Student Events Center

Student representatives from different campus-wide minority groups collaborate together Monday evening to finalize plans on the Decision 2012 election night watch party. While originally aiming to bridge different partisan groups, the representatives decided instead to create an environment for students of all cultures and political preferances to watch the election together.

Photo Credit: Raveena Bhalara | Daily Texan Staff

Public relations and political communication senior Antonio Guevara first approached Carissa Kelley, the current president of the Student Events Center, with the idea for Decision 2012 last year. The Student Events Center is the arm of the University Unions that puts on programming for students.

Guevara wanted to put on an “epically huge” Election Night watch party, public relations senior Kelley said. Kelley liked the idea. She envisioned a screen in front of the Tower to broadcast election results and a party on the Main Mall in which all major campus organizations from every cultural and political group would take part.

The event, called Decision 2012, will take place Tuesday in the Student Activities Center Ballroom, but it will not be the campus-wide party that Guevara and Kelley originally imagined. When they approached partisan political groups like University Democrats and College Republicans, they found that those groups, like many others, wanted to watch the election individually at events that were openly partisan. 

When Kelly and Guevara couldn’t bridge the divide between political parties, they turned to bridging cultures. The watch party may not be truly campus-wide, but it will be an event that brings together students from the African American Culture Committee, the Asian American Culture Committee, the Black Student Alliance and Longhorn League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to name a few of the many participating organizations.

“It really turned into a minority-driven thing, and I think everyone’s happy with the way that it turned out,” Kelley said.

The event will “make sure the campus has a place that is multicultural and nonpartisan for students to watch the election,” said Chelsea Jones, a journalism sophomore and chair of the African American Culture Committee, which like the Asian American Culture Committee and the Mexican American Culture Committee, is a subset of the Student Events Center that deals with cultural programming.

Although an election watch party certainly can’t ignore politics, the organizers of Decision 2012 have attempted to make the event engaging and celebratory rather than divisive. The event will feature three screens, two of which will show live election coverage. The central screen will show a live Twitter feed. Event attendees will be told a hash tag (tentatively #Decision2012UT) as they walk in the door and will be encouraged to tweet questions they have about the election or the election coverage. These questions will be answered via Twitter by the event’s organizers.

If attendees want to show their political affiliations, one wall will be covered with a large piece of butcher paper divided into sections for the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green parties. Students may sign their name on the paper to show support for their party or submit an anonymous pre-cut “handprint” to be taped to the wall under their party’s name.

“Something I always wanted to do was blend the cultures here on campus,” Guevara said. “It’s a very minority-heavy event, but at the end of the day, this is the first event of its kind [at UT], at least since I’ve been here, and I’m going on my fifth year ... but what we’re all hoping is that we’re kind of laying the foundation for more events like this, so you don’t just have to come together for the watch party, and it’s not just centered around minority groups. [The whole campus] can come together like this any time of the year.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 as: Watch party unites cultures

John Legend speaks to students about education issues and his involvement with philanthropies and Teach for America in Hogg Auditorium Tuesday evening. Legend ended the lecture with a musical performance including his new song “Tonight.”

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend said during an on-campus lecture Tuesday that the solution to many problems of inequality and poverty lies in a well-grounded education.

Legend said in order for individuals to pursue their passions, it is necessary to repair inequalities in the country’s educational systems.

“I believe that each one of you in this room has potential and can create change,” Legend said. “We all possess the ability to think critically and question the status quo. Education is a gift. It can open doors. Without it, doors will remain closed and options will be limited.”

Legend delivered his “Voices with Power to Impact the World” lecture in Hogg Auditorium and spoke to UT students about motivation, education and possible economic issues they may encounter after graduation. The event was organized by the Student Events Center and its Distinguished Speakers Committee, Music & Entertainment Committee and African American Culture Committee. Deaunderia Bowens, a Student Events Center advisor, said the $55,000 that paid for Legend’s visit was pulled from student fees and revenues from University Unions.

“The event is a way to make students aware of who we are, and we hope that this event showcases the best that we can do as event planners,” Bowens said.

All of these committees work together through the Student Events Center, bringing experienced speakers to campus, educating students about African American heritage and coordinating performances by renowned artists around the country, respectively.

Legend said he knew from a young age he wanted to attend college and get signed to a record label. He said after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, he was happy to have completed college.

“Earning a degree has made me a better person. Not the piece of paper but the experiences and struggles I overcame,” Legend said. “I am now able to see the world in different ways.”

He is a board member of Teach for America, an organization that places recent college graduates in teaching positions in areas with subpar educational systems. Legend said 61 UT graduates joined Teach For America last year.

Legend said there is a need to repair and make progress in the American education system. He said America has been deemed the land of opportunity but not every person receives the same academic opportunity.

