Like many public and private institutions in post-9/11 America, the University of Texas at Austin has become increasingly concerned about security. Both major and minor changes have been made to the campus in the name of protecting students, staff, and faculty from terrorism. Some changes are vital to providing the 250,000+ members of the UT community with basic protection. Others are dubious, while still others constitute egregious policy initiatives that have nothing to do with fostering a safe and secure campus. Of course all of these changes have not occurred in a vacuum. They are part of a long history of closing the public university.
The late 1960s and early 70s at the University were a period of aggressive student activism. The West Mall was ground zero for protest activity with huge demonstrations against the Vietnam War spreading from the steps of the Tower to the Texas Union patio and onto Guadalupe Street. Grass covered the ground, and students spent afternoons playing frisbee and hackey sack. Inside the Union, the Underground was a hotspot for socializing. Students also hung out in areas like the Commons and the far more popular and grungy Chuck Wagon. Rallies were frequently held in the Union Patio, such as those supporting the United Farm Workers in 1968 and 1970. Boycotts started targeting the food service in the Union, causing sales to plummet.
However, the University started to respond to these protests. The Board of Regents modified the Campus Master Plan and voted to plant FAC 21 in the middle of the Union Patio to hinder student movement around the area. With unadorned walls free of any windows, the extension was a perfect way to trim an open area on campus. The regents installed planter boxes with trees in the middle of the West Mall, making it difficult to hold large rallies. A fountain at the west end impeded access to the Mall and discouraged lounging. The grass was replaced with cobblestone walkways that are uncomfortable to walk on with bare feet. Despite opposition from students, faculty members, three Texas State representatives, and two Austin City Council members, the changes were made.
Another addition by the regents in the 70's was the concrete parapet that lines the walkways along MLK Blvd, 21st Street, Guadalupe, 24th Street, and 26th Street. This cost $885,000 in the early 70's. Coupled with the West Mall renovations, these projects cost $1.2 million. "Student building use" fees increased by 140 percent during the same period.
Architecturally, the parapet divides the University from the rest of the city. For a public university it's an odd addition, but it makes symbolic sense: public universities were becoming less so at the time. While students were extending their education and activism beyond the campus, opposing forces were looking for a way to halt this process. Student identification cards were added to further separate the public from the institution. The insularity of academic life was being traded for new alliances between students and workers, students and faculty, students and minority groups, students and poor people. These coalitions worried administrators who had always envisioned the university as an efficient factory rather than an active social laboratory. As a result, they ambitiously and successfully closed the doors of the university.
Campus Security after 9/11
On February 7, 2003, UT announced increased security measures in response to the nation's "Orange"-level security alert. Some of the new measures included canceling tours of the Tower; additional security measures at events and functions; vehicles without UT permits banned from entering main campus; J.J. Pickle research campus under tighter security; all vehicles entering campus subject to random consent searches; the Tower closed except to those with appropriate ID and key; metal detectors at the entrance to the Tower. UT administration widely publicized these changes in an effort to show their diligence in tracking the national security alert. More quietly since 9/11, other changes have been afoot. The libraries have reduced their number of public computer terminals and limited library access to UT students, staff, and faculty after 10pm. Individuals entering the UGL, for example, are required to present guards stationed at the entrance with ID. Library patrons are informed at specified times over the P.A. that the library is closed except to students, staff, and faculty.
The most probable reason that UT would rank high as a potential terrorist target is its reputation as a center of importance to national security. UT is a haven for military and homeland security research. However, J.J. Pickle research campus- where this research gets done- is far from the main campus with the large population of students. But UT still fans terrorism fears by staging mock terrorist "drills". While testing emergency response teams is a necessity, the gratuitous nature of the "drills" indicates that they serve another purpose: to convince the UT community that something is being done while conditioning us for a potential terrorist attack. The actual reasons why UT may be a target are of course never addressed.
UT's refusal to disclose the locations of security cameras on campus is the most blatant case of the administration justifying a policy opposed by students and the public in the name of terrorism. Secrecy is inimical to academic freedom. The possibility (nay, likelihood) of the presence of surveillance equipment in classrooms, "free speech zones", work areas, offices, and any other conceivable space on campus threatens the free exchange of ideas and diminishes the open atmosphere integral to campus life. There is no evidence to support the notion that cameras increase security for the UT community. In fact, there are several incidences that point to the contrary. When the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue was egged by unknown vigilantes in January of 2003, the cameras monitoring the statue were, according to UT authorities, inoperable. The prominently placed cameras were unable to either deter or apprehend this racist attack.
Protection, Service, Trust. This is the motto of the University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). These protectors of the University have had an increasingly large role in maintaining security, despite the astoundingly low rates of crimes at the largest university in the nation. The most common crimes are liquor violations, followed by theft (bikes) and drug violations.
Yet, University has used the threat of terrorism as justification for increased militarization. The UTPD had 54 police officers until a $450,000 federal grant that allowed the police department to hire 6 more officers. Additionally, in February 2003 UT Watch discovered that the UTPD obtained semi-automatic weapons and shotguns. This college police department has been straying far from their traditional role as security guards by upgrading from the traditional .40 caliber Glock Model 23 handguns, batons, tasers, and pepper spray to more lethal weapons. This came around the same time that UT Watch discovered that the UTPD has been working with the FBI through the Austin Joint Terrorism Task Force. The JTTF profiles international students specifically to "fight terrorism," which will add to the growing fear of non-Americans, specifically minorities.
