Issue 13, Volume 89

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Est. 1934 Issue 13, Volume 89 @thedailycougar
The new UH Law building raises accessibility concerns. | PG. 2

Heavy doors, tight spaces: Students say law center doesn’t comply with ADA

Some of the most notable problems include accessibility entering buildings, classrooms and bathrooms, and fire safety issues that were exposed during an incident in January. After initial progress and meetings, communication between students and administration has suddenly halted, creating concerns among members of the organization. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar


The University’s newly constructed John M. O’Quinn building is recognized as one of Texas’s newest law buildings. The structure, despite its architectural beauty and amenities, lacks attention to safety and accessibility for students experiencing physical disabilities, according to student advocacy groups.

Members of the Disability Law Society, an advocacy group at the Law Center that attempts to ensure problems regarding accessibility and inclusivity are being appropriately met by the administration, have addressed issues within the building that could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some of the most notable problems include accessibility entering buildings, classrooms and bathrooms, and fire safety issues that were exposed during an incident in January. After initial progress and meetings, communication between students and administration has suddenly halted creating concerns among members of the organization.

“This is a brand new building, it is required to comply with the full specifications of the ADA. It’s not like they’re renovating an old building, and having renovation issues, but because it was built two years ago after the passage of the ADA, it’s required to be compliant.”
Jane Foreman, President of DLS

During a committee meeting, a key issue highlighted was the lack of accessibility to certain building entrances, classrooms and restrooms due to doors not meeting ADA standards – the set of architectural regulations mandated by the U.S. Access Board for ensuring building accessibility.

Committee members spent countless hours gathering information and taking measurements in an ongoing project that has been in progress since July of 2022. Their research found that doors in the building’s foundational classrooms require four times as much force to open than the ADA requirement. The ADA requires that doors require no more than five pounds of force to open, yet the doors in the Law Center require 20 pounds, Foreman said. Students with physical disabilities who can’t exert enough force to open heavy doors struggle to reach classes because of these issues.

“It became clear from my personal experience, and the experience of many students in our group, we were having physical difficulties getting into classes at the law school,” Foreman said.

In October, DLS created a detailed threepage article of recommendations that it presented to administrators addressing areas of improvement with sections focusing on door weight adjustments and some suggested areas for automated doors.

Committee members aren’t requesting the University fix all the doors, just high volume and high capacity spaces like the large lecture halls on the first floor, bathrooms and medical privacy areas –private spaces where people can care to medical needs. Students would also like to explore adding automated door openers in some of these high-volume areas, according to Foreman.

DLS committee members suggest assigning a compliance expert to verify their measurements and someone with competence in accessibility issues, Foreman said.

On any given day, approximately 300 first-year students occupy the primary

that are obvious for individuals using a wheelchair.

Some suggestions to help meet federal requirements included providing classrooms with at least one designated area for wheelchair access, ensuring more than one study room on each floor for a person in a wheelchair and providing multiple accessible long-table spots in the UHLC library for wheelchair users.

The oversights contributing to these issues are not the product of deliberate discrimination, but instead stem from a lack of knowledge or expertise in accessibility issues when making basic decisions, Foreman said.

classrooms on the first level of the Law Center, with hundreds cycling through courses at all hours, according to members of the committee.

In January, a fire alarm was triggered at the UHLC due to smoke coming from the meditation room, revealing additional deficiencies in the building and its protocols. It became clear that there were no adequate evacuation plans in place, raising safety concerns.

“It was chaos for everybody because there wasn’t a plan and there wasn’t any direction. Nobody knew what to do, not even the staff,” said first-year law student and Accessibility Committee member for DLS Duncan Reedyk.

In their articles of recommendation, the committee argued that a person with disabilities should not be required to search for help in an emergency. Instead, there should be a set rule of procedures in place to ensure assistance in safely evacuating.

