With graduation, UT caps a tragic, turbulent 2016-17 academic year

Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duren Residence Hall on the UT-Austin campus on Aug. 19, 2016. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As May approaches, so does the end of another academic year at the University of Texas. Over the course of the last several months, a lot has happened on the Forty Acres: Campus carry, protests, demonstrations, a farewell to Charlie Strong, a memorial for Haruka Weiser and, more recently, a drive-by shooting on campus. Here’s a quick recap of some major things that happened during the 2016-2017 academic year:

August

UT honors victims of 1966 tower shooting for 50th anniversary:

On Aug. 1, victims of the 1966 sniper attack were honored at the UT Tower. A memorial was also placed near UT’s turtle pond, with the names of the 15 people who were killed by engineering student Charles Whitman. Survivors, the student body president at the time and the police officers who were involved with the incident attended the commemoration ceremony. This 50th anniversary coincidentally fell on the same day that the campus carry gun law went into effect.

Campus carry law goes into effect:

On August 1, Senate Bill 11, legislation also known as “campus carry” went into effect, permitting the concealed carry of handguns by license holders on campus.

Campus carry is protested with sex toys:

What better way to start off the first day of a new school year than with a protest with dildos. “Cocks Not Glocks” showed their opposition to the new campus carry gun law by brandishing the sex toys on backpacks and holding a rally on campus. In August, the event organizers said they hoped students would continue to carry the items until the law was repealed — the dildo-carrying ended shortly after the protest and the law remains on the books.

September

Bevo XV makes debut:

The young calf made his appearance as the new mascot of UT on Sept. 4 at the football game against Notre Dame— the Longhorns beat the Irish 50-47 after double overtime.

Security officer shot at Sigma Chi party:

On Sept. 11, a security guard was shot in the foot at a fraternity party by a party guest – who was not a student – who had earlier been thrown out of the party for causing trouble. The guard who was shot has sued Sigma Chi, accusing the fraternity of not doing enough to prevent the shooting.

October

Anti-affirmative action bake sale held:

On Oct. 26, the Young Conservatives of Texas held a bake sale that protested the affirmative action policy in college admission. The item prices were listed differently based on gender and race.

November

UT students organize anti-Trump protest:

The day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of UT students gathered at the UT Tower for a rally that turned into a daylong march throughout downtown Austin.

UT fires head football coach Charlie Strong:

After three seasons and a record of 16-21, the lowest winning percentage in Longhorn football history, Strong was fired on Nov. 26. Many football players and members of the UT community were upset with this decision— several players reacted on Twitter, thanking Strong and saying bye. It wasn’t long before Strong was hired as the new University of South Florida head football coach and Tom Herman took over the Longhorn football program.

Matthew McConaughey give students a ride:

Alright, alright, alright! If you were lucky enough to call a SURE ride on this night, you may have had Matthew McConaughey as your golf cart driver.

Not to mention, McConaughey also co-taught a film class in the College of Communication, “Advanced Producing: Script to Screen”— Professor McConaughey?

February

The Ellen Show comes to UT:

On Feb. 7, UT students got in formation and put together their best Beyonce costumes in hope of winning two tickets to the Grammys from The Ellen Show. Sophomore Collin Wang won the contest by recreating Beyonce’s underwater pregnancy photo.

March

First Latina, physically disabled student body president is elected:

Fourth-year government and Mexican-American studies major Alejandrina Guzman made UT history when she was elected as the 2017-2018 student body president. Guzman and her running mate Micky Wolf captured 54 percent of the vote after a campus-wide run-off.

Survey released: 15 percent of female undergraduates say they have been raped:

A shocking report was released toward the end of March, detailing sexual assault, stalking, dating violence and harassment. Key findings of the random and voluntary survey also found that 12 percent of undergraduate women said they had experienced attempted rape and 22 percent of students reported having experienced sexist gender harassment from UT faculty or staff.

April

One-year memorial held for slain student Haruka Weiser:

On April 3, UT held a memorial ceremony for Haruka Weiser, the 18-year-old dance student who was found dead on campus in Waller Creek in 2016. Since her killing, the university has made it a priority to enhance safety and security on campus.

