Taylor Carr

Lisa Guerra (far left), a junior history major and deaf student, speaks through her interpreter at the Rally to Support Diversity on the main mall Monday evening. Many students and a professor spoke at the rally to support various types of diversity and UT’s position on the Fisher v. Texas case.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Although arguments in a U.S. Supreme Court case about affirmative action in UT’s admissions policies ended three weeks ago, campus discussions of diversity are far from over.

Several students and one professor spoke about the importance of diversity during the Rally to Support Diversity on the Main Mall on Monday evening. The rally was hosted by We Support UT, a coalition of student organizations that back the University’s stance in Fisher v. UT, a Supreme Court case that challenges the University’s use of race-conscious admissions procedures.

The event featured speakers from many student organizations, including the Black Student Alliance, Social Justice Coalition and Student Government.

Bradley Poole, president of the Black Student Alliance, said the rally was part of a larger effort to continue the momentum of the diversity discussion after the Fisher arguments.

“Even if the court doesn’t decide in favor of UT, that doesn’t mean diversity stops being important,” Poole said. “The University has made strides in diversity since its integration, but it still has a long way to go. [Discussions like this] ensure that we have students who are not just academically intelligent, but are socially intelligent as well.”
 
Taylor Carr, co-director of UT’s Social Justice Coalition, recounted her personal experiences growing up in Mansfield, where she said the public school system was one of the last in the nation to integrate.

Carr said her grades suffered in high school as a result of family issues and racism she experienced in the classroom.

“My sophomore year, my father was shot and my mother incarcerated,” Carr said. “Unsurprisingly, my grades reflected this.”

Carr said that as a result of this tumultuous period, her grades did not qualify her for admission under UT’s Top 10 Percent rule, which guarantees admission to the University based on high school class rank. She said she credits holistic review with her admission to UT.

“I am a product of holistic review and affirmative action,” she said. “Without UT’s admissions plan, students like me would never have had the opportunity to prove that we were qualified. I would have never been given the opportunity to contribute.”

Assistant English professor Snehal Shingavi said he believes the Supreme Court will strike down UT’s affirmative action program when it delivers its ruling this summer. If that happens, Shingavi said students must re-evaluate their course of action if they want to maintain a diverse student population.

“We need to prepare ourselves for the coming fight,” Shingavi said. “We need to ask ourselves how the fight for affirmative action was won the first time, because we’ve come to take it for granted. We’re going to have to march in the streets.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 as: Diversity talks continue weeks after Fisher case

Former UT Student Chas Moore organized “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Hate,” a march that will take place Tuesday evening. Moore planned the march in hopes that it will bring awareness to incidents of reported bias and generate action from relevant officials.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Students will march through the streets of West Campus on Tuesday night to send the message that they will not stand for bias in the UT community any longer.

Former UT student Chas Moore organized the march, “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Hate,” in conjunction with students from UT and Huston-Tillotson University as a response to recently reported incidents of bias in the area. Those incidents include several reports of students being attacked with bleach-filled water balloons in order to “white-wash” them as students of color, racial slurs being used in the West Campus area and ethnic-themed parties being thrown in an insensitive manner. Moore said he hopes the march will publicly shed light on these incidents and prompt members of the UT community to realize that bias is still a major issue at UT in 2012.

“We are not going to sit back and let things like this happen,” Moore said, referring to the recently reported incidents of bias. 

Moore said he planned the march because he feels he has not seen a serious enough response from relevant officials in dealing with reported incidents of bias at UT. He said he wants to show them how widespread this issue is so they will be more inclined to take action when incidents of bias are reported.

“We just want the University to seem like they care about what happens to students of color,” Moore said.

Moore said one example of authorities failing to take an appropriate response to a reported incident was when anthropology sophomore Taylor Carr had a bleach-filled water balloon thrown at her car last month.

Carr said her car was struck with the balloon around 2:30 a.m. near the 26 West apartment complex, formerly known as Jefferson 26, located at the corner of West 26th Street and Rio Grande Street.

Carr said she immediately got out of her car and ran to a nearby Austin Police Department officer to inform him of the attack.

“He asked if there was any damage, and I said ‘no,’ so he refused to take any action in response to the attack,” Carr said.

Carr was unable to provide the name of the officer she spoke to, and APD was unable to find a report of the incident on file, although APD did find a report of a water balloon being thrown at a car in the same area at roughly the same time. APD said they were unable to identify the assailant in that case, and they believe the balloon was filled with water, not bleach, in that incident.

Robert Dahlstrom, University of Texas Police Department Chief, said his department, which operates separately from the City of Austin Police Department, heard about the bleach-ballon incidents recently. He said UTPD has taken measures to investigate the attacks, including reaching out to one of the students who said he was attacked with a bleach-filled balloon.

Dahlstrom said his department has been limited in its investigative efforts, however, because these attacks were not reported to UTPD, leaving them with little information to try and investigate the attacks.

“We’re very interested in helping students anywhere work through any type of case and this one no more or no less so than any other case,” he said. “We just need to know the facts so we can start working with the students.”

