UT Harry Potter Alliance advocates for social justice

Amanda Booth

Students passing through the West Mall last week may have noticed a small, inconspicuous table holding a large pitcher of golden liquid and a can of whipped cream. For those who stopped by, it meant a sweet drink on the way to class, but, for the UT chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, the “butterbeer” sale was its way of making a positive impact on a global scale. 

Isha Mittal, public health sophomore and Harry Potter Alliance president, said the Harry Potter Alliance is a social justice group with chapters across the world. 

“Harry Potter Alliance tries to fight for social equality for all rights,” Mittal said. “[We] try to relate values of Harry Potter to the real world.”

The organization was founded in 2005, and UT’s chapter started in 2010, but it disbanded when the former president graduated. During Mittal’s first semester in fall 2013, she reestablished the chapter.

“I received all the information from the former president, got a few friends together and just went for it,” Mittal said. 

The Harry Potter Alliance’s first semester back on campus was devoted to the logistics of starting a club. It wasn’t until the spring semester that the alliance decided to sell butterbeer, a popular drink featured in the ‘Harry Potter’ series, as a fundraiser. 

The national Harry Potter Alliance organization, which hosts charity events such as the annual book drive “Accio Books,” inspired the chapter at UT. Although the UT chapter did not participate in the book drive, it decided to give the idea a local twist. The UT Harry Potter Alliance bought a book for every child at Brooke Elementary School in East Austin with the money it earned from the spring butterbeer sales.

Club members said they were able to see firsthand how a set of ideals, paired with initiative, can make a positive impact in the community.

Chemical engineering sophomore Sindhu Nathan said, as treasurer, she was responsible for determining the amount of books the club could purchase for the school.

“The fact that we were able to send a book home to every kid was rewarding,” Nathan said. 

This semester, UT’s chapter plans to work more closely with the national organization. This semester’s butterbeer sales will go toward the national chapter’s annual fall fundraiser, “Equality FTW.”

“We try to keep in sync with what the national chapter is doing,” Mittal said. 

Mittal said the funds are not concentrated toward a certain cause but rather used to fund an array of campaigns that work toward economic, educational and LGBT equality. 

In addition, Equality FTW also helps fund the grants given to a select number of alliance chapters. Mittal said the national organization understands the importance of local chapters making an impact. 

“They are very relaxed about how we choose to use our funds,” Mittal said. 

UT’s chapter is not sure what its service project will be for next semester, but it does know the butterbeer sales will stay.

Computer science sophomore Sami Glasco, a new member of the Harry Potter Alliance, said he was happy to work the butterbeer sale — his first event with the organization. 

“I like ‘Harry Potter,’ volunteering and butterbeer,” Glasco said.