On Wednesday, the University of Texas said that the balloon launched at junior Bryan Davis last Thursday does not appear to have been filled with bleach based on non-forensic testing of Davis' clothing and balloon shards in the general area of the attack. But this account - and the investigation as a whole so far - Davis explains, is far too hasty. Davis has written an op-ed on Burnt Orange Report explaining what's really been happening in the APD investigation and the extent of miscommunication about what we've actually learned since last Thursday.
Bryan Davis speaking at the campus rally Wednesday for a more inclusive UT community
There Should Be No Bleach Found On My Clothes
Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that both a report run in the Daily Texan and a statement issued by UT Austin suggested that the evidence given to the APD contained no indication of bleach used in my assault last Thursday. 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. 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. Many media organizations have misreported the assault as a balloon that struck me directly, therefore leaving bleach on both me and my clothes. This account of the assault is inaccurate. The only liquid that made contact with me, made contact on the skin of my right leg, nowhere else. Despite this and despite having told The Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly along with her Senior Associate Douglas Garrard that my clothes had not been affected by what I believe was bleach, my clothing was still taken in as "evidence". Why? I have no idea. In other words, the 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.
Yesterday, Burnt Orange Report broke the story about a reported bleach-filled balloon thrown at University of Texas student Bryan Davis. After Davis bravely came forward, the public responded with a overwhelming demand for an investigation.
The Austin Police Department has now opened an investigation into the incident. Though an APD case on numerous bleach bomb attacks against students of color a year ago did not yield results, Austin Police Department Cpl. David Boyd told Fox 7 that the department is determined to get to the bottom of it.
"They (detectives) might be able to go out and look in the area and see who had surveillance cameras out there or any potential witnesses that were in the area that could have seen something," Boyd said. "If anybody were to get bleach thrown at them in their eyes it could be a very serious situation where it could potentially blind you," he added.
"We want to catch whoever's doing this and make sure it doesn't happen anymore," Boyd told KVUE.
The University of Texas is also investigating the incident. Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly contacted Davis and told him the incident is being taken very seriously. Davis has turned over the clothes he was wearing on Thursday to the school for chemical testing. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, said in a statement that UTPD is investigating the incident alongside APD and is "anxious" to see results. The Campus Climate Response Team is also looking into the attack.
University Towers, building from which the balloon appears to have been thrown, is also taking action. Alex O'Brien, president of University Towers' managing company, told The Horn that the complex has "extensive" interior and exterior video surveillance equipment installed.
"We are committed to finding out, and we have security footage and everything," O'Brien said. "I think that we will pretty quickly get to the bottom of it."
It's great that investigations have come out of the report, and exactly why it's important to expose such attacks. After the initial reports of bleach balloons thrown at students of color a year ago, students held a rally across West Campus and campus to demand action. Hopefully these numerous investigations will yield results this time. Austin and the university must do everything in its power to ensure they prevent racist violence and fully uncover it when it occurs.
See TV interviews Bryan Davis gave to Austin's KVUE, Fox 7 and KEYE below the jump.
Update: The university has said the balloon appears to have been filled with water, and they are sending the clothing away for further testing. In a statement, they said the school considers the incident to be an assault, and violation of school policy. The school is still looking into possible racial motivations behind the attack. Perpetrators will be disciplined, the statement said.
Update: "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," Bryan Davis explains in an op-ed on Burnt Orange Report.
On Wednesday afternoon, University of Texas student Bryan Davis was walking to a friend's apartment in the student-filled neighborhood of West Campus. As he passed the University Towers apartment building on 23rd and Pearl, a bleach-filled balloon struck him in the leg.
Though luckily uninjured, the shock took "hours" to wear off, Davis told Burnt Orange Report. "I don't feel safe walking around West Campus by myself anymore."
This is the latest of many bleach bomb attacks on students of color in West Campus. Last October, the story made nationalheadlines, as did the student protest for more safety.
While median household incomes in Texas stagnated from 2000 to 2012, tuition and fees at Texas' 38 Public Colleges and Universities have grown by more than 86% over the same period. Students beginning their college careers in Texas next year will pay more for college and take on more student loan debt than every generation of Texans before them.