The UTPD also profiles American students. On January 18, 2003, UTPD officer Glen Koen stopped Kevin Curry, a business honors senior and Student Government two-year, at-large representative. The officer reported that he "looked furtive" by playing a piano in the Texas Union. When Curry was stopped, he had to provide two forms of identification just to prove he wasn't a criminal. Curry eventually filed a complaint with the UTPD.
On March 19, 2003, CCPJ member Jon Bougie was attacked by uniformed UTPD police officer Wayne Coffey for chalking an announcement for an anti-war rally the next day. Coffey said nothing as he approached Bougie, slammed his head into the wall, dragged it on its way down to the ground- causing Bougie to get 4 stitches- and handcuffed him with a knee in the back of his neck. Bougie has said that he thought it was possibly an angry pro-war student or a friend going too far since the person doing this still hadn't said anything until the cuffs were slapped on him. Witnesses were physically blocked by the police from taking picture of the bloody face of the victim, but much to the cops' dismay, one was snapped. On July 11, 2003, the Daily Texan reported that the Texas Civil Rights Project would represent Bougie in a lawsuit asking $100,000 from the police department since he believes that he was subjected to the selective enforcement of a weak rule.
The UTPD has also allegedly attended student meetings as undercover officers. At a student government meeting in October 2002, UTPD Chief Jeff Van Slyke reportedly stated that the police department still attends student meetings undercover. In a 2001 meeting of pro-choice activists, UTPD Lt. Julie Gillespie reported her attendance to said meeting in police report 011464.I. This meeting occurred days after UTPD officers targeted Mia Carter, the then-interim director of the Center for Asian-American Studies. During a protest of an exhibit by the anti-choice group Justice For All, Carter used a bullhorn to address 200 protesters in front of Gregory Gym. She alleged that the UTPD went to shut her up due to her skin color and gender. While an ad hoc committee dismissed these allegations, they overlooked the fact that Carter received a cut on her forehead and several bruises, at least one student was thrown to the ground, and one officer sustained a knee injury that required surgery, the report states.1
Sellers Bailey III was a UTPD officer who had history of questionable activity. On the evening of October 17, 1999, Bailey offered to drive a female officer around North Austin neighborhoods to give her a tour of off-campus UT buildings. She agreed, only to get sexually harassed by Bailey. He asked her to photograph her genitals and propositioned her for a "threesome." After declining, she was still afraid of getting raped. This wasn't the first time she was subjected to this kind of talk from the same man. The two had worked together at the LBJ Library, where he shared stories about working as a bouncer in a strip club and describing sex he had with women while he was in the military. The UT administration received a letter 12 days later from her describing her car ride with Bailey. They responded by listening to Bailey (who said that she spouted off "easily disproved things") and eventually firing the woman. UTPD stood behind one of their own the whole time, despite his guilt. About six months later, a similar incident occurred, this time with a student. The girl was in an automobile accident during the middle of the night when she was asked to go with Sellers Bailey. He took her to the fifth floor of the Jester parking garage to perform oral sex on him. The girl had retrieved paper towels from a trash can that contained Bailey's semen. He was placed on leave and resigned days later.2 There were cameras located in the parking garage but the surveillance system failed to catch any of the act. A trial was finally set for May 28, 2003, nearly two years after the incident. Bailey has since been acquitted of any wrongdoing in a criminal lawsuit, maintaining that he didn't force the female though he admitted to the oral sex.
In August of 2003, the victim filed a suit against the University, claiming in part that the University was negligent in monitoring security cameras in the Jester garage where an a sexual assault allegedly occurred between her and UTPD officer Sellers Bailey. Incredibly, Patricia Ohlendorf, UT's vice president for institutional relations and legal affairs, said in The Chronicle of Higher Education that "the university feels that keeping camera information secret helps us to have a greater degree of confidence in securing the campus. We have a fairly small police force, and they're not able to [fully] patrol and monitor the campus in person. Being able to use security devices ... assists their efforts."
In response to some of these incidents, the UT student government worked hard to create a Police Oversight Committee. Hopefully this group will work hard to create sufficient oversight of the UTPD and particular officers to prevent further incidents that alienate the police department and the University community.
How to file a complaint against the UTPD:
|-Gather all information about the incident: witness names and contact information, relevant medical records, photographs of any injuries suffered during the incident, and any other evidence.|
|-Talk with witnesses prior to filing a complaint to get solid and consistent statements.|
|-Create cheat sheet to keep testimony consistent throughout the process.|
|-Prepare a notarized, written statement of the elements of your complaint including as much detail as possible about the officer?s specific misbehavior. Specify date, location, time, name of officer, any witnesses or other evidence and describe the incident. Include all information and evidence.|
|-Keep multiple copies of complaints and evidence including photographs.|
|-Send complaints to Chief of Police Jeffrey Van Slyke, President Larry Faulkner, Dean of Students Teresa Graham Brett and Vice President of Employee and Campus Services Pat Clubb.|
|-If you encounter harassment when filing a complaint, go to the media and other officials. The officers probably violated their departmental rules.|
|-Video from mounted cameras in police cars must only be kept for 90 days, unless someone files a complaint.|
|-Always take someone with you if investigators request an interview. Don?t go alone! Take your own tape recorder.|
|-The complaint process is important so that police can not hide behind the excuse that they must be doing a great job since no one has complained. It forces the police to acknowledge the consequences of their actions.|
|-The UTPD form|
-mostly taken from "How to file a complaint against the police," compiled by L. Sage Reinlie and first published in issue one.