East Mall

Ben Nava showcases a traditional Native American dance during the “Grand Entry” at the Spring Powwow on Saturday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

The UT Native American and Indigenous Collective held its sixth Spring Powwow at the East Mall on Saturday.

Powwows are Native American community gatherings that often involve singing and dancing, and the UT powwow usually serves as a showcase of various types of Native American traditions, such as religious and competitive dancing. The five-hour event was open to all members of the community and aimed to expose others to indigenous traditions.

“The entire event is a huge appreciation and celebration of the culture,” Mexican American studies senior Jacob Barrios said. “It’s a good way to share and teach because not many people are familiar with different aspects of Native American culture. … Not everybody gets exposed to this every day.”

In addition to song and dance, the event featured Native American literature and food. Civil engineering sophomore Kristian Byrd and her family sold traditional Navajo-style tacos. Byrd said even the bread used for the tacos is unique to her family’s roots.

“We’re Navajo, so we usually make our bread pretty big,” Byrd said. “That’s something different. Instead of Indian tacos, they’ll say Navajo tacos.”

Powwows often present an opportunity to share indigenous culture with members of a broader community, according to Lakota Pochedley, curriculum and instruction graduate student.

“My sophomore year [at Columbia University], we planned our annual powwow, and it was just a really great event where students could come together,” Pochedley said.

The Native American and Indigenous Collective attempts to hold a powwow annually, but Pochedley said the group hasn’t held the event in recent years because of logistical and organizational complications.

Despite the difficulties involved in planning large-scale events, Pochedley said she believes powwows have a lot to offer to the community.

Latin American studies sophomore Susana Hart said she considered the powwow a learning opportunity. 

“I think it’s just really nice to be able to walk around and see this kind of diversity on campus, and it really opens your eyes to the world that we live in,” Hart said.

Hart said understanding other cultures is what brought her to UT to major in Latin American studies and is what helps bring the many ethnic groups on campus together.

“Really being able to learn about other cultures is really important because many times, we don’t really know about other people and what their culture is all about,” Hart said. “It lets us be more compassionate with each other as human beings.”

Texas Hillel and Texans for Israel held their 17th annual Israel Block Party on Wednesday. For the first time, Israel Block Party organizers set up discussion tables in the East Mall, where students could talk to others and express their opinions.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

While more than a thousand students came to celebrate Israeli culture at the Israel Block Party on the East Mall, dozens protested the party from feet away.

Texas Hillel and Texans for Israel held their 17th annual block party, where students stopped to enjoy Israeli food, participate in discussion and take selfies with camels.

From across the street, the Palestine Solidarity Committee held a protest, as they have done almost every year the event has occurred. 

Moriah Sonsino, Israel Block Party co-chair and international relations and global studies sophomore, said the party is not a political statement.

“We don’t expect them to take away from any of our activities — we just do our own thing [and] make this as much as a cultural celebration as it is,” Sonsino said. “We try to focus on our own stuff and not focus on what anyone else is doing because this is a topic that we really, really care about.”

Ali Khan, an economics and computer science senior who helped organize the protest, said he believes the party adheres to a pro-Israeli political agenda.

“Our biggest goal is to send a specific message [and] express exactly what we feel the block party is doing, which is a propaganda event which hides a very heinous reality of cultural appropriation and genocide,” Khan said.

A group of students from the Palestinian Solidarity Committee held a protest across the street from the Israel Block Party. The committee believes that the party is a propaganda event. 

Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time, Israel Block Party organizers set up discussion tables in the East Mall so students could talk to others and express their opinions. The event also had multiple booths on different topics, including human rights, diversity, politics and innovation.

“Especially this year, we just want to make sure people have a good idea of what Israel is,” said Joshua Posner, Israel Block Party co-chair and undeclared junior. “We’re not trying to politicize the issue and make anyone have a certain opinion. We want people to form their own opinion based on what they see and the facts that are given to them.”

Khan said crimes committed against Palestinians are depicted in the media as “normal,” but that doesn’t make them acceptable.

“I think the resistance has to continue,” Khan said. “The struggle continues for Palestinians every day, whether or not there is military presence within Palestine. I think it’s important to point out that these are persistent issues.”

In the days leading up to Israel’s national elections last week, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would never support the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu, who is now working to form a new coalition government, had previously said he supported a two-state solution.

