Student leaders are calling for change on the University campus following police killings of Black Americans such as George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. and Mike Ramos in Austin.
According to the UT Senate of College Councils, 117 student groups as of Sunday had released statements or made donations to organizations including the Black Visions Collective and the George Floyd Memorial Fund.
Seven student organizations, including the Black Student Alliance and Student Government, released a statement May 29 listing six steps the groups will take toward racial justice. The list included holding regular meetings with the UT Police Department and redistributing $8 million in funds from the UT System Board of Regents currently given to UTPD to increase campus security to traditionally Black organizations.
Alliance President Malcolm McGregor said his organization would like to see increased prevalence of de-escalation training and a more public commitment from UTPD to use nonviolence when safely interacting with students.
“This is a place where we all call home, whether it be for a semester or for an entire year,” marketing senior McGregor said. “Everyone would feel a bit better if we had more policies in place to demonstrate de-escalation.”
UTPD chief David Carter said he would like to connect with more groups on campus to improve the relationship between UTPD and students.
“It's incumbent on police leaders to grapple with these issues (and) confront them when they come up as a police chief,” Carter said. “We are responsible for the actions of our police officers. We're also responsible for the organizational culture of the (department).”
McGregor said the organization’s political action chair will be part of a group meeting with UTPD organized by SG on June 10.
SG financial director Ethan Jones said the SG executive board members also made a donation out of their own pockets. Because SG and Senate are not allowed to give funds they receive from the University to other organizations, SG pledged in their statement to change that rule to ensure Black groups are receiving adequate funding.
“(SG) has really seldom been involved in advocating for social issues, especially for issues within the Black community,” said Jones, a business and public relations junior. “Something that we are intensely focused on is using our platform to intensely advocate for these causes and amplify Black voices that are too often underrepresented and silenced.”
Senate released a statement May 29 calling for increased funding for the Multicultural Engagement Center, a push for diverse hiring and comprehension bias training for faculty and divesting from APD and UTPD.
“Until last year, we didn't even have a position that was focused on diversity, and we didn't have a committee or group that focused on equity or inclusion,” said Veda Yagnik, the diversity coordinator for Senate and a Plan II and business junior. “The first step for us was really just bringing those positions in those topics to the table and having honest conversations where we looked at our history and we reassessed.”
McGregor said student organizations should focus on spreading the word, showing unity and donating if possible.
“Black students are taking this very seriously,” McGregor said. “The least that everyone else can do is take us seriously, take solidarity seriously and take support seriously. Support and be as available as they can, help to generate change at the Austin level and avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes, negative comments and negative ideology. Black lives definitely do and forever will matter.”