A UT student’s claim of assault during Roundup last weekend sparked the formation of a coalition to address racial discrimination during the annual event.
Finance senior Donesha Bell alleges that a Zeta Beta Tau fraternity member cursed, threw food at and spit on her during a Roundup party March 26.
ZBT president Nace Allen said his organization has no information about Bell’s claims. He said that after talking to people at the party and representatives of the security company working during the event, he has been unable to verify the validity of her claim.
“I am saddened by the allegations that are being unfairly made against the men of ZBT,” he said. “However, in the spirit of cooperation, we remain committed to meet with and discuss any specific allegations and complaints with the accuser personally and the Black Student Alliance.”
The Austin Police Department cannot release the police report about the incident because the investigation is ongoing.
Government senior Lonnie Williams told Student Government on March 29 that even though the organization does not fund the event, it should take a stance on the issue. He said he feels it is “imperative” for the University’s recruitment
Williams suggested SG form a task force to monitor future Roundup events and determine how claims such as Bell’s should be handled.
Since William’s suggestion during the last regularly scheduled SG meeting, campus leaders, including newly elected University-wide representative Kristin Thompson, created the Roundup Coalition. The group is asking for a formal written apology from the UT Interfraternity Council with a copy sent to the fraternity’s national headquarters, a formal written apology from the alleged assaulter and expulsion of the alleged assaulter from his chapter. They also request mandatory cultural sensitivity training for ZBT led by a trainer of their choosing, among other things.
Bell said she and her friends bought tickets to the ZBT fraternity party almost a month in advance to see rapper J. Cole at the organization’s LiveStrong benefit concert March 26, she said. She said she and her friends arrived early to get a good spot near the stage, but as soon as the show was about to start, she was approached by a ZBT member who told her to move so he could have her spot. Bell said when she refused, he began insulting her.
“I told him I wasn’t going to get off the ledge, and his response was, ‘No, I want you down there with the commoners. I want this spot,’” she said.
When Bell still refused to give up her spot, she said the ZBT member forced his way next to her and nudged and elbowed her in the side to move her down.
“While this was going on, he was yelling and cursing, saying he didn’t want us there anyway, and that’s when he threw his sandwich and started spitting,” Bell said.
Bell said her legs were covered in barbecue sauce from the sandwich he had thrown after she ignored his cursing. She said when she still refused to respond, he spit at her twice, once in her face.
Bell said the ZBT member left her and came back with a guard from MAS Security Agency to escort her out of the concert. She said she tried to explain to the security guard that she had been assaulted, but she said he told her he didn’t care and wanted her to leave.
“He said the guy was a member, and if he wanted me to leave, I had to go,” she said.
Bell said she and her friends were pulled from the ledge and escorted to the back gate where the guard forcefully removed them from the yard.
“He picked my friend up and basically threw her out of the gate. Then he grabbed my arm, twisted it and pushed me out,” she said. “I felt degraded, especially as a woman, to be spit on and thrown out.”
According to the Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities guide, the organization cannot be disciplined unless an officer was at fault, a member acted in an authoritative position such as a chairperson or organizer, or it was more than one member. Under any other circumstances, the individual is responsible for his or her own actions.
Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said the Office of the Dean of Students takes all conduct matters very seriously and is currently gathering more information about the incident.
“Students are using their voices to express the various ways this situation impacts UT and their personal lives,” Reagins-Lilly said. “Our office will work with the coalition to continue exploring options.”