Suggestions also included identifying and assisting individuals needing aid, establishing a signup and communication system for locating help, designating areas of refuge with clear egress routes and two-way communication if exits are one or more stories above the place of refuge.

In addition to the doors and safety issues, another significant concern raised during the committee meeting included the furniture arrangement inside the building creating maneuverability issues in classrooms and other common areas.

According to Foreman, the furniture arrangement inside the building’s common areas and classrooms lacks adequate clearance for individuals with mobility impairments. Some noticed front-row tables in classrooms were positioned too closely to lecturers making it difficult for students with mobility impairments to appropriately maneuver across the classroom.

The committee recommended the Law Center make modifications to meet ADA requirements and create accessible spots

“It doesn’t take someone intentionally deciding to discriminate against someone with a disability to generate furniture or architectural arrangement that’s not accessible,” Foreman said. “The reason you can’t maneuver within a classroom is not to exclude a person with disabilities but because people who haven’t experienced those access barriers don’t immediately think of them.”

Since these issues have been addressed members of DLS have met with deans, the Facilities and Maintenance team and administrators to propose their specific list of recommendations, as the administration requested for budget evaluations.

Since their formal meeting with UH officials Dec. 18, recommendations that were requested shortly after on Dec. 28, and another meeting in January, DLS has been left in the dark on any progress of their proposed action plan, according to Reedyk.

Although the committee understands these processes can’t be completed overnight, they still hope for some inclusion and transparency of

“We’re just asking to be kept in the conversation, if there’s progress being made we want to know that.”
Duncan Reedyk, Accessibility Committee member of DLS

developments in the project.

Similar issues could be prevalent elsewhere in the UH System, yet students may not fully grasp the impact of speaking out and highlighting these concerns to drive change effectively.

Reedyk and Foreman hope this conversation raises awareness of the power of student advocacy and hope to have an impact on other individuals and communities empowering them to address similar issues with confidence.

“This isn’t just something that affects one building it affects the entire community,” Reedyk said. “If it affects one it affects all.”

2 Wednesday, April 3, 2024
ROBERT DE LA GARZA News Editor @thedailycougar news

UH student barrels through injury, adversity in inspiring half-marathon

A short-circuit fire in his home left 6-month-old Jesus Salinas in and out of treatments and surgeries, with doctors thinking walking was out of the equation for him.

Now a business sophomore, Salinas has gained the attention of the University and its community through his running videos on Instagram, one of which has over 600,000 views and counting.

“Anybody can go out and run if they wanted to but no one’s doing it, that’s the thing,” Salinas said. “You’ve got to take action. If you’re scared to do it, start right now.”

Despite initial hesitation to post himself and his runs, Salinas was convinced by a friend and realized that it’s not about him, but about what it represents.

“People are watching it, and it’s inspiring other people to chase whatever they desire and hopefully it impacts somebody in a positive way,” Salinas said.

Salinas’ most popular video called out to

the University, promising he would run a half marathon around campus if the post received a comment from UH’s official Instagram account, which shortly followed.

With the University and hundreds of thousands of viewers behind him, Salinas donned his UH red and knocked out the half marathon.

This, however, was just a step toward running a full marathon, which Salinas completed only one week later after five weeks of preparation.

“That took a toll on my body after but seeing a dream that you think is impossible and then actually doing it, there’s no better feeling than that,” Salinas said.

Before the big race, Salinas ran 169 miles in 31 days, averaging 28 miles a week.

Finishing a marathon was Salinas’ goal before turning 20, but he’s not stopping anytime soon with an upcoming 5K and plans to run next year’s Houston marathon.

“Who knows what I’m gonna do for 20,” Salinas said. “Twenty can be something different, but just having something once a year

that kind of scared you but you accomplished it anyway, that’s just amazing.”

As part of his journey to the finish line, Salinas found support through Team Catapult, an organization that aims to catapult physically challenged individuals in different sports, and Freaks Run Club.

