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 In August, the event organizers said they hoped students would continue to carry the items until the law was repealed — the dildo-carrying ended shortly after the protest and the law remains on the books.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.

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.

UT student media organization selling ‘enemy of the American people’ T-shirts as fundraiser

April 13 update: The group has now raised $20,000 to benefit Texas Student Media.

Update 3:12 p.m. Thursday: According to Texas Student Media director Gerald Johnson, the organization has sold more than 371 shirts and has received more than $10,000 in donations.

Ever since President Donald Trump declared the media the “enemy of the American people” in a tweet last month, the phrase has taken on a life of its own.

The editor of Dallas Morning News wrote a rebuttal to the claim, detailing the lives and work of the newspaper’s employees and showcasing the work they do. The Washington Post took a similar approach, mentioning a decorated war veteran who now works for the paper. Journalists everywhere reacted to the tweet using the hashtag #NotTheEnemy and pointing out members of the press who lost their lives or put themselves in grave danger while on the job.

Texas Student Media, the group that oversees student media organizations at the University of Texas, is taking the phrase to the next level, emblazoning it across T-shirts and tank tops as a fundraiser for the organization.

“Enemy of the American people since 1791,” the shirts read.

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Courtesy Texas Student Media

Robert Quigley, a senior lecturer in UT’s School of Journalism, came up with the design for the shirt. He said he was “just playing around” on a T-shirt website and decided to share the design with his Facebook friends, and Texas Student Media director Gerald Johnson messaged him about the shirt, wondering if he was going to sell it.

“I told him he could have it,” Quigley said.

Johnson’s team at Texas Student Media built a website to sell the shirts and decided to use the proceeds as a fundraiser for the organization. The T-shirts and tank tops have been available for 24 hours as of this writing, but Johnson said they’ve already sold 187 shirts, raising $3,750 for the organization.

Johnson said at least seven other universities have shown an interest in participating in the fundraiser, and next week representatives from those universities will discuss a potential plan to begin selling the shirts.

Editor’s Note: Robert Quigley is a former employee of the Austin American-Statesman and the husband of the Statesman’s assistant features editor, as well as the former professor of several Statesman employees, including the writer.

This UT grad student won nearly $50K on Jeopardy!

If you’re thinking about attending graduate school but wondering how to pay for it, you might want to take a page from Kirstin Cutts’ notebook: She’s winning it all on Jeopardy!

The University of Texas graduate student won $49,403 throughout her four days of competing on the show, but was beat out Tuesday by a research editor from New York, so her run on the show is unfortunately over.

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Cutts told her hometown newspaper, the Gainesville Sun, that she owes her success on the show to her “pretty fantastic teachers.”

Twitter was abuzz about Cutts during her time on the show, calling her the “hottest jeopardy [sic] contestant ever?” But let’s not reduce the art education major to her looks: She’s smart, and her opponents didn’t have a chance.

The University of Texas is great, but is it safe?

 

Sure, the University of Texas at Austin is currently ranked by some online lists as one of the best universities in Texas, but is it safe for students?

Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duran Residence Hall Friday morning on the UT-Austin campus. The University of Texas at Austin Campus welcomes more than 7,400 new students as they begin the arduous task of moving into campus houses Friday morning August 19, 2016 as part of Mooov-In, a 23 year old tradition. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duren Residence Hall Friday morning August 19, 2016 on the UT-Austin campus.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A new study by education data site Niche compiled a ranking of the state’s 60 safest college campuses using the most recent data available from students and the U.S. Department of Education. The study ranked the universities based on reported campus and local crime rates and reported alcohol, drug and sexual assault arrest rates.

More: Austin ranked among best college destinations in the country

UT Austin’s campus is ranked 49th out of 60, but that ranking is a bit misleading. According to the findings, there are no reported crimes per 1,000 students; no reported residence hall date violence incidents per 1,000 students; no reported residence hall rapes per 1,000 students; and only one instance each of drug and alcohol-related arrests per 1,000 students. And these studies only take into account reported events and can’t calculate how students feel currently (just yesterday a town hall was held on the school’s supposed toleration of racism and discrimination.)

Texas Southern University, in last place, only had one crime reported, one alcohol-related arrest and two drug-related arrests.

More: 9 Texas colleges on ‘shame list’ are ‘absolute worst’ for LGBTQ students

Compare those rankings to Baylor University, at No. 35, with a student-reported safety ranking of 4/5, a local crime rate grade of C+, and no reported instances of residence hall date violence incidents or reported residence hall rapes. Baylor has been embroiled in sexual assault scandals, and recent court filings say head football coach Art Briles and his staff cast a blind eye toward players’ misbehavior and allegedly tried to sweep sexual assaults and other criminal deeds under the rug.

It’s also worth noting that 90 percent of all sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault, and 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Also, the University of Houston-Victoria landed at No. 31, but as a former Victoria resident, I wouldn’t feel safe walking alone at night on some of those streets where those residential areas are located. So the rankings are all relative, it seems. The best bet for everyone is to always keep an eye out for your safety at all times.

Ranking: For students seeking a sugar daddy, UT is No. 3 among colleges

Other University of Texas campuses landed on the lists, including the medical branch in Galveston (No. 12), UT-Dallas (No. 16), UT-El Paso (No. 21), UT-Rio Grande Valley (No. 27), UT-Permian Basin (No. 29), UT-San Antonio (No. 44), and UT-Arlington (No. 53).

Read the full ranking and methodology here.

Austin ranked among best college destinations in the country

Austin tops many lists — it’s been ranked among best travel destinations, great places to live, well-educated cities and even one of the best places to live if you’re a hermit, like to drink a lot of coffee or like to…sweat?

