UT students protest in front of Tejas Club house

Kevin Vu, News Reporter

Over 25 UT students gathered around the Tejas Club house Thursday evening protesting the spirit organization’s protection of members with sexual assault allegations.

The group of protesters demanded all Tejas members resign from positions of power in official UT organizations and for all University organizations to dissociate socially and professionally from Tejas, said protest organizer Kaya Epstein.

“Sexual violence has been a continuous problem,” said Epstein, a government and cell and molecular biology senior. “This was sparked by an ongoing incident that Tejas has continually mishandled and tried to sweep under the rug.”

Amanda Garcia, a protestor and a Universitywide representative, said when some SG members asked that their administrative director step down because of ties with Tejas, the Student Government executive board dismissed their demands and said the director did not condone sexual assault allegations within Tejas, despite remaining with the group. Protestors are not aware of exactly how many Tejas members have sexual assault allegations against them.

“Being part of Tejas already is being complicit in an institution and a system that silences and commits so much harm against survivors,” said Garcia, a sociology and government sophomore. “Having somebody in Student Government who claims to stand by survivors and to claim justice and equity for this community, be part of this organization is not acceptable.”

Epstein said it was a brutal hit when members of the SG executive board failed to hold abusers accountable and protect survivors. SG has received criticism from the UT community for failing to act upon sexual assault allegations against the SG vice president, who has since resigned, Garcia said.

“Once again, (the Tejas Club) showed that people will always choose to maintain their own power at the expense of survivors,” Epstein said. “It’s pretty devastating for us to experience that over and over.”

Protesters walked toward the Tejas Club house at 8 p.m. from the 26th Street Rio Grande food trucks. Initially about 20 people holding signs such as “Tejas needs to go” and “There is no excuse for violence,” quickly grew to about 30 protestors. Attendees yelled chants such as, “Hey hey, ho ho, Tejas Club has got to go,” and, “When survivors are under attack? What do we do? Stand up, fight back.”

Public health sophomore Divya Nagireddy said although she didn’t expect members of Tejas to come out, the biggest thing about the protest was just bringing awareness to the situation and what they are advocating for.

“Through these flyers, we’ve had … a lot of people (who) are interested in what’s going on,” Nagireddy said. “Even if there’s not an immediate action right now, it’s raising a lot of awareness towards the student body (about) what’s going on, especially since the Student Government impeachment is happening right now.”

Protestors remained outside Tejas Club property during the protest, and Tejas members did not engage with the protest.

“That is something they are not afraid to utilize, considering that these systems (and) institutions support one another and actively engaged to undermine survivors and marginalized voices like this,” Garcia said.

Epstein said the community must prompt change to a system unwilling to reform itself.

“Our only goal is to show that we are here, we see them and we are not going to be silent while they continue to enable,” Epstein said.