UTPD puts its foot down on non-criminal disturbances

AddThis

Photo Credit: Alekka Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

One UT student is no longer allowed to step foot in the Perry-Castañeda Library after UT police say he repeatedly attempted to “take photos of, smell and touch” other students’ feet. 

According to a Campus Watch update from March 24, the UT Police Department banned the student from the PCL after receiving multiple reports about the disturbance. UTPD then issued a criminal trespass warning and consulted with the Office of the Dean of Students to determine disciplinary action.

“It is not illegal to repeatedly ask people to do strange things,” UTPD Officer Dustin Farahnak said in the update. “However, due to the number of calls to police this behav­­ior had generated, it seemed very disruptive to the purpose of the library and to the goal of making our community feel safe.”

Farahnak said non-criminal matters that rise to the attention of UTPD are rare, but the department has procedures in place to resolve these issues.

 

“First, we need to identify the relevant parties and get everyone’s side of the story to understand what’s actually happening,” Farahnak said. “Second, we need to make sure that the parts of our community affected by these situations are empowered and educated so they feel safer and are safer.”

Farahnak said UTPD then hands the issue over to department leadership or the Office of the Dean of Students, both of which help enforce campus standards and rules.

“(The Office of the Dean of Students is) a great avenue to the Counseling and Mental Health Center, Title IX and their Student Emergency Services office,” Farahnak said. “If the situation is more complicated, I just stop by the Student Services Building and they are always happy to sit down with me to discuss a situation and how we can work together.”

Sara Kennedy, communications director for the Office of the Dean of Students, said UTPD is “an invaluable partner” in the process of investigating student conduct.

According to the Office of the Dean of Students, when the office receives a referral regarding an alleged violation, a conduct administrator will send out a letter requesting the student to schedule a meeting with the department.

At the meeting, the student can choose to accept responsibility for the violation and consequential sanctions, accept responsibility and appeal the sanctions, or request a University hearing. The sanctions can include suspension of rights and privileges, academic sanction or expulsion.

Tania Johnson, an international relations and global studies senior, said she would feel extremely uncomfortable if someone asked her to touch or smell her feet.

“It’s just not appropriate and there’s sort of a sexual nature to it, which just doesn’t feel right when you’re talking to a stranger,” Johnson said.  

Johnson said it is important for UTPD to respond to non-criminal acts in part because incidents like this could make students feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

“If we don’t have anyone else on campus who can stop it and that behavior is going on, then I guess it makes sense for (UTPD) to be the ones to have to uphold a safe environment,” Johnson said.