After being rudely reminded that there’s one class day left this semester, we avoided studying for our finals by taking a look back on a few of the things that we’ve felt have made this year memorable — for better or worse. On the whole, we felt 2016 merits a Horns Down, and we feel just as ready as the rest of you to move on. But, out of some respect for the time we’ve spent, we’ve opted not to duck our heads and ignore it all. Instead, we mustered up the strength to go through a handful of things we feel we’ll be most likely to begrudgingly look back upon in a few decades when someone makes the mistake of bringing this year up again. So settle in, pour some eggnog into your coffee and help us kiss this putrid year goodbye. It deserves that, at the very least.
Horns Down: Marathon election season leaves students gassed
At this point, we’ve spilled enough ink over the results and meaning of the 2016 elections. But when we look back at this particular year in our lives in 30 to 40 years, it’s likely that the election will be the singular thing we remember, either because it overshadows everything else or because its results have driven us to drink too much and too often.
But somehow, we have to will ourselves to take some sort of mild step back and think about it all without getting making grand, lazy conclusions that run counter to available evidence but satisfy our deep, primal urge for understanding that we can communicate in 140 characters or less.
That might take a while.
But there are things other than screaming “Why?” into the darkness from our apartment balconies in the middle of the night that are worth doing. In particular, we owe it to ourselves to give credit to the things we know went right, like setting early vote turnout records, and more broadly, for the available evidence showing that students upset with the results broadly did show up to vote against Trump.
In local races, this manifested itself in the election of Sally Hernandez, who ran on the promise not to detain undocumented people who have not be charged with crimes in order to deport them, to be the next Travis County Sheriff. It also shows in the number of students who turned out to vote during the primaries, and going forward, it can show through students showing up to meet with Texas lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session.
It makes sense to be unsatisfied when your preferred candidate loses. This election cycle ramped up the emotional charge that came with that election, not just by raising the stakes in the decision but also by making sure that at every possible moment, we could hear two surrogates screaming at each other on television about that choice.
Until we return to some sort of normalcy, the swell of emotion we’re feeling about these results, good and bad, can and probably will cloud us from judging what follows effectively. Alongside that responsibility to not make bad snap judgments, we’re also charged with not making sure that 30 years from now, we regard 2016 as the good ol’ days.
In that case, start drinking now.
Horns Down: Texas Sports put ‘L’ back in Longhorns
In a year when we really could have used a pick-me-up, Texas sports really dropped the ball.
In Shaka Smart’s first year as our men’s basketball coach, we took a significant step forward, picking up a six seed in the NCAA tournament after staying competitive with Kansas and Oklahoma, recruiting top talent and setting the stage for a successful future.
We also managed to lose on a buzzer beater that was prominently featured in the 2016 “One Shining Moment” video. Even watching Baylor lose to a Yale team that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships couldn’t make up for that. There’s nothing worse that getting goosebumps over watching your team lose in heartbreaking fashion.
Then, after a long summer of speculation and tweets about slides, Texas Football got back in action. After beating Notre Dame, it seemed all but certain that Texas Was Back.
Being naive was fun, wasn’t it?
The good news is that Texas Football was 4–1 in the Saturday games at DKR that most students actually went to. The bad news is that we were 1–6 in the other games that we spent screaming at our television screens in our living rooms, or in the case of the Friday home game against TCU, in our grandparents’ living room. Hell, the loss to Kansas is enough to call this year a disappointment.
To be fair, our volleyball and women’s basketball teams have consistently done us proud, each losing in their tournaments to the eventual national champions — in the volleyball team’s case, in the national final. Our swimming and diving, track, golf and rowing teams all won conference championships.
We’re probably too spoiled to recognize it, but the money we spent on The Big Ticket went toward plenty of Ws — just not on the courts and fields that got the most hype. Maybe we’ll recognize that some day. But when we give all of our attention to our football team, we deserve every missed tackle by Dylan Haines and every failed fourth-down rush by Tyrone Swoopes we got.
Horns Up: Student protests highlight year of activism
In some regards, this semester has been defined by the things we protested. In a year without a dearth of things worth complaining about, students made sure to make their voices heard. And they did so in ways that grabbed our attention, for better or worse.
For several thousand freshman and transfer students, the very first day of class was also the first day that concealed carry was allowed on a class day with the University operating at its full capacity — and the day of the Cocks Not Glocks protest on the West Mall. And regardless of classification or your particular views about guns on campus, seeing University Democrats campus director Rosie Zander waving a dildo larger than her forearm in the air in an attempt to highlight the inconsistency of logic in Texas’ obscenity and gun laws was no doubt an image that will stick with us for years.
Students made their way back to the West Mall throughout the semester several more times. Young Conservatives of Texas’ protest against affirmative action in college admissions in the form of a bake sale — during early voting, no less — drew hundreds to that same space to counter-protest, shout at one another or just take in the spectacle from up close.
And in the week after the election, as protests erupted across the nation against the election, in spite of his loss in the popular vote by an unprecedented margin, of Donald Trump, it was UT students leading the way as they marched across the city and into national headlines.
Make no mistake — campus carry, affirmative action and the Donald Trump presidency were not undone by the actions of a select few of the loudest students on campus. But in the face of things they disagreed with, they made their voice heard. And as political dissent itself becomes a more contentious topic, it is necessary that students are willing to stand up against things they see as unjust.
Horns Up: Musicians remind us how to feel anything at all
For all the terrible things we had to fight through, 2016 was a fantastic year to pop your headphones in and ignore the world. And even if Apple conspired to make that more difficult at every step, the music we got this year was nothing short of fantastic. And even when it wasn’t — Meghan Trainor and Iggy Azalea released new music this year — turning it off just takes the press of a button.
We got several long-awaited releases, including Rihanna’s Anti in January, Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo in February, Drake’s Views in April and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book in May. The year also gave a few unconventional and unexpected releases. Kendrick Lamar dropped untitled unmastered in March, a compilation of previously unreleased and unfinished tracks that outdid most fully formed releases. A year after initially promising an album titled Boys Don’t Cry in July of 2015, Frank Ocean released Blonde after putting out a visual album in Endless that got him out of his recording contract. And just days ago, we got The Hamilton Mixtape, a compilation of covers of tracks from and new material inspired by the original musical by dozens of contemporary musicians.
We also got Lemonade, Beyoncé’s album and accompanying visual album that we decidedly did not deserve but desperately needed. She managed to salvage an otherwise unwatchable Super Bowl by performing exactly one track on the album, as well as her relationship with her husband and, in all likelihood, Tidal.
This is not to say 2016 was perfect. We lost Prince, Phife Dawg, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen this year, to name a few. But the latter two managed to put out two last near-perfect albums in Blackstar and You Want It Darker to further cement their legacy as songwriters capable of evoking something in millions. After Phife Dawg’s passing during the recording of the first new Tribe album in 18 years, the remaining members and a host of guests finished the record, entitled We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service. The record helps to sort through the pain of losing someone dear, but also reminds us why we seek musicians like them out: to get just a little bit of clarity about the world around us. Whatever music you claim as yours, we hope it inspires you to improve your world — and we look forward to arguing with you about it ahead of the 2017 Grammy’s.