Transportation Services and CapMetro.

CapMetro spokeswoman Melissa Ayala said the company does not foresee any additional financial burdens regarding the transition of the UT Parking and Transportation shuttle bus closures to mainline services. 

“[CapMetro] monitors ridership on all routes and adjust services accordingly three times a year,” Ayala said. “At this time, [CapMetro] has not formed an initial service change proposal for the summer 2014 service changes, which will be the next service review period.”

Mishra said the ridership of the cut routes was not significantly less than other routes.

“The difference between what routes were cut and what routes were not cut was a difference of 10 passengers per hour in ridership,” Mishra said.

According to Mishra, students often work on campus late into the night, so it’s dark when they take the bus home. The few extra blocks they must walk as a result of these changes may be unsafe, she said.

“When I signed my year-long apartment lease in July, I did so with the understanding that I would have reliable transportation to UT but two months later everything changed,” Villarreal said. “Why weren’t students informed of this process when these shuttle route eliminations had been in the works since last spring semester?”