“Many high schools today are called ‘drop-out factories,’” Legend said. “This rate of high school dropouts is contributing to the perpetual cycle of poverty. In some cities, where a child is born determines the quality of education and life prospects they will receive.”

After the lecture, Legend performed a free concert for those in attendance. Students screamed and applauded in support of the singer.

Theatre and dance senior Jessica Obilom, who attended the lecture, said Legend is a talented singer and she enjoyed the opportunity to see him perform.

John Legend: Voices with Power to Impact the World from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Legend hails education

With all the recent rumors and gossip surrounding the Student Government elections and our team, we wanted to share our story and address the issue of our team’s disqualification. We selected around 40 students representing all communities from across campus to be in a group photo to reflect our mission to bring students together. Three weeks later, one of the students, Carissa Kelley, became a candidate for the president of the Student Events Center. She did not intend to run when the photo was taken, and we were not even aware that she was going to run until weeks later. We had no contact with her during the campaign, and neither of us publicly supported each other in any way outside of her participation in our photo. At the time of the photo, and even after becoming aware of Kelley’s intent to run for SEC President, we never felt that we were in violation of the election code because not only did the Election Supervisory Board approve our media — including our group picture — but the clause the ESB convicted us of violating is under the SG-specific election code that led us to believe that this clause only applied to associating with SG candidates.

After the disqualification ruling by the ESB, we tried to appeal to the UT judicial court on the grounds that the specific code only applies to SG candidates and that our alleged violation did not warrant a disqualification. The four-member judicial court voted to not hear our case and denied us our right to voice our concerns regarding the ESB’s ruling. Given the fact that we were denied our appeal, we chose to meet with the Dean of Students’ representatives who oversee SG. After meeting with them, we realized we had very limited options moving forward. We filed one last appeal to the judicial court based on procedural errors and were again denied before being heard.

At that point, we had the options of bowing out of the race or pursuing legal action in hopes of getting back on the ballot. We are passionate about this University and this campaign really means a lot to us.

We understand that many people may criticize our recent actions or question why we are continuing to get back in this race even after being disqualified. We would like everyone to know our true intentions. We are not suing the University for anything monetary. Instead, we filed a temporary restraining order to delay the presidential and vice-presidential election until after our case was heard. We would like a judge to reconsider our case and put our name back on the ballot because we feel that our constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association were violated.

We hope that everyone can understand our story and know what truly has been happening past the headlines. This decision is not motivated by revenge or any selfish reasons but rather it stems from our passion, love and belief in our cause.

Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara are former SG presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Students put on skates before entering the makeshift ice-rink outside of Gregory Gym as part of Winter Wonderland, put on by the Student Events Center, Monday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Haipei Han | Daily Texan Staff

Despite the 75 degree weather, students got a glimpse of colder climates at the Student Events Center’s Winter Wonderland.

The Winter Wonderland, hosted at the entrance of Gregory Gym Monday, offered free cookies, hot chocolate and an opportunity to ice skate as a way to welcome students back to campus.

The event cost a total of $6,000, $5,000 of which went towards the ice skating rink, said Marguerite Elliott, assistant director for student programming at University Unions. Cameron Allison, rhetoric and writing senior and president of the SEC, said approximately 400 students attended the event.

“We wanted to have an event to welcome back both returning students as well as transfer students into the semester,” Allison said.

Because an ice skating rink would not survive the hot Texas sun, the rink was made out of synthetic silicon and had a wet slippery surface, Allison said. Once the skaters began to slide on the surface, friction between the skates and surface created the feeling of a real ice skating rink, he said. Students had to sign wavers before stepping foot on the “ice.”

Allison said he hopes to continue having more events like this one to motivate students to stay connected to campus.

“People were smiling and our volunteers also all got the opportunity to skate and had a great time,” he said.

Whether students stepped on the ice or helped themselves to a warm drink, the event was a success, Allison said.

Sumaiya Syed, Asian cultures and languages and chemistry junior, said she is from the Midwest, so she knows what winter actually feels like.

“The skating rink felt like cardboard, not ice, which is smooth,” Syed said. “But it was still really enjoyable.”

Nursing sophomore Hillary Camp was one of the first people brave enough to enter the rink. “It’s a party here,” she said.

“I am glad I came. Events like this really give students a sense of community,” Camp said. “It was like the North Pole, just without the cold.”

Psychology freshman Jessica Jakobeit said the the faux ice felt safer to her than real ice while still giving a real sensation.

“I have been deprived of winter in Texas, but this event definitely helped,” Jakobeit said.

