UT’s Response to Racism Tepid

Daily Texan story prompts response from Fenves

Around 7:30pm on Saturday, Feb. 20, Cody Young, an African-American senior at the University of Texas at Austin, was walking near the intersection of Leon Street and 25th Street, when three white men threw glass bottles from a fourth-story balcony and yelled “fuck you, nigger!” at him.

Racism at UT didn't disappear with Jefferson Davis' statute. (Photo by John Anderson)

When Young said he was going to call the police, the three men went down to the street, continued to yell, and attempted to fight Young. Young, who is the president of the historically black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, told The Daily Texan, “I did nothing to provoke these gentlemen. I just literally walked out, and the first thing they saw was my skin color. And that provoked them to act in that way.”

Tucker Sauer, 21, and Lucas Walker Henderson, 20, both of whom were members of UT’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the time, were arrested and charged with public intoxication and deadly conduct. The third man, who has only been identified as “Danny,” was not charged.

A few days after the incident, according to The Daily Texan, which recently brought the story to the public’s attention, Young submitted a report to the Office of the Dean of Students, which handles disciplinary action. However, after nearly 40 days, nothing has been done, and officials told Young that the process could take up to 75 days, according to the Texan. Beyond that, the Dean of Students Office, citing a federal law, isn’t legally allowed to comment or release the records.

Sauer and Henderson are appealing any potential discipline from the school, according to the Texan. In a statement noting that they have “zero tolerance” for such behavior, the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization emphasized that “these men acted in isolation from the rest of the chapter, outside of any chapter event, and not on chapter property in their use of racially insensitive language towards non-member students” (though SAE has made national news for racism in the past). The statement noted, “Chapter officers worked quickly and diligently to investigate and sanction these men based on their actions, which resulted in their full expulsion from our organization.”

While UT has a long history of racism in general, fraternities and West Campus have especially had issues. Following the Texan’s story on March 29, UT President Greg Fenves issued a statement on March 30 to the university community stressing that “there is absolutely no place in our campus community for that type of behavior. It does not reflect the values of our university or our students and faculty members. I will not tolerate such hateful acts.” Fenves wrote that the university “will not waver from those efforts” to foster “a diverse and inclusive environment in which every student feels he or she belongs.”

In response to the complaints about how long the process has been taking, Fenves wrote, “The university’s Student Judicial Services has been actively addressing this matter as it relates to UT students, based on our current institutional rules and timelines,” while adding that some of the rules “make it difficult to resolve the issues quickly.”

To address this issue, Fenves said that he’s working with university officials to update policies in order “to expedite the investigative process into allegations of acts of actual or threatened violent conduct,” which could include, for example, giving the dean “the ability to impose interim suspensions on students who are accused of actual or threatened violence.” However, while acknowledging that the men “used racial epithets toward one of our students in the West Campus area,” Fenves added, “In all such cases [in which the dean could impose interim suspensions], the dean will look at an individual’s conduct, not speech.”

In other words, UT students won’t be punished for yelling racist slurs – just so long as they don’t throw bottles along with them.

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