According to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, students paid an enrollment-weighted average of $8,073 in tuition and fees to attend public institutions of higher education in 2012, compared with 4,329 in 2000. Weighting averages by enrollment gives a more accurate picture of what the average student pays in Texas, because it means that institutions with larger full-time enrollments are weighted more heavily than those with smaller enrollments.
Governor Rick Perry hasn't exactly had a smooth transition into his (yet to be announced) 2nd run for President. His initial announcement that he would not seek re-election was postponed due to the epic events surrounding Wendy Davis' filibuster in the Senate, and now, Wallace Hall, UT regent and Perry appointee, is one step closer to being impeached by the Texas legislature. The damning House Resolution filed by Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, "calls into question his [Hall's] fitness for office" because he, "may have obtained that office through misrepresentation of material facts", as well as, "disregarding the processes and procedures of the board of regents". It has been perceived that Hall was, "micromanaging UT in an effort to dislodge President Bill Powers to the detriment of the state's flagship university."
See comments from the House Speaker and Committee Chair below the jump...
Hey, North Carolina, we're raising the ante on claim to the title of State Most Shamefully Committed to the Stupid Political Ruination of Science - except we're not that shameful about it. Instead, we're putting our boisterous Texas spin on it.
Last week, the University of Texas's Invest in Texas campaign held their lobby day, in which students from across the political spectrum visited with legislators to advocate on behalf of the university community. Here with a guest post on these efforts is Michael Morton, outgoing president of the UT Senate of College Councils, who helped organize the effort.
UT Students Call on Legislature to Invest In Texas By Michael Morton
More than 80 University of Texas at Austin students descended upon the State Capitol on Tuesday, April 2 for the Invest in Texas Legislative Day. Students dressed in "Invest in Texas" T-shirts walked from UT Austin's Student Activity Center to the Capitol's North Steps to hold a press conference advocating to keep the university competitive, safe, represented, and affordable.
The press conference featured speeches from student leaders as well as Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), member of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, and Representative Dan Branch (R-Dallas), Chair of the House Higher Education Committee. Both legislators spoke about the importance of higher education and how UT Austin benefits the state of Texas.
Following the press conference, the Invest in Texas campaign was honored in the House of Representatives by Representative Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) who authored HR 1215 recognizing April 2 as Invest in Texas Day at the State Capitol.
Immediately after the reading of the resolution, students spent the afternoon meeting with legislator offices in small groups to discuss the campaign's legislative platform and why higher education is important to the state.
The Legislative Day was part of the student-run, non-partisan Invest in Texas campaign coordinated by UT Austin's Senate of College Councils, Student Government, and the Graduate Student Assembly, along with more than 30 other UT student organizations. Started in 2011, the campaign is designed to advocate for students during each legislative session and focuses on key student issues such as increased state appropriations and financial aid funding, providing plus-one insurance benefits to university employees, allowing UT Austin to determine its campus gun policy, and granting the UT System Student Regent a vote on the Board of Regents. Each legislative session, members of the campaign draft a legislative platform and campaign representatives meet with legislators and testify at house and senate committee hearings.
This year, Invest in Texas also organized the inaugural Flagship Legislative Day with Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, and Texas State University in order to underscore the importance of higher education.
Watch a video of the Invest in Texas press conference below the jump.
Rick Perry's at it again, trying to mess with the University of Texas, and again rumored to be using his cronies on the Board of Regents to try and drive out UT President Bill Powers.
What remains to be seen is if this latest effort by Perry to harm the competitiveness of our state's flagship public university will go beyond well-sourced rumors. However, I have no doubt that Powers is ready to fight not merely for his job, but the integrity of the University of Texas.
It's old news that Perry tends to reward his biggest donors with plummy positions on the Board of Regents -- as of November 2012 the UT Regents had donated $796,892 according to analysis by the Daily Texan. Last May, Texas Exes rose up in support of Bill Powers when Paul Burka published rumors that the UT President's job might be in jeopardy. Whether it was a strategic effort to rally popular support for Powers and avert his firing or simply bad intel, the next day UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa stated unequivocally that he was never directed to fire Powers.