Dahlstrom said he urges students to report any illegal activity to his department so that it can be dealt with as effectively as possible and prevented from happening to others.

Moore, the event’s organizer, said he is happy that UTPD is looking into the incidents and hopes to see the same serious response to reports of bias from other relevant authorities, such as UT’s administration and APD, in the future.

Students participating in the march will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue located on the East Mall near West 21st Street and Speedway.

Printed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as: Students plan march against bias

Anthropoogy sophomore Taylor Carr speaks before an audience at the "Students Speak

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Students raised their fists in solidarity Tuesday night as they came together to discuss recent experiences of bias in the UT community.

Five student panelists shared their personal experiences with bias while at UT, specifically addressing the issues of race, gender and sexual orientation discrimination. Along with those students, the event, called “Students Speak Out: Racism and Oppression,” was organized by seven other students in response to two summer incidents in West Campus where UT students said bleach-filled balloons were thrown at them, an attack those students deem racially-motivated, terming it “white-washing.”

Anthropology sophomore Taylor Carr, who said she was hit with a bleach-filled balloon, shared the incident Tuesday in an effort she hopes will shine a light on the reality of UT community bias.

“I’m here to let you know that this has become a safety issue,” Carr said.

Carr said she thought the event was effective in raising the UT community’s awareness of these issues because it led to students sharing their actual experiences with bias.

“I feel better about people hearing me out and knowing that these things are real,” Carr said after telling her story. “We’re not making this up. These things are really going on.”

Exercise science sophomore Katie Waters shared her views on gender discrimination and said she believes women are often unfairly held responsible when a rape takes place.

“I’m not the only woman in this room who has been held responsible for men’s actions,” she said. “It’s my responsibility not to get raped? We live in a society that tells women not to get raped instead of telling men not to rape.”

Waters said it is important for people to understand that anyone can make a difference.

“You don’t have to be an activist to offer social change,” she said. “Social change starts with all of us.”

Doug Garrard, senior associate dean of students, said he hopes to meet with the students involved with the event to work toward a solution to these issues.

“We are going to meet with them just to kind of touch base and see how we can work together,” Garrard said.

Garrard said he believes the University should be working toward a solution to these issues, even though these events are often happening off campus in West Campus and other UT-adjacent areas.

“I definitely think if it involves UT students, then the University has an obligation,” Garrard said.

Lucian Villasenor, Mexican American studies senior, said he knows the fight for campus equality will be a long one but he has hope that it can one day be achieved.

“We’re not going to get the stuff fixed after a forum or a rally,” he said. “It’s a long-term struggle. The next step is for people to start getting involved with the day-to-day organizing.”

Villasenor said the concerned students who organized the event will now work mainly through campus organizations that promote equality to continue to spread their message.

Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Panel against bias makes headway

Concerned students will host an open forum Tuesday night to discuss the issues of racism and oppression in the UT area and search for ways to combat them.

The decision to hold the forum came after recently reported incidents of bias in the UT area, including the throwing of a bleach-filled water balloon at a group of students, the use of racial slurs in West Campus and the use of the term “Middle Eastern” by UT officials when describing the accent of Friday’s still unidentified bomb threat caller. The forum will feature several student panelists describing their experiences with bias while at UT. It will focus on bias in the forms of gender, sexual orientation and racial discrimination, as well as discrimination in the form of Islamophobia.

Anthropology freshman Taylor Carr will be one of the panelists speaking at the event.

Carr said she was called a racial slur while visiting UT last spring and was nearly hit by an unidentified assailant with a bleach-filled water balloon while walking through West Campus last month, a type of racially motivated attack she calls “white-washing.”

“We experience so much racism in West Campus and in Austin in general,” she said. “We just need to do something about it.”

Lucian Villasenor, Mexican American studies senior and co-planner of the event, said he believes it will be more effective than similar events in the past because it is being put on by students, not the University administration.

“If there is going to be any kind of change, it’s going to come [from the students],” Villasenor said. “It’s going to require action from us to make them pass a policy or make any real change.”

Although there are currently more than a dozen organizations battling campus discrimination at UT, including the newly developed Campus Climate Response Team and the Gender and Sexuality Center, the students organizing the forum said it is not enough, as incidents of bias still seem to occur regularly.

Ryan Miller, Campus Climate Response Team lead member and senior program coordinator for UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the University’s initiatives are effective in lessening campus discrimination, but bias is still an issue. He said the organization of the students is a move in the right direction.

“I think it’s very smart to have that unity, and I think that the Campus Climate Response Team would be very happy to see students and employees coming together and formulating their own response to campus bias, to using their own voices,” Miller said.

Miller said the level of campus bias that exists is a very difficult thing to gauge, but he does think UT is reducing it overall.

“When you take kind of the long view, there has been a lot of progress over the years,” Miller said. “It’s not always as quickly as we would like, but if you do look back a few years, you can see a change.”

The forum, titled “Student Speak Out: Racism and Oppression,” will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in UTC 2.112A and is open to anyone who would like to attend.

Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Students rally against prejudice