Since the election, Netanyahu has retracted his statement, but Mohammed Nabulsi, a law student who helped organize the protest, said he believes as long as Netanyahu is prime minister, unrest will only continue.

“Before, there was room within the Zionist movement to say, ‘No, no, no, we still want peace, and we still want a Palestinian state,’” Nabulsi said. “But, now that the right wing party in Israel has shown its teeth, there’s no denial that all the State of Israel cares to do is expand, to build settlements and continue to violate international law.”

Posner said the intention is still to celebrate Israel and its culture despite the political protest.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in the region and a lot of unrest,” Posner said. “We just want people to understand that beyond all the politics of it, there’s a group of people, and there’s a worthwhile culture to understand.”

UT students, staff and other members of the Austin community gathered to celebrate the life of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. through performances, speeches and a march throughout Austin.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Thousands of students and community members gathered around the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in the East Mall on Monday morning to celebrate King’s legacy and call attention to a number of social justice issues, including police brutality against African-Americans.

Brenda Burt, a Diversity and Community Engagement officer, said at least 15,000 people walked in the annual MLK Day march from campus to Huston-Tillotson University. The event began with speeches from civil rights activists and concluded with a festival at Huston-Tillotson, a historically black university.

In his keynote speech before the march, Kevin Foster, associate professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, said police brutality is one of the most crucial issues facing African-Americans today.    

“Our police are the most heroic when they don’t shoot,” Foster said. “That might sound like an odd thing to say, but the reality is they have been trained to be scared. We need to be developing the policies and programs to help [the officers] live into that greatest possibility. And the reality is that sometimes it’s difficult for them to not shoot because they do get scared.”

Foster said all people should work to protect the right to use video cameras in the event of an altercation and also promote the use of police body cameras. Many people of color still face police violence today, Foster said.

“If you are black in this country, we have never yet fully realized the possibility of a state that exists to protect us and to serve us and to have us live into the pursuit of happiness,” Foster said. “In fact, the reality has been that the darker your skin, the more likely you are to be shot while unarmed.”

Biochemistry senior Tia Scott, who attended the march, said she thinks African-Americans often fear they will be racially profiled by police officers.

“I think many African-Americans have an unspoken fear,” Scott said. “Maybe they don’t say it outright, but they think it. When a cop drives by, it’s just nervousness because it’s like, ‘Am I going to be treated unfairly, or am I going to be pulled over because I’m black or because I’m a black woman?’ I think there’s a general unspoken fear, and we shouldn’t be afraid of people that are supposed to protect us.”

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) said King’s work toward equality is not yet complete.   

“We cannot sit back on our laurels when we continue to see actions that discriminate and profile against a few,” Dukes said. “And if we truly believe that every single person — whether they are black, whether they are Hispanic, whether they are Anglo, whether they are Asian — that their lives matter, that we will stand up each and everyday — not just on the day that
we march.”

President William Powers Jr. also spoke before the march and characterized Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of renewing the fight for equality. In his speech, Powers referenced recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which broke out after 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in August, and protests in New York City, where Eric Garner, also African-American, died after a white police officer put him in a choke hold.  

“If we look at Ferguson and New York, the poverty that still exists in our communities — the inequality — the dream has not yet been fulfilled,” Powers said. “So yes, today we celebrate a great man, a great legacy and a great dream, but, more important, is that we rededicate ourselves and our energy not just today, but every single day when we wake up — rededicate them anew to his dream.”

Computer science senior Ali Khan speaks at the Palestinian-rights protest of Israel Block Party on Monday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

For the 16th year in a row, students celebrated Israeli culture at a block party on the East Mall on Monday, while, right across Speedway, dozens of students yelled and chanted in protest of the event, as they have almost every year since the block party’s inception.

Student leaders at both the Israel Block Party and the protest said they have wanted to exchange dialogue with each other for many years, but attempts at dialogue have never resulted in peaceful resolution.

The party, the largest event organized annually by Texas Hillel, had over 100 volunteers and many different booths for students to experience Israeli culture. Six main booths focused on educating event attendees on topics ranging from Israeli technological and medical innovation to the structure of the Knesset, the legislative branch of Israeli government. Other booths highlighted food, offered free smoothies and focused on the integration of different cultures in Israeli society.

Across the street, protestors argued that the Palestinian voice is silenced each year at the event.

