• Chancellors discuss campus carry, tuition costs at higher education panel

    Campus carry and the cost of higher education dominated a panel discussion between four Texas university system chancellors Saturday.

    “I was not in favor of the bill, but having said that, now that the law has passed, our responsibility is to make sure that we carry out the law, not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law,” UT System Chancellor William McRaven said. “There were some second and third order effects that were unanticipated, but we’re working through them.”

    McRaven, Texas Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan, University of North Texas System Chancellor Lee Jackson and Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall spoke as members of the panel “Chancellor Confidential” at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday.

    Jackson said he thought campus carry was not as important as other higher education issues.

    “We’ve had arrests on our UNT campus in Denton for illegally bringing weapons on campus in the last decade,” Jackson said. “Not a single one of those arrests has involved a CHL permit holder. So they have apparently obeyed the law more than people who didn’t have the CHL permits.”

    Marjorie Hass, president of Austin College and audience member, said, as a private institution, Austin College will likely opt out of campus carry. Under the campus carry law, public universities must allow campus carry, but private institutions may choose not to implement the law.

    “Nothing in the public debate around campus carry has led our stakeholders to strongly believe that we should change our current policy, which is that handguns are not allowed on our campus,” Hass said. 

    On the subject of tuition, Duncan said rising costs are in part because of lower funding from the state after the economic downturn in 2009. Public universities now receive $9 to $10 less per weighted semester credit hour from the legislature than before, according to Duncan.

    “About 1.4 billion dollars was taken out of the higher education budget,” Duncan said. “That’s where we’ve not been able to catch up. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the legislature to deal with these issues.”

    Funding research and campus growth attracts students to public universities in a competitive academic market, especially at UT-Dallas, according to McRaven.

     “Students want to come to great emerging research universities,” McRaven said. “Make no mistake about it, it costs money to do it right.”

    Natalie Nehls, international relations and government sophomore, said the rising cost of tuition since the 1960s demandsa solution. 

    “No one really has a set solution to what we can do to decrease costs,” Nehls said. “I didn’t feel like there had been anything implemented.”

  • Gov. Greg Abbott speaks on Hidden Pines fires

    Following another set of wildfires in Bastrop County, Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas Military Operations is working to get more aircraft resources into the area.

    Since the fires started on Tuesday, they have encompassed more than 4,500 acres of land, and about 15 percent of the fire is contained, according to the Texas A&M Fire Service. Nine homes were destroyed and 150 homes are threatened by the fires. The county is currently in a state of disaster.

    At a press conference, Abbott said he was thankful for officials with state agencies and members of the community who are working to contain the damage and protect the citizens.

    "Because of the challenges in containing this, shifting winds and weather conditions the way they are, we are adding more resources as we speak," Abbott said. "The Texas Military Operations are adding two more Black Hawk helicopters as well two Chinooks today to be sure they are able to respond more effectively."  

    While the press conference occurred, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said a helicopter was in the air with a GPS system tracking the perimeter of the fire but would not know until the afternoon how much acreage had burned.

    Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said the difference right now between the 2011 Bastrop fires, which affected 96 percent of the approximately 6,565-acre state park, to the ones being dealt with today are the wind levels.

    “The big difference is the winds right now,” Kidd said. “We had 50 mile a hour winds back then. If we get back to that point today, we’ve got to have the community listening to stay out of the way and we can save lives.”

    In Bastrop and across the state of Texas, Kidd said it is likely these fires will need to be controlled for the next seven to 10 days. While it is important to have as many resources working to prevent the fires, Kidd said the timing of when resources arrive is important.

    “We are seeing firefighters from not only across the state but tomorrow you will see national and schematic management teams as well as the state of Florida and the state of Georgia,” Kidd said. “This fire has national attention at this point and you’ll see additional resources come in. The timing of when they come in, what they do, where they go is critical not only for their safety but for the containment of the fire.”   

    Pape said the area has dealt with fires before, but he appreciates the help and support the community receives.

    "To have Gov. Abbott here today speaking in such genuine terms is a great comfort to the citizens of Bastrop County," Pape said.

  • UTPD issues statement regarding 'non-credible' 4chan threat

    Updated (1:30 a.m. Tuesday): Journalism professor Robert Quigley said he is upset by the fact that threats such as this can control an entire community.

    “It’s sad that we’re at this point in time in our culture and in our society where we have to worry about this kind of thing,” Quigley said. “It’s really too bad that these shootings have happened and that a threat like this whether real or some kind of troll, can shake an entire campus.”

    Quigley compared the online threat to terrostic threats made in the aftermath of 9/11. Quigley said the reality that campus shootings have happened recently, noting the shooting in Oregon, is leading to increased fear.

    “It’s easy to say well it was just some troll,” Quigley said. “The fact that we’ve had real campus shootings puts everybody on edge.”

    Quigley, a Texas Student Media board member, said he first learned of the threat from his students, before UTPD sent an email to the campus community.

    Albert Orkun, economics and math freshman, said he is not worried about the threat at all.

    “I am going to class,” Orkun said. “I’m going to wake up and just live my life normally.” 

    Plan II freshman Cecilia Handy said some of her friends feel uncomfortable going to class on Tuesday, but said she will go to class, despite reservations stemming from the recent Oregon shooting. 

    “Some of them don’t feel comfortable going to class tomorrow,” Handy said. “I feel comfortable going to class, but I don’t know how I feel about the email UT sent that said it’s not a credible threat. I don’t know how comforting that was to receive.”

