Gregory J. Vincent

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.”

Vice President for Diversity and Community Enrichment Gregory J. Vincent said preliminary findings show the balloons were filled with water in last week’s alledged bleach bombing. The suspects face possible eviction from the University Towers and further punishment from the University of Texas at Austin.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A week after government senior Bryan Davis was reportedly bleach-bombed in West Campus, public officials report that, while the search for the culprits is narrowing, the balloon might not have been filled with bleach.

In his most recent statement, Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said early indications are that the balloon dropped last week was filled with water. Vincent added that the University has collected clothing and balloon remnants from the site and sent them to a lab for further forensic testing.

Last Wednesday’s bleach bombing comes almost a year after similar attacks on minority students were reported in the same area by the University Towers, a private dormitory on 24th Street. The attacks caused an uproar among students and led to protests and marches against racially charged violence. Similarly, members of the Black Student Alliance will host a rally in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Statue on Wednesday afternoon to speak out against racial violence. 

According to Vincent, University investigations of the previous attacks showed no evidence that bleach was used, and the students responsible for that incident were held accountable under the University’s disciplinary system. 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.

Ronnie Davis, community manager for University Towers, said the apartment complex carried out its investigation in conjunction with police and University officials. Ronnie Davis said they were still trying to determine if the victim was targeted, and he is not sure if the incident was racially motivated.

“We are fully cooperating with the University and the Austin Police Department,” Ronnie said. “This kind of behavior is not something we condone.” 

Ronnie said an official report was given to the Dean of Students detailing the names of the suspects, who will face eviction from Towers. He said that based on security footage and information from the victim, the suspects have been narrowed down to individuals from two specific rooms. Ronnie said the complex’s management is offering a reward to residents of Towers for any additional information.

Ronnie, who has only worked at the complex for a week, said he is unfamiliar with the party culture associated with West Campus but said he is aware of a long history of individuals living at the Towers throwing liquid-filled balloons at pedestrians — mostly girls. In light of the attack, he said residents will receive a letter explaining the “proper way to live at Towers.”

“We don’t want people getting the wrong impression,” Ronnie said. “This kind of behavior is not representative of the entire complex.” 

Cpl. David Boyd, a public information officer for APD, said the department is still waiting for the victim’s official statement but added that a detective has been assigned to the investigation. 

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

Vincent said the University is “anxious” to receive the results of the investigation.

“The University of Texas at Austin has long been committed to promoting diversity and ensuring respect and inclusion throughout the campus community,” Vincent said. “Our University should be a haven and home to students of all backgrounds.”

Student Government President Horacio Villarreal called last week’s alleged bleach bombing an “unfortunate” occurrence. Villarreal said making the campus “inclusive” for students of all backgrounds will continue to be a priority and occurrences such as these are “antithesis to the unity that normally defines this campus.”

“I cannot speak to whether or not the individuals who are throwing the bleach bombs are acting out of racism,” Villarreal said in an email. “I can speak to the fact that our campus has become increasingly inclusive since I first stepped onto the 40 Acres … It is encouraging to see the campus efforts made by students across campus to bring light and attention to the incidents.”

Correction: In the August 28th edition of the Daily Texan a quote about racial insensitivity being antithetical to campus climate was falsely attributed. It was said by Gregory J Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Football head coach Mack Brown welcomes members of the Neighborhood Longhorns Program into Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium on Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

UT athletics coaches and former athletes gathered with guests of the 13th annual Dine with a Coach event, featuring a live auction to celebrate and raise funds for the work of Neighborhood Longhorns Program

The event took place Monday night in the Red McCombs Red Zone at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and featured speakers such as women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky as well as Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement.

The athletic department established the Neighborhood Longhorns Program as an educational incentive program providing services to socioeconomically disadvantaged students in 30 schools.

According to Vincent, this is one of the three signature events for the Neighborhood Longhorns Program and it raises money to provide academic incentives to students who go to title one schools in the Austin Independent School District. 

“Over the years we have served over 80,000 students,” Vincent said. “We have been able to provide tutoring academic incentives and for many of these neighborhood Longhorns, the opportunity to visit the 40 Acres for the first time. Through community support, we make this campus real to them.”

The event included appearances by Bevo, the Longhorn Band, Texas Cheer and Pom and four Neighborhood Longhorns kids themselves. The program auctioned off a chance to spend a day under the football instruction of Colt McCoy and his friends or a plane ride with stunt pilot David Martin.

Government junior Chase Jubinsky said he worked for the admissions office of the program and helped with one of their events this spring. 

“We helped coordinate bringing an admissions speaker to their event and we gave some tours to some middle school kids who were visiting campus,” Jubinsky said. “It’s great to see all of the coaches in one giant community today.”

Vincent said the coaches attended the event to work with the supporters of the program and to match their interests. He said it is a great opportunity for some of these guests and supporters to connect with the coaches.

Plonksy said the Neighborhood Longhorn Program focuses on allowing UT’s young people to serve as role models for future students. 

“This program was really structured within the heart of our student athletes, many of whom their first chance to go to college was because someone gave them a chance or was their mentor or inspiration,” Plonsky said. “Mack [Brown] has this great phrase. ‘We want to win as many games as we can, all of them if possible, with respectful responsible young people who graduate.’” 

Plonsky said the work of the program sends a message throughout the nation about the mission of the University.

“[We support the program] because that’s what we hope we’re sending in terms of the signal about what we’re accomplishing at the University of Texas,” Plonsky said.

Printed on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 as: Dining for education