UT football gets 43-inch tv screens instead of name plates

Paper name plates are a thing of the past for the Longhorn football program. 43-inch flat screens were installed on every player’s locker, each costing about $10,500. Also, glowing locker doors were implemented!

Gregory Vincent announces he will leave UT for his alma mater:

On April 20 , Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, announced that he would be leaving UT in July to be president of his alma mater, Hobart and William Smith— after 11 years of diversity and inclusion work on the Forty Acres.

UT Recreational Sports celebrates 100 years:

On April 21, the university celebrated a century of RecSports, which has grown to 500,000 square feet of recreational space and 47 club sports. UT was one of the first colleges in the country to organize an intramural sports program.

Gunshots on campus:

On the morning of April 27, gunshots were reported on campus and UT police began investigating what they believe was a drive-by shooting. The suspect and the target were thought to be unaffiliated with the university, officials said. Several UT students took to social media to complain about the lack of timeliness when it came to alerting students about the incident and the vagueness of the emergency alert. UTPD notified the students, faculty and staff about the incident nearly an hour after it had taken place.

May

UT stabbing attack on students leaves 1 dead, 3 others injured

First-year student Harrison Brown was killed and three others were hospitalized after a stabbing attack on the University of Texas campus near Gregory Gym around 1:30 p.m. on May 1.

UT Police Chief David Carter identified the suspect in the attack as 21-year-old UT biology student Kendrex J. White of Killeen.

Carter said his officers saw a man, later identified as White, with a “large, bowie-style hunting knife.” One officer drew his gun and told White to get on the ground, which he did, before taking him into custody.

Within about a block, three more people were found stabbed, Carter said.

UT students and employees have been expressing annoyance on social media that they heard about this from campus media, local media and the UT community before a campus alert went out.

WATCH: Twitter video appears to show man wakeboarding in Texas State floodwater

via Twitter

It seems part of calling yourself a Texas State Bobcat is having a little fun when your campus transforms into a giant puddle.

Flooding has been known to periodically reclaim Texas State as part of the river that surrounds it, and students have been known to respond with an appropriate amount of shenanigans.

READ: Texas State students take to Twitter as San Marcos floods

A video posted to Twitter appears to show a student wakeboarding on the campus, which flooded yesterday and eventually resulted in classes being canceled. The tweet says the fun happened at Texas State.

The video shows a wakeboarder riding the “waves” made by the truck he’s tied to.

When life hands you a flooded campus…

UPDATE: Travis Co. deputies provide details on evidence leading to suspect’s arrest in attorney’s death 

http://players.brightcove.net/1418563061/r1tnyC4Q_default/index.html?videoId=5396202414001

4:30 p.m. update: Travis County officials on Wednesday laid out some of the evidence that led them to file charges against a 24-year-old man characterized as somewhat of a transient with a lengthy criminal record that is now accused of killing Austin defense attorney James Short.

Travis County investigators described the relationship between Short and Justin Nickolas Twyne, the man suspected of killing the attorney, as acquaintances. But they were close enough that Short took Twyne on a shopping trip to a South Austin Wal-Mart the day before Short was found killed, Cpt. Craig Smith said during a media briefing Wednesday.

Smith said many aspects of the crime remain under investigation, including the motive.

However, Smith said investigators have established several links putting Twyne at the scene of Short’s killing last week in southwestern Travis County. The evidence includes Twyne’s fingerprints and some of his personal property, both of which were found at the Short’s home, Smith said.

rbb death 1

Travis County sheriff’s detectives investigate the suspicious death of an Austin defense lawyer at his house in southwestern Travis County on Friday. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Some of Short’s belongings, including credit cards, were also found in the New Orleans hotel room where Twyne was arrested Friday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Short’s tan Chevrolet Suburban, which was missing from Short’s home when his body was found, has not been located yet. Smith asked for anyone who sees the vehicle to call authorities.

Twyne’s criminal history includes an active warrant for his arrest in Georgia on a charge of escape, which Smith said was for walking away from a work-release program.

The murder charge will take precedence, and Georgia officials have agreed to allow Twyne’s extradition to Travis County to move forward.