There's obviously tension between Powers and the Regents -- Powers' recommendations of what the University needs to thrive and maintain its world-class status seem to fall on deaf ears for some of the Regents, some of whom seem particularly hostile to Powers' efforts to marshall enough revenue to run the university.
Earlier this session, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst led a bi-partisan effort in the State Senate to praise Bill Powers on the floor, stating "I believe in reform and I know that Bill Powers believes in reform. That's why I'm particularly troubled when I see UT regents go around this man. I see them trying to micromanage the system."
As of Fall 2011, 20% of UT's student body is Hispanic. But that isn't stopping a couple of sororities from throwing a party chock full of racist stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
Last night, two sororities, Zeta Tau Alpha and Delta Delta Delta, hosted their annual "Zeta-Tri Delt Fiesta Party" at Recess Bar on 6th street. They rented the bar out until 12:30p.m. for their hundreds of guests, many of whom wore ponchos and other stereotypical Mexican garb of a bygone era.
Now, I don't believe that wearing tradition Mexican attire is inherently racist. But I do know that you have to be classy about it. Laying down some ground rules for attire would have been a much better step for the sororities, instead of encouraging hundreds of drunk Texas Greeks to parade around 6th street in clothing which suggests that this is what Mexicans and Mexican-Americans wear. Anyone who's been to a modern-day fiesta knows that this isn't how people dress.
Unfortunately, having no rules led these two sororities to host a party which also accepted, and obviously encouraged, outright racism. See the picture in this post, taken from the event. What the hell does an undocumented immigrant and a border patrol officer have to do with a fiesta party, which is supposed to be a celebration of Mexican-American culture? The "illegals" are clearly what some students thought this party was a referendum on. If you're not an "illegal" - a crude, dehumanizing term suggesting that a person's entire existence is defined by the status of their papers - then you're an ancient Mexican stereotype divorced from today's society. This type of dress should absolutely have been banned by two sororities claiming to be stand-up members of the UT and Austin communities.
It's not that these two sororities are racist, nor that all their guests are. It's that there are bounds of reasons in everything - themed parties included. Your right to free speech doesn't mean others can't critique the way you use it. There are 600 undocumented UT students in the same community as these revelers and they should be able to expect respect from their Longhorn peers. In their efforts both to study on Texas's DREAM Act, while politicians debate ridiculously over a national DREAM Act, it's not right for them to have to put up with this public display of antipathy.
In February, University of Texas professor of geologic sciences and associate director of UT's Energy Institute Charles "Chip" Groat released a study called "Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development," which found no evidence that hydrauling fracking harms the environment. When it was discovered that Groat has been on Houston-based oil company Plains Exploration & Production Co.'s board for several years, the study's validity was immediately thrown into question - and for good reason. Groat has received millions of dollars from Plains. In 2011 alone, Plains paid Groat $413,900 and Groat holds more than $1.6 million in the company's stock. Groat has refused to comment on the study to defend himself.
So, fact-finding professor or amoral industry hack? That's what a new UT panel announced Tuesday will try to find out. The Austin American Statesman profiled the three-member panel:
The panel will be chaired by Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., and a member of a scientific and technology advisory council under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and a NASA committee under President Barack Obama. He has served as board member of the nonprofit Ethics Resource Center.
Joining him are James Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan, who has served on the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy at the National Academies; and Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation and former president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. She chairs the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, which is distributing $500 million for research in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Augustine, Duderstadt, and Colwell will attempt to determine the scientific credibility of the report. They have a very important responsibility, and one that all those who care about UT should care about too. If the university cannot be trusted to produce factual studies because of corporate influence, the university fails to exist. It becomes a propaganda machine. No UT student spends or spent time on the Forty Acres to learn from a propaganda machine.
And, by the way, fracking totally does harm the environment - viciously. "Chip" Groat's study appeared to be a very rare non-industry studies to say otherwise...until it became clear that it was industry-sponsored.