    Quigley said he feels UTPD handled the situation well by emailing the campus community and creating awareness, while trying to subdue the hysteria.

    “I just don’t know what the police can do when everybody is really nervous and really on edge,” Quigley said. “I think that was handled pretty well.”

    Biology junior Callie Hatcher said she will go to class to keep up her grades, but feels apprehensive about police responses to the 4Chan threat.

    "It’s insane that shootings like these have become so common that there’s a legitimate reason to be afraid. APD and UTPD reacted to the situation swiftly, but I wish they’d be a little less cryptic with their announcements,” Hatcher said over Twitter. “I’ll more than likely be going to class tomorrow. There are I-Clicker points up for grabs that affect my grade a great deal.”

    Quigley said even though he doesn’t have class scheduled tomorrow, he will be in his office hours for his students.

    “You can either choose to live in fear, or you can choose to live your life,” Quigley said. “At this point I choose to live my life, of course I’ll be observant and pay attention to what’s going on around me, and I think everybody should.”

    Anthony Green, Josh Willis, and Caleb Wong contributed to this report.

    Original report: A 4chan post, that has since-been deleted, spread on Facebook and Twitter Monday afternoon when an anonymous user urged students to not go to school on Tuesday if they are near Austin. 

    idc if this is a joke or serious, but still stay safe. #Austin #texas pic.twitter.com/vcCmgRDXwT

    UT sent out a safety alert that said the threat was deemed non-credible by UTPD and associated law enforcement agencies, despite its resemblance to a 4chan post from last Wednesday night that warned students in the Northwest against attending school on Thursday — the day of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon that led to the death of 9 students and staff members, plus the death of the shooter by suicide.

    UTPD is aware of threatening posts & working w/ other agencies. No credible threat at this time.

    The complete text of the Austin post read “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you’re near Austin. happening thread will be posted later. so long, space robots.”

    This follows similar threats to colleges and universities around the Philadelphia-area stemming from a Sunday 4chan post. 

    Zainab Calcuttawala and Anthony Green contributed to this report.


    If you are a student concerned about the situation and need to talk to someone about it, here are some University resources:

    UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Crisis Line: 512-471-2255

    Behavior Concerns Advice Line: 512-232-5050

    UT Police Department (for emergencies): 512-232-5050

    UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Services: (512) 471-3515

  • $2,300 worth of UT property stolen this semester, according to UTPD

    Portable electronics remain the most commonly stolen form of UT property this semester, according to University of Texas Police Department officer William Pieper.

    Since the beginning of the semester, a total of $2,300 worth of UT-owned laptop computers, printers and cameras have been stolen from campus, according to UTPD’s Campus Watch.

    Pieper said most thieves who operate on campus are not affiliated with the University.

    “[The thieves] simply come to campus, they walk around and they see items unattended and unsecured and they pick it up and walk away with it,” Pieper said.

    Thieves anticipate getting caught by UT staff members by preparing “canned excuses” for their presence in the building, Pieper said.

    “If somebody does confront them or ask them if they can help them, they will typically have one or two excuses for being there,” Pieper said. “One would be that they are looking for a restroom or, two: they are looking for a specific individual’s office, so what we like to encourage people to do is when they encounter that, to offer good customer service and actually walk them to the restroom or that person’s office. If it’s a thief they will make an excuse and say ‘Oh, I can hold it until I get home’ or ‘I can come back and meet with them tomorrow,’ and they will leave the area.”

    In July, the Campus Watch reported that three bronze letters that spelled the Blanton Museum of Art’s name on the south side of the building had been stolen. The remaining letters spelled “ANN”, which UTPD suggested could be the thief’s name. Repairing the name display cost the museum a total of $500.

    “The Blanton works closely with UTPD on all matters related to security at the museum and its grounds, and continues to monitor the situation,” said Kim Theel, director of operations at the museum.

  • Texas Attorney General has until Sept. 10 to find legal representation

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has until Thursday to find a lawyer to represent him for felony charges of violating state securities laws.

    At a hearing held Aug. 27 in Fort Worth, Paxton’s lead defense lawyer, Joe Kendall, unexpectedly resigned, according to the Dallas Morning News, after Paxton pled not guilty.

    Paxton has been charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of failure to register with the State Securities Board, all of which the defense said took place before Paxton took office in January 2015.

    “I am innocent of these charges. It is a travesty that some would attempt to hijack our system of justice to achieve political ends they could not accomplish at the ballot box,” Paxton said in a statement. “Regardless, I will continue to serve the people of Texas as Attorney General and continue to fight for the freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution.”

    Criminal defense attorney Pete Schulte raised questions about Paxton’s representation when he announced on Twitter that he would represent Paxton in Kendall’s absence.

    “Clarification will be forthcoming today,” Schulte tweeted. “It’s unfortunate Joe Kendall created this confusion in court today as he was leaving the team.”

    Schulte was incorrect, as the Fish & Richardson law firm issued a statement that said they will be helping Paxton search for representation.

    “Fish & Richardson have been assisting Attorney General Ken Paxton in the retention of legal counsel for his criminal case,” the statement said. “No final decision has been made as to who the members of that team will be.”

    State District Judge George Gallagher initially gave Paxton one week after the hearing to find new counsel but has since granted an extension until Sept. 10.

    On Aug. 3, 2015, Paxton was arrested after a state grand jury indicted him on three felony securities fraud charges but was released on $35,000 bail.