“Everyone agreed our charge is a much more serious crime and extradition to Travis county was the most appropriate thing to do,” Smith said. “We’re going to do it as quickly as possible.”

Smith said authorities received numerous tips after they posted surveillance footage of Twyne and identified him then as a “person of interest.” On Wednesday, Smith revealed that the footage was taken from the Wal-Mart shopping trip and that Twyne was with Short at the time the footage was taken.

Jim Short’s sister, Evelyn Proctor, told the American-Statesman on Wednesday that she talked to her younger brother daily — sometimes several times a day.

Last week, she said he went to her home and told her he was about to have repairs done on his motor home. When she didn’t hear from him again Friday morning, she drove to his home, where his body was discovered.

“This isn’t supposed to happen,” she said. “Nobody deserves this. He would have given you anything you wanted.”

Proctor described her brother as “a wonderful brother,” who enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening. She said he also loved his legal career — particularly serving as a court-appointed lawyer for indigent clients.

He also helped her regularly perform chores at her house, or do home repairs.

In recent years, she said the two traveled coast-to-coast in his RV to see family in places such as Wisconsin and North Carolina. Last year, they went to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

1:15 p.m. update: Travis County Sheriff investigators have charged a 24-year-old man in the death of James Short, an Austin defense attorney found dead at his home last week.

Justin Nickolas Twyne, 24, is charged with murder. Twyne and Short had recently exchanged text messages which show that Short gave Twyne his southwestern Travis County address so they could meet at his house, his arrest affidavit says.

Twyne Justin
Justin Nickolas Twyne

The affidavit said Short was stabbed to death and that apparently Short had taken Twyne shopping at a nearby Wal-Mart the day before Short’s body was found.

When detectives arrived at Short’s house, they found a bloody knife on his bed, the affidavit says. There was also a backpack in the house, and they found Twyne’s identification inside.

Analysis later showed a bloody fingerprint matched Twyne’s fingerprint, the affidavit says.

The U.S. Marshals Task Force tracked down Twyne on Friday and arrested him on an unrelated warrant. Twyne declined to speak with a Travis County sheriff’s detective, the affidavit says.

James Short
James Short. Courtesy photo.

Earlier: Authorities have captured a person of interest in the death of an Austin defense attorney last week, sources say.

The man was detained in New Orleans.

He has not yet been identified or formally charged.

Sheriff’s investigators released photos Saturday of a man they call a person of interest in the death of Austin defense attorney James Short, whose body was found at his home in southwestern Travis County on Friday.

Investigators have said they believe Short, 74, was targeted, and that the person of interest might be driving a tan 1999 Chevrolet Suburban with the Texas license plate DRW-3438.

Deputies got a call at 11:45 a.m. Friday from someone who asked them to check on Short’s home in the 8000 block of Rockwood Circle, off U.S. 290, said Kristen Dark, sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Deputies say Short’s death is suspicious, and that evidence at the scene leads them to believe that he didn’t die of natural causes, but they have released few other details about the case.

According to his page on the Texas Bar Association website, Short earned his law degree in 1984 from Texas Southern University and has been licensed to practice law in the state since 1988.

Swim in the sky with this terrifying glass-bottom Texas pool

A Texas apartment complex is giving residents a chance to swim in the sky.

Stock image via pexels.com

The glass-bottom pool at Market Square Tower gives those brave enough to swim in it a unique view of downtown Houston. According to the Houston Chronicle, the pool, located 40 stories up, “extends 10 feet beyond the side of building and 500 feet above Preston street.”

The apartment complex posted a video of what it looks like to walk in the glass-bottom portion of the pool to Facebook. The bottom of the pool is comprised of an 8-inch-thick layer of plexiglass. For those who aren’t into swimming above it all, there is another (opaque-bottom) pool located on the fourth floor.

The Houston Chronicle reports that living at the complex could cost you anywhere “from $1,805 for a 564-square foot studio, to $18,715 per month for a 2,993-square-foot penthouse.”

Courage not included in listed rates.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Photos: Remember San Marcos’ Aquarena Springs? After closing, it was a ghost town

The underwater theater, gondola rides, and famed swimming pig Ralph that comprised the “waterful wonderland of sights and thrills” of San Marcos’ Aquarena Springs haven’t thrilled visitors in years. And after the park closed, it really looked like it.