Both organizations align with Salinas’ goals and values, and he’s worked to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with them, as they get support from each other.

Salinas started running at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and since then, has found ways to adapt to challenges thrown at him. Unable to hold a water bottle while running, Salinas found a vest that holds a compressible water bottle and his phone.

“For running specifically, I think the hardest thing for me was just being consistent and figuring out what I have to do to get to the end goal,” Salinas said.

On top of running, Salinas is making the most out of his university experience and is working toward joining the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, and is currently part of Spirit of Houston, Undergraduate Real Estate Scholars, Bauer Honors and volunteers for New ELMNT, who recently held Taste of Texas.

In order to balance his classes, organizations and running schedule, Salinas woke up early and slept late and while it wasn’t always the easiest, he knew the only way to achieve his goal was to work for it.

“It was really hard getting up really early,” Salinas said. “You’re the only one out there, there’s nobody out there cheering you on.”

While Salinas says most people in his position might have self pity for themselves, his relationship with God, living each day like it’s his last and doing what scares him has kept pushing him forward.

“There’s only so much I can do but God gives me the strength to do all this other

stuff,” Salinas said. “And without him I really wouldn’t be here, so every day is just a blessing.”

Salinas’ close friends and family, namely his mom, have been his biggest supporters.

“She’s taught me everything I need to know and she always pushed me to be independent,” Salinas said.

After spending his younger years in and out of Shriners Hospital for Children, Salinas praises his nurses and doctors for teaching him his values.

“I grew up with nurses instead of classmates,” Salinas said. “They were the ones that pushed me to be independent and to think for myself and just adapt in different ways.”

As Salinas ventures deeper into the entrepreneurship world, he hopes to someday be the one providing support for the hospital.

“My ultimate goal with business is to create something or take over a business, but be able to give back to community. Give back to Shriners, that’s my ultimate goal is just to give back to them the way they gave back to me,” Salinas said.

For people struggling with motivation, Salinas said to simply ask yourself how badly you want it.

“If you’re not acting on your goals and desires, then they’re just dreams,” Salinas said. “You really don’t want to live life with regrets, live life to the fullest.”

At a campus with over 40,000 students, Salinas hopes to reach at least one person and show “what it means to be a Cougar.”

“Maybe you can’t reach everybody, but you could reach that one person that really needs it and impact their life,” Salinas said. “Everything I’ve been doing is just to prove to myself that there’s another barrier that you could break and there’s something else after that.”

Ramadan tent provides safe space for Muslim community


Muslim Student Association at UH, along with Islamic Relief USA and the A.D. Bruce Religion Center, organized the Ramadan Tent to support the Muslim student population during this year’s Ramadan festivities.

The tent is set up outside of the A.D. Bruce Religion Center and serves over 300 students every night. Despite this, the tent isn’t the most sustainable option, according to various UH MSA members.

“Everyday more and more people are coming, and with the limited space we have to start putting tarps out of the tent for the overflow or turning people away which isn’t sustainable,” said UH MSA President Belal Salama.

The limited space isn’t the only issue that UH MSA has to face during the Ramadan season. Another major problem these students face is the unpredictable Houston weather.

The tent floods whenever it rains heavily and factors like these emphasize the importance and need of a more permanent space for the community, according to Salama.

In spite of these recurring problems, the

community feels grateful for the opportunity they have and feel excited to celebrate their festival together.

“In a time where you’re fasting and trying to achieve some sort of spiritual growth, this tent provides that place of tranquility and peace,” Salama said. “The way people would describe it is this word in Arabic, ‘sukoon.’”

Ramadan is considered to be the holiest month for the Muslim community where people who practice the traditional rituals fast from dusk till dawn. The tent allows these students to gather during the evening and break their fast together.

During this time, the tent plays an active role in creating a sense of community, especially for international students whose families live in different countries.