Jauzey Imam, computer engineering and Plan II senior, said he wants to start a dialogue with students about human rights violations associated with the Palestinian conflict — information he said is being left out of the block party.

“We need some sort of representation of the Palestinian conflict,” Imam said. “We want people to start taking this seriously.”

Imam, who has protested the block party for three years in a row, said the group should do more to acknowledge Palestinian difficulties.

“Four and a half million Palestinians are living under occupation in Israel,” Imam said. “That’s a huge portion of the population, and they’re just not represented in things like the Israel Block Party.”

Rebecca Hanai, advertising sophomore and co-chair for the block party, said accusations of apartheid — a form of systemic, legal discrimination — are unwarranted.

“I lived in Israel for a year after high school, and I saw firsthand that Israel really believes in human rights and how they believe in equality for all its people,” Hanai said. “You can receive the same benefits and opportunities you get in the United States.”

Andrea Hiller, public relations sophomore and the other co-chair for the block party, said she doesn’t like focusing on the protests during a time of celebration and hopes to come to an agreement in the near future.

“If anything, we wish there was change only in that we wish we could have a dialogue,” Hiller said. “We would love to sit down and talk, and I’m sure we’d have more shared opinions than differences.”

Hiller said all students are invited to attend the party, and she hopes the groups can coexist peacefully in the future.

“If they would like to enjoy this party, they are more than welcome,” Hiller said. “The hardest part of the event is seeing students walk by because they are afraid to engage and afraid to learn more. That shouldn’t be the situation.”

As students walk down the stairs in the East Mall every day, they may fail to notice they are walking over the Computation Center, an underground building built in the 1970s to house the University’s mainframe computer. 

The University built the center underground so it would not interfere with the historic buildings surrounding the tower, according to architecture professor Larry Speck.

“In some ways, people may have really thought it was a brilliant solution because they needed a computation center that was near the center of the campus,” Speck said. “But the center of the campus was all built out, so they thought, ‘Let’s put it underground, and put a terrace on the top and it will be invisible.’”

Speck said while the building’s placement seemed like a solution to architects, it actually created more problems.

“I don’t think they foresaw the fact that computation was going to be huge, so that wasn’t going to be the only computation center,” Speck said. “And it had no way to grow at all.” 

The University Data Center, completed in 2010 and located on the east side of I-35, now holds the University’s mainframe computer. Rabindra Kar, a senior software engineer at the Computation Center, said the Computation Center still stores sensitive computers and fiber optic links to other key areas on campus, including the data center. Kar said these computers are important in case the data center ever shuts down.

“If the mainframe goes down, it would still be a disaster for the University,” Kar said. “The data is at least backed up, so when the mainframe goes out, the backed-up data could be restored.”

According to Kar, the inability to expand the size of the Computation Center to include the data center is not an issue for the University.

“There’s a good reason to keep the University Data Center isolated from the rest of the people,” Kar said. “You don’t want people coming and snooping around. Any university our size, especially with our high amount of research, is constantly under cyberattack.”

Kar said despite the central location of the center, students still remain oblivious to its purpose. Thoa Pham, a biochemistry sophomore, said she uses the East Mall steps twice a day and has never noticed walking over the Computation Center.

“I feel like I should pay more attention to the UT campus,” Pham said. “I pass by this every day, and I don’t even know the place.”

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

In a window-lined room on the second floor of the Student Activities Center there are two circles of chairs, one within the other. Six members of the African American Culture committee, a subcommittee of Campus Events + Entertainment, are laughing and eyeing each other, as they run around the smaller circle of chairs to an upbeat song from the Creole genre, Zydeco. It is the beginning of the group’s last meeting before its Mardi Gras-themed event this Tuesday on the East Mall, Masquerade in the Park. 

As the meeting begins, there is a lot of talk about grades and the inconsistency of Texas weather before the discussion naturally transitions to upcoming events, specifically the cultural mixers that freshmen get to plan.

“Something we want to keep in your heads and consider for your cultural mixture would be what food we want to serve, advertising ideas like the handbill and what booths you’ll have,” said Matthew Ealy, applied learning and development junior and committee chair. 

Largely focused on giving UT students the opportunity to develop, plan and present African and African American culture programs to the University, the committee plans a variety of events, such as Masquerade in the Park.

“The greatest thing about Campus Events + Entertainment is probably the wide array of events that we sponsor,” Ealy said. “Because we consist of nine committees, each committee has a different interest. This allows for the most diverse programming of events by any organization on campus.”