7/19/99 photo by Rebecca McEntee/AA-S

While the park, which entertained families for some 40 years before closing down in the 1990s, is now without the attractions and mermaids that drew its 250,000 annual visitors, the spot briefly had a new sort of lure for one Texas photographer.

Andy Heatwole took a series of haunting pictures between 2005 and 2012, showing the springs, which had since grown increasingly reclaimed by nature, in a state of “crumbling sidewalks, fallen trees and the few decaying remnants of the park.”

“As a photographer, I’ve always been drawn to abandoned places. There’s often a palpable silence that hangs over them. That silence is present here too,” Heatwole said of photographing the springs.

READ: Mermaid trend splashes into Austin

Take a dip down memory lane here.

Though the amusement park is long gone, its former site now hosts the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. Still a source of wet wonders, though more educational.

Correction: An earlier version of this post did not reflect that the photos in question were taken between 2005-12. The former site of the amusement park is now home to The Meadows Center.

Watch: Navy destroyer involved in Syria airstrikes once buzzed by Russian jets, hit by tanker

In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) transits the Mediterranean Sea on March 9, 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)

The U.S. Navy destroyers, USS Porter and the USS Ross fired 59 Tomahawk missiles late Thursday that targeted the airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas of a Syrian military air base that U.S. officials believe launched a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians this week.

The U.S. Navy posted this footage of missile launches from the Porter on YouTube:

The Navy has since posted more footage from the Porter here and even more here. It turns out, some of the ship’s other interesting exploits are available online, too.

The Porter, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is the fifth Navy ship to be named after Commodore David Porter and his son Admiral David Dixon Porter. The ship’s home port is at Naval Station Rota in Spain and is assigned to the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, which patrols the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship had launched its long-range missiles into Syria from a position in the eastern Mediterranean, but the Porter’s patrol areas also have extended into the Black Sea, where just two months ago in February, Russian fighter jets buzzed the ship.

The Porter also made headlines nearly 5 years ago when a collision with a Japanese oil tanker in the Arabian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz and damaged its superstructure. No one was reported injured, but the Navy replaced the Porters captain, Cmdr. Martin Arriola with Cmdr. Dave Richardson.

The crew of the Porter, led by the ship’s first female skipper, Cmdr. Andria L. Slough, opened up the ship to cameras for a video tour:

Austin education company accidentally sends out email with cats as featured event speakers

It happens to the best of us.

 (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

General Assembly Austin, a company aimed at educating adults and companies to help with career development and hiring, simply wanted to promote its upcoming panel between some of Austin’s hottest designers, but they got a little too excited when sending out the email around noon Thursday: Turns out the featured speakers for “Inside the minds of brilliant Austin designers” are a little, well, four-legged.

Whoever writes General Assembly’s emails apparently likes to have a bit of fun with their placeholder text and also seems to have a bit of animosity toward his or her furry friend—and the cat seems to have an issue with its owner playing League of Legends or looking at their phone too much. Just another day in the life of a cat owner.

The company quickly recognized its error, correcting it a little more than an hour later with another email saying, “Well, this is embarrassing. At GA, we love cats almost as much as we love sending emails, but some creative placeholder copy slipped by us before we deployed today’s email for our upcoming event. We’re still finalizing the lineup of some awesome speakers—we hope to see you April 12!”

UT students launch the world’s cutest business selling memory foam corgis

Meet Waffles.

He’s a corgi made of memory foam, and he’s the product of a new business venture from two University of Texas students, Sherill Feng and Andy Shaw.

Courtesy Memory Plush / Kickstarter

According to CultureMap Austin, the two students launched a Kickstarter last month to start selling the adorable cuddle buddies, raising more than $24,000 with nearly a month left in the campaign.

According to the Kickstarter, the idea came from their childhood: Kids tend to love their stuffed animals pretty hard, leading to heartbreak when they fall apart.

“We were motivated to solve plush losing shape when washed, used as a pillow, or cuddled with. We created Memory Plush, memory foam plush (the name is literal), to solve this tragic issue that plagued us when we were young and continues to plague millions of children in America every year,” the website reads.