Printed on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 as: Student Events Center hosts Winter Wonderland event

4th year European Studies major Anastasia Davis sets up a prop for a potions class at Harry Potter Fest, Monday afternoon. The festival featured a number of classic Harry Potter activities, including Dark Mark tattoos, a Tri-Wizard maze, and a Yule Ball.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The Student Activity Center was no place for muggles as Harry Potter Fest 2011 transformed it into platform nine and three-quarters and flooded the building with wizards, witches and butterbeer.

The event, organized by the Student Events Center, was a themed nonprofit celebration on Monday created to bring UT community members of every variety together at the center, said Cameron Allison, president of the SEC.

Students took part in a day’s worth of magical events that included a “Tri-Wizard Maze,” a “Defense Against the Dark Campus Arts” class, Harry Potter trivia, temporary “Dark Mark” tattoos, a photo booth, a potions class to make “Butterbeer,” a “Horcrux” scavenger hunt, “Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop” and a costume contest and “Yule Ball” to end the night.

“We chose to do a Harry Potter-themed Halloween because we know that there is a large Harry Potter fan base here on campus, and since our programs are aimed directly at the UT student community, we figured that students would really enjoy an event like this,” Allison said.

Preparation for this event began in August as Allison, the committee chairs and vice presidents of the SEC discussed how to put the idea of a Harry Potter Fest into action and to make it an event that was worthwhile for UT students, she said.

“It was a lot of fun planning out the different events that we have for the day,” Allison said. “We wanted things to be fun but also educational, so each committee in the SEC worked together and came up with creative ways we could reach this goal.”

The “Defense Against the Dark Campus Arts” class was one that was intended to be both fun and educational, Allison said. In this event, the SEC joined forces with UTPD to put on drunk driving demonstrations and a workshop on the Rape Aggression Defense classes that are offered on campus, he said.

“I don’t know if many students actually know that they have these types of resources on campus, but I think after the demonstrations students will be able to take away something very valuable that they can use both inside and outside the classroom,” Allison said.

Many students attending the event made sure to dress in the appropriate attire of a Hogwarts student so they could have the full experience, said radio-television-film sophomore Skylar Moran.

“I always thought that the SAC looked like a high-tech Hogwarts, so I was really excited about the event being held here,” Moran said. “It’s Halloween, and I already had my Harry Potter costume, so I was really excited to be here to celebrate.”

Throughout the event, the Harry Potter films were on display, and the famous Harry Potter film score played throughout the building for students to enjoy.

“It’s a fun way to relax and celebrate Harry Potter,” said advertising senior Martin Munoz. “Now that the Harry Potter books and movies are over, it’s a great way to keep it alive.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 as: Harry Potter wand-erland draws crowd

Bringing celebrity guests to the UT campus during the new Student Activity Center’s official grand opening week cost more than $70,000 in student fees. Monday’s “An Evening with Zach Braff” and Thursday’s “Hip-Hop Then and Now: Featuring Common, Chuck D” cost $35,000 for each of the two acts. The Student Events Center is composed of 15 different committees that plan University-wide events. A Texas Union fee that all students pay as part of tuition partially funds the SEC programming budget, said Trinity Smith, University Unions senior student affairs administrator. The Texas Union fee costs students $45.44 for the fall and spring semesters and $34.08 for a nine-week summer term. Smith said for the grand opening week, the center worked with all of the SEC committees to see if there was a group or an event they wanted to invite to campus, but may have been out of their price range. “The Common event is something that the African American Culture Committee wanted to do but couldn’t necessarily afford on their budget alone, so this was an opportunity for them to co-sponsor with the SAC for the grand opening events,” Smith said. Samantha Smith, chair of the culture committee, said the group is glad to be part of the opening week and proud to be able to host Common. “We were looking for something big to bring to campus that students would love,” she said. “Common does college tours about things that are appreciated by students and that are important to him — mostly music — so he brings a really good dynamic to the program.” More than 450 people attended the Zach Braff event Monday — the first held in the new SAC auditorium — leaving standing room only. Jeanette Hooker, Student Events Center adviser, said once a committee surveys students to determine which speaker they want, it is fairly easy to contact agencies to book the celebrity guests. “The SEC student committee members compile lists of artists they want to bring to campus, and we contact the speakers bureaus to see if they are touring and within our budget,” she said. Government junior Tyler Allison said he has attended many distinguished speaker events including Monday’s “An Evening with Zach Braff,” last semester’s advanced season premier of TV show “Psych” featuring leading men James Roday and Dule Hill, and Maya Angelou in 2009. Allison said the fee included in tuition is well worth the cost to be able to attend the celebrity speaker events. “I don’t even miss the money because it’s a small fee tacked onto tuition that most students probably never even pay attention to,” he said. “I’d prefer big celebrity events every year over holding on to a few bucks any day.”