The committee, which meets every Wednesday in the SAC, is open to all UT students. While the meetings are loosely structured, they rely heavily on an open forum discussion. The committee’s Black History Month events are the topic of much discussion this week. The first was a viewing of the movie “42” on Feb. 4. Following the screening, the committee hosted a night of entertainment, What Started Here Changed Our World, on Feb. 16. The event focused on bringing multiple African American culture groups together to educate students on black history at UT. The last event of the month was the career expo, Black to Business. While each of these events was advertised, Ealy said he wishes there could have been greater campus involvement.

“The one difficulty that we have had in gaining interest is the assumption that Black to Business is only for African American students,” Ealy said. “This assumption is not true. This event [was] a career expo premised on the fact that every company and organization in attendance will have a focus on the betterment of minority populations or significantly interested in diversifying their staff.” 

In an effort to increase participation, the committee will hold Masquerade in the Park on the East Mall because of its high foot traffic and space for tents. The festival is free to attend and will offer students an opportunity to taste Creole cuisine, listen to Creole and Zydeco music and participate in Mardi Gras activities. Public relations junior Jacy Jones is in charge of advertising the event on multiple social media platforms but mainly by word of mouth. Jones is especially excited to promote this event because of her ties to Creole culture.

“My favorite event we host is Masquerade in the Park, simply because I am Creole,” Jones said. “Growing up with Zydeco music is something that I’m used to. I’m always hearing it. The food, the culture — that’s my niche.” 

The committee, along with each event that it hosts, works to promote inclusivity within the African American community and the UT community.  

“I want students to see the difference that our organization and many other organizations are making on campus and how it directly affects all of them,” External Communications Chair Gennavonah Wade said. “We are a committee to put on events that cater to every aspect of a student. From political, to inspirational, to gaining leadership and communication skills, to entertaining and just adding to the holistic character of a student.” 

Wild Art

A student waits on a bridge in the East Mall during the rain storm Friday afternoon. 

Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff


As an architecture student, I felt that the April 10 column concerning the new developments on the East Mall as compared to what is seen as the traditional architecture style of West and South Campus was quite short-sighted. No, the East side will not look like the original 40 Acres, and it shouldn’t. To simply continue that style would reduce the “specialness” and grandeur that belongs to those original buildings. Furthermore, constraining new development to a specific, one-sided image of what the University is supposed to be is stifling to both the creativity of the architects asked to create great spaces for students and for students to be challenged and engaged in the spaces they use. 

No one wants to see another incident like the events surrounding the Blanton’s development happen again, where the fear of something different saddled the campus with a building that pales in comparison to the original groundbreaking proposal. I believe the contemporary look of buildings like the Student Activities Center and Dell Gates Complex capture the feel of the University today: a University that builds from the material of the past — in this instance literally, through use of local materials like limestone, brick and red shale — to create a place accepting of diversity and exploration. Don’t fear the new; embrace the future.

Andrew Houston
Architecture and urban studies senior

Every time I walk to class along the East Mall area from the western part of campus, I cannot help but notice the way the buildings change from the orange tile roofs and tan brick facades of campus’ west side to the modern steel and glass-paneled buildings that populate campus’ eastern half. The sense of familiarity I feel around UT’s historic buildings immediately replaces the insecurity of being in an area that is unknown to me.

Don’t get me wrong, change is inevitable, and in the context of the East Mall, these new buildings are necessary to provide students with more space to study and socialize. However, the new buildings significantly alter campus’ architectural identity and fail to unify the eastern half of campus with its more active and iconic western end.

A unifying architectural style is important for a university because it contributes greatly to the overall aesthetics of its campus landscape and because it physically conveys the social and cultural unity of the campus community. To this end, the people making design decisions regarding campus’ future appearance should seek to strike a balance between the modern aesthetic of East Campus and the more traditional buildings in West Campus.

According to architecture professor Lawrence Speck, the construction of some of the new buildings along the East Mall, such as the Student Activity Center, has been planned since the mid-1990s. The addition of the SAC and other buildings has changed the distribution of students around the campus area — previously most student activity was centered around the Main Mall. This indirectly encourages students to experience different parts of our campus.

