UT System Board of Regents meeting interrupted by PETA supporters

Wesley Story

A UT System Board of Regents meeting was interrupted Wednesday afternoon when two animal rights activists barged into the meeting room holding signs with dog pictures.  

The Board of Regents met for a two-day retreat at the Hotel Granduca Austin in West Lake Hills on Wednesday and Thursday for closed-door and public sessions. During Wednesday’s public session, protesters Danielle Alexander and Emily Raap, both members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, were forcibly removed from the meeting room after receiving a warning from the board.

“If order cannot be restored and the meeting continues, those causing the disturbance will be removed from the meeting,” said Francie Frederick, general counsel to the board.

PETA wants Texas A&M to end a controversial muscular dystrophy program that uses dogs in medical experiments to try to find a cure for the genetic disorder. The protesters demanded that the regents stop funding Texas A&M until they shut down the lab doing the research.

Regent Janiece Longoria said she is sensitive to the complaints of animal mistreatment by the protesters but wanted to clarify that the board does not have control of the funding to A&M. 

“I’m sure that (the protesters) have been informed that the University of Texas System does not have any control over the allocation of available university funding … to the Texas A&M System,” Longoria said. “Nor do we have any control with what they do with the available university funding that they received, so their complaint to this board is misplaced.”

One of the protesters sat down on the floor with her sign while two men attempted to escort her out of the room.

“This is wrong,” Alexander said. “We’re going to be back, and we’re going to keep coming until you shut this dog lab down.”

The meeting momentarily adjourned while the disturbance was handled.

Raap and Alexander were later charged with hindering proceedings by disorderly conduct, according to reports from the Austin American-Statesman.

After the protesters were removed, the meeting reconvened.

Another highlight from the meeting was the System’s report on savings related to the new UT System downtown office building discussed after the interruption.

The System’s downtown Austin headquarters is currently housed in five buildings. Before the end of the summer, however, the offices will move into a new, $130 million, 19-story building on 7th Street between Lavaca and Colorado streets. 

“The decision to consolidate UT System offices into one building was a financial decision based on cost-effectiveness and savings,” Chancellor William H. McRaven said in a news release on the UT System website. “It was also imperative that we gather our employees into one office building to raise the level of efficiency and collaboration toward achieving excellence in our support to our institutions.”

The board approved the office relocation in November 2012. During Wednesday’s meeting, the board reported that the new office will save $81 million during the next 30 years.   

Webcast links of the meeting, which include the interruption by the protesters, are open to the public on the UT System website.