Well, it’s also one of the best cities of its size if you’re a college student, according to a new ranking from the American Institute for Economic Research.

Austin came in second place in the “midsize metros” category (between 1 million and 2.5 million people), behind Denver.

The University of Texas Tower. James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN –
The University of Texas Tower. James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN –

The study refers to Austin as a “cheaper San José — high on tech opportunities, with a better music scene and a fledgling light-rail system.” We’re not so sure about that “light-rail system” claim, since that’s been a major point of contention in local politics over the last few years, and some Austinites are probably rolling their eyes at the city being compared to anything related to California (but take solace in the fact that San José came in fourth on the midsize metros ranking).

Austin scored well in the detailed rankings: It ranked third in college-educated population and diversity, and scored high in the bars and restaurants, labor force, and innovation categories. However, the youth unemployment rate was ranked No. 1 for midsize metros — not a great look. See the full detailed ranking here.

Matthew McConaughey still at it with the good deeds, offers UT students safe ride home

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Matthew McConaughey on stage during the Jack Ingram & Friends ft. Eric Church at ACL Live on April 14, 2016. (Suzanne Cordeiro for American Statesman)

Imagine the look of surprise when a Longhorn orders a safe ride home after a long night of studying and Austin’s most famous resident shows up in a golf cart.

Matthew McConaughey volunteered with Meals on Wheels on Thanksgiving, but decided to keep rolling on the good deeds this holiday season by helping out his alma mater.

The Texas Ex joined student volunteers in the SURE Walk program to give those staying late on campus some company on their way home.

The Student Government program, in which “SURE” stands for Students United for Rape Elimination, offers Longhorns who don’t want to walk home alone a male and female companion to walk with. Since its inception, the program has expanded with the help of various other student organizations to multiple locations across the 40 Acres, and even acquired some wheels to transport students faster.

SURE Walk operates from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday and “SURE Walkers” can be requested by phone or email. For more information, check out the SURE Walk Facebook page. 

Say goodbye to UT’s burnt orange shuttles this week

UPDATE: Hopefully you got to take one last, bumpy turn on one of UT’s burnt orange shuttle buses (which have been around since 1998) before Cap Metro officially retired the last one Tuesday. According to the Daily Texan, the upgrade to “high-tech” blue buses was completed last week.

The color change of the new buses is intended to “help eliminate confusion for passengers between UT Shuttle buses and normal local Capital Metro buses.”

EARLIER: If you’ve spent any length of time on the Forty Acres, you’ve likely spent some time on Forty Acres — the shuttle bus route, that is.

(Brian K. Diggs/American-Statesman file photo)
(Brian K. Diggs/American-Statesman file photo)

The University of Texas at Austin’s network of free campus shuttle buses is one of the largest systems of its kind in the country, with 10 routes and more than 5.2 million passengers each year, according to UT Parking and Transportation Services. But one of the shuttles’ other chief distinctions, their signature burnt orange paint job, is going the way of the dodo this week, according to Capital Metro on Twitter.

Don’t worry; the shuttles aren’t going away entirely. Capital Metro started phasing out the burnt orange buses in April, according to the Daily Texan. The public transportation agency is replacing them with new buses that match Austin’s standard branding and colors. According to the Texan:

“The current fleet of UT shuttle buses have been running since 1998, according to according to Hanna De Hoyos, Capital Metro communications specialist. Capital Metro has been planning on replacing the shuttles for the past five years but has been delayed.”

On Twitter, Capital Metro encouraged fans of the school-spirited bus lines to share their pictures of the old shuttles before they’re all gone. So, in the spirit of hyper-specific nostalgia and autumnal color schemes, start posting.

And don’t forget about this meme, of course.

A meme from the UTexas Memes Facebook page

UT ranks No. 1 on list of colleges where ‘students love life’

Maybe it’s because it has a super cute mascot. Maybe it’s because an Academy Award-winning actor dedicates tons of free time to it. Maybe it’s because Austin is a totally cool place.

Graduates wave to the cameras at the UT Commencement ceremony on the south mall of campus on Saturday, May 21, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN
Graduates wave to the cameras at the UT Commencement ceremony on the south mall of campus on Saturday, May 21, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

Read: Here’s where UT Austin ranks among the world’s top 1,000 universities

Yeah, you guessed it: the University of Texas at Austin currently ranks as the No. 1 school where students love life in the U.S.

Business Insider recently compiled a list of the 25 colleges that were rated the best by students surveyed by Niche, a company that aggregates research on schools.

Related: UT gets a shoutout in Playboy’s ‘Top Party Schools’ 2015 list

UT received an A- or higher on every factor used to determine just how much students love it. Campus quality, party scene and local area all received an A+, while diversity received an A-.

The only other Texas school to make the list was Rice University which ranked at No. 12.

West Campus road sign hacked with obscene message for Harambe

Whether Harambe ties in a political poll or the Cincinnati Zoo makes a plea for people to move on, not a day goes by that we’re not reminded of the dead gorilla. Today’s reminder? A vulgar message on a hacked road sign in West Campus.

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Related: Hacked electronic traffic sign in Dallas says ‘Gorilla deserved it’ 

Located on the corner of Nueces and 26th streets, the electronic road sign was tampered with sometime on Thursday and of course UT students took notice. The sign reads “(expletive) out 4 Harambe.”

Below is a video of the sign. Warning: the video might not be safe for work.

https://twitter.com/nationchernoff/status/771407232294461440

This isn’t the first time a West Campus road sign was hacked, though. In February, someone hacked a road sign located at Rio Grande and 24th Street. It read “OU Still Sucks.”