However, the newer buildings look out of place on the East Mall. For example, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport (BRB) building, located on the south side of the East Mall, awkwardly contrasts with the SAC; their close proximity makes it feel like the SAC engulfs the BRB. The presence of the Liberal Arts Building and the Gates Computer Science Complex, with their modern architectural styles, unbalances the area. 

Yet the transformation of East Campus is only just beginning, according to Speck. The construction of a medical school building in the east side of the campus, along with a few other major projects that have yet to be approved, will pull students further east. These projects, Speck says, are important, since they will house facilities that are necessary for student and faculty research. These new facilities will help to strengthen UT’s status as one of the top ranking universities in research in the United States.

However, a question still remains: Will these projects create a more unified architectural landscape on campus? East Campus will never be able to compete with West Campus’ signature architectural style. Nonetheless, individuals and authorities who are responsible for UT’s campus planning should put more emphasis on preserving the University’s identity in every new campus building, so that the spirit of our alma mater will be visibly present no matter where you are on campus.

Syairah is an economics sophomore from Rawang, Malaysia.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex, which opened March 6, is the latest in a series of new or renovated buildings to populate the East Mall. This part of campus has long played second string to the West Mall’s historic structures and active public spaces, so in order to be considered a success, any change to the area’s stock of buildings must contribute to the invigoration of the eastern part of campus.

The Gates complex, though relatively unassuming from the exterior, manages to inject architectural levity — such as a fifth-floor stairway with a glass floor and orange-tinted windows — into an otherwise standard University building, and contains within it campus’s most inspiring new indoor study space. Though the complex’s restrained color palette, tight symmetry and severe geometry can begin to feel overwhelming, they also endow the building with a formality and sincerity that has been absent from other new buildings on campus.

The site, located on Speedway but separated from the East Mall by the E. P. Schoch Building, lacks the prominence enjoyed by the also recently-built Student Activities Center and Liberal Arts Building. As a result, the Gates Center sits quietly among the surrounding structures. On the Speedway side of the building, it’s easy to see how Fred Clarke — an alumnus of the UT School of Architecture and one of the complex’s lead designers — might have been inspired by the buildings that flank the more prominent South Mall, where small courtyards emerge between relatively simple classroom buildings.

The space between the two wings of the Gates Center is occupied by a Sol LeWitt sculpture that was unveiled on March 21 as part of the campus’s Landmarks public art program. Unlike traditional art, LeWitt’s work consists of meticulous directions or algorithms that other artists follow to bring his artwork to life. Thus, a collector does not buy a LeWitt sculpture or painting, rather the instructions that will lead to its eventual creation — appropriate for a building where so much attention is paid to the underlying codes that make computers work.

Inside, a LeWitt mural injects color into an otherwise gray classroom hallway. And while much of the complex’s interior spaces are painted in cool grays and whites, the extensive use of wood paneling in the atrium located between the two main buildings and the large windows located throughout give the entire complex an inviting feel.

Many of the new buildings on campus — the Belo Center, the Norman Hackerman Building and the Student Activity Center in particular — boast prominent open spaces in which students can gather to study, eat or merely chat. All share some aesthetic similarities: high ceilings, lots of windows, brightly-painted walls and bizarre furniture. The atrium space in the Gates Complex meets several of these criteria, but also manages to create a space that is inspiring to be in, regardless of your purpose for being there.

Four stories worth of open study spaces cantilever out over the first floor lobby, and each of those study rooms are connected by stairways that literally hang within the volume of the atrium. The angular, wood-paneled ceilings emphasize the height and size of the atrium and give it a dynamic feel. The horizontal wooden louvres that flank the atrium’s north and south wall provide teasing glimpses into the windowed offices and classrooms that surround the atrium, allowing the activity taking place within those rooms to further animate the space that they overlook.

Rather than relying on bright colors or strange light fixtures to attract superficial interest, the atrium in the Gates Complex is an inherently interesting space unto itself, with plenty of places upon which to let your gaze linger rather than write the paper you came there to finish, and perhaps even more importantly, plenty of outlets from which to charge your laptop.

Like other inspiring study areas on campus — the Architecture and Life Sciences libraries, for example — the care and detail in the design of the Gates Complex’s central atrium is tactile evidence of someone’s significant effort. In the words of the Chair of the Computer Science Department, Bruce Porter, the space encourages those who study in it or merely move through it to “raise their game.” That statement applies equally well for the architects designing campus’ next new building.

Finke is an architecture and urban studies senior from Houston.