Why a corgi? It’s simple: Feng loves dogs, especially this short-legged breed. But the couple plans to make various dog breeds, from pugs to blue heelers to mixed breeds.

You can get your own Waffles if you pledge $39 to the couple’s Kickstarter, and if you pledge at least $54, you can get a name embroidered on your Waffles. If you don’t have the budget for your own fluffy friend but you still want to help them out, a $5 pledge gets you an adorable Waffles sticker, and $10 gets you a magnet AND a sticker. So you can have Waffles with you always.

Austin for 51st U.S. state? We have the population to back it up

We get it, we get it: Austin isn’t always like the rest of Texas. Certain folks love to call the city “the People’s Republic of Austin,” due to its liberal policy bent and undying embrace of the strange. Though we’re not likely to implement a Maoist political structure at City Hall anytime soon, comrades, the Live Music Capital of the World does actually have enough people to encourage dreams of statehood.

RELATED: BookPeople tweets SXSW clapback to keep Austin weird

Austin’s population is so large that if it were a state, it would be the 45th largest in the U.S., according to a study by LawnStarter, a local lawn care service. Why grass-cutters are concerning themselves with comparative demographics, I’ll never know. Nonetheless, the company used city and U.S. Census data to count Austin’s teeming masses at 943,795 people, higher than those of Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. Poor Wyoming only has 585,501.

MORE: Map shows 24 high rises set to change Austin’s skyline

The study is quick to point out that land-wise, these beautiful states are all massive compared to ATX. If you plopped 326-square-mile Austin in the middle of Alaska (a sprawling, 656,424-square-mile snow beast), it would look like one of those little birds hitching a ride on a hippo. Even delicate, syrup-drenched Vermont is 30 times larger than Austin when it comes to area, at 9,615 square miles.

Now, there are much larger cities in the U.S. Austin is only the 11th largest, and Houston, Dallas and San Antonio all pack more people in than we do. However, the entire Austin metro area is the country’s fastest growing, and it recently hit the 2-million-people mark. Factor in our distinct cultural identity and the fact that even the European Union sees potential for us to stand on our own feet, and we could basically start shopping for our own constitution.

IN OTHER NEWS:

http://players.brightcove.net/1418563061/default_default/index.html?videoId=5367136522001

How Haruka Weiser inspired UT design students to light the way home

During the memorial service honoring UT student Haruka Weiser a year after she was killed on campus while walking to her dorm, the steps of the Tower were scattered with several origami-like lanterns.

Nobo Lanterns, created by interior design architecture students at UT and named for Haruka Weiser’s younger brother, are displayed during a memorial ceremony on the University’s Main Mall honoring Weiser’s life Monday night, April 3, 2017. The lanterns, which can be hung or carried, were designed to provide light for students walking through campus at night. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The Nobo lantern, named for Weiser’s younger brother, does more than commemorate the loss of a beloved student. As UT architecture student and designer Natalie Boverman explains, Nobo lanterns are made to help get students walking at night home safely. Boverman, along with fellow students Samantha Shiminski and Kimberly Gabosch, designed the lanterns as part of a class project.

The designers say the lanterns could hypothetically serve the university’s “Be Safe” initiative, which encourages members of the UT community to “use your creativity” to help make campus safer for those who live and work there. The project proposed the Nobo lanterns be used to “illuminate the space between Goldsmith Hall and West Mall Building as well as provide a light source to students as they travel around UT’s campus at night.”

The lanterns aren’t stationary. They’re made to be carried by students, who could hypothetically check them out from pods using their student IDs, and the lanterns include GPS tracking to monitor their location on campus. Battery powered, the portable lights are also are capable of charging phones on the go.

“Other devices like flashlights only provide light in one direction while the orb-like structure of Nobo allows for light in all directions,” Boverman said of the design. “Students often use their cellphone for light but electronics produce a very harsh glare, which inhibits our eyes from seeing our surroundings.”

Weiser’s death last April sparked a major outcry from UT parents concerned for the safety of their children and a review and overhaul of campus safety protocols.

You can see pictures of the lanterns in action here.