“We can pray alone at our homes as well but it doesn’t have the same joy that you experience when everyone is doing it together,” said english literature Ph.D student Iqra Raza. “It provides a solace that you won’t find especially being away from home during Ramadan, where all the family gathers around and being alone doesn’t feel nice.”

Salama emphasized that the tent is for the entire UH community, not just for Muslim students. They welcome students from all countries and religions with open arms.

Organizations like Bangladeshi Student Association and Pakistan Student Association are collaborating with UH MSA and bringing out different types of culture and food to the festivities.

“I am teaching so it’s even more difficult during fasting,” Raza said. “The tent and all the food they provide makes fasting much easier.”

This was the second year of the tent and according to the students, it has only become better and more fun.

“Everything is more organized and we haven’t had any hitches in any day of operation,” said UH MSA volunteer Ahmad Ammaz. “They learned from their shortcomings and even added facilities like hand washing station and more lights.”

The Ramadan tent is not just serving the UH community, but is also actively working to support third and fifth wards as well.

On Thursday, UH MSA took an initiative to pack 40,000 meals with the help of over 150 volunteers and hand them out to people in third and fifth wards.

“We can just walk down there to ChickFil-A or get some groceries, but the third ward as a neighborhood is honestly a food desert,” Salama said. “So our initiative aims at helping with that a little bit where we can give out to people and just do our part a

little bit.”

Along with this, UH MSA is trying to raise $5,000 for the refugees with Zakat Foundation, which is also a Muslim organization that is primarily concerned with raising money for charity.

UH MSA also collaborated with Students for Justice in Palestine, where they decorated the tent with banners and gave presentations.

“In Palestine people are dying out of hunger. Their children are struggling to eat, and if they find food, they’re eating leaves, or they’re making bread out of literally cattle food,” Salama said. “So this year we’re very cognizant about not wasting any food because you also have to be conscious about all the small things as well.”

The goal of UH MSA is to raise $60,000 to support the Ramadan operation and they have reached $57,457 so far.

“We have fundraised through alumni, mosques and sponsors to make this project happen,” said UH MSA Campus Life Coordinator Ibrahim Islam. “All the money is going to this Ramadan operation.”

Ramadan ends April 9, but the tent will stay one week after the end and keep serving students at UH until then.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 3
Salinas hopes his journey will inspire others to achieve their dreams. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar


Injuries dash Cougars’ title hopes once again

The consequences of injury were everywhere in the Cougars’ locker room.

Senior guard Jamal Shead, whose sprained ankle proved UH’s undoing at the hands of Duke earlier that night, limped to embrace an inconsolable Cedric Lath, the backup center who likely wouldn’t have played at all in the game had it not been for a season-ending foot injury to freshman big man JoJo Tugler less than a month ago.

Sophomore guard Terrance Arceneaux, whose sophomore year was cut short with an Achilles tear in December, was silently leaning over the side of his locker. Could he have helped this team get over the hump in a 3-point loss that came down to the final possession?

Junior guard Ramon Walker Jr. never quit. He returned to the rotation this year after a tumultuous 2022-23 season saw him sit out the final three months due to mental health. He then returned from a meniscus tear in just a month to play in the tournament and made plays to keep UH’s hopes alive against the Blue Devils.

“I didn’t quit,” Walker said. “When things got hard, I didn’t quit. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

Despite all of that, Walker was teary-eyed, as devastated as the rest of his teammates.

Redshirt senior forward J’Wan Roberts sat motionless in his locker, his jersey draped over his head. He had battled through a litany of injuries all year — nagging knee troubles, stitches in his right hand, a shin contusion — to get the Cougars to this point. He had fought valiantly in Shead’s absence to keep UH within arm’s reach.

But, again, it wasn’t enough. Despite battling through it all to become Big 12 champions and a 1-seed, the Cougars just couldn’t overcome another injury, not to its First Team All-American point guard.

“It’s frustrating,” said senior guard Ryan Elvin. “Because this group really was special. I think we had a chance.”

It was even more frustrating for the team’s veteran, such as Elvin, because this wasn’t the first time UH’s NCAA title hopes were wrecked by injuries.

Season-ending surgeries to star guards Tramon Mark and

Marcus Sasser in December of the 2021-22 season didn’t stop Houston from reaching the Elite Eight, but the severely shorthanded team ran out of gas against Villanova.

Last season, after climbing atop the AP Poll for the first time in nearly 40 years, Sasser, the Cougars’ All-American shooting guard and Jerry West Award winner, injured his groin during the AAC Tournament. He returned in time for the NCAA Tournament but reaggravated the injury in the Sweet 16 against Miami, while a hobbled Shead and freshman forward Jarace Walker struggled to play up to their normal standard as UH fell yet again.

It was eerily similar to this year. The All-American superstar goes out in the Sweet 16, while the walking wounded still on the court just couldn’t make up for it. Another supremely frustrating end to another equally promising year.

“It’s just bad luck,” said guard Emanuel Sharp, whose gametying three-pointer bounced off the front rim as time expired.

“Last year with Mark and Jamal hurting. This year; a lot of guys hurting. It just sucks because we know how hard we work every day. We come out and compete every night. It just sucks.”

It hurt in ‘22, it hurt in ‘23 but this year’s loss particularly stung for the Cougars. Throughout the year, and again after Friday’s loss, players and coaches alike

have emphasized just how closeknit this team had become. They had been through it all together. They struggled through the famously grueling UH summer workouts in June and July together, then traveled to Australia for two weeks on an exhibition tour. They grieved the untimely death of their beloved former teammate Reggie Chaney together. They battled through numerous injuries and stayed together to conquer their gauntlet of a Big 12 schedule and became conference champs in their first year. They survived a Texas A&M comeback in the

Round of 32 with four starters having fouled out to pull out an emotional win in overtime.

Even senior guard L.J. Cryer, who climbed the NCAA mountaintop with Baylor in 2021 before transferring to Houston last offseason, said this team was easily the favorite he’s ever been a part of.

“I’ve been a part of teams that care and I’ve been a part of teams that don’t get reactions out of a locker room like this,” Cryer said. “But this team is special. We all care about one another. The love is real.”

And now it was all over. No more practices. No more scouting reports. No more games. No more bus rides with the team. No more days spent in the training room, in the gym or in the locker room.

“The team has been through so much together; so much adversity throughout the year,” Elvin said. “I’ve been on a lot of close-knit teams, but this was probably the closest I’ve ever been on. It sucks now that it’s over.”

Head coach Kelvin Sampson has dealt with these kinds of losses before in his four decades of coaching, but it all still hurts. He knows that injuries don’t make exceptions. After all, only one team each year gets to go home truly happy. One moment, you’re leading Duke and in control in the first half. The next, you’re scratching and clawing to stay in the game without your star before a magical season ends unceremoniously.

He knows that everyone on this year’s team could theoretically return for at least one more season, but Shead will likely enter the NBA Draft to pursue his dream, and seniors like Cryer and Roberts’ futures are unknown.

He knows that players will leave and new ones will come in, just as they do every year. But even if one of Sampson’s future teams finally does it and wins an NCAA title, he will never get to spend his days coaching this particular group again. The one that went through so much yet achieved so much.

“My disappointment came not just in losing this game,” Sampson said. “But in not being able to coach this team anymore. I loved coaching this team.”

After the game, Sampson said he didn’t give his team a speech. A speech wouldn’t do any good now. He had built this Houston program to be one of the toughest and most successful in the nation, and what they had done this season was another large feather in their cap. But as his team sat in disbelief and sorrow, he knew none of that would make it hurt any less.

He simply told his players how proud he was and how much he loved them. He left them with a statement that rings true for 350 of the 351 NCAA Division-I basketball programs: “It just wasn’t our time.” Maybe one day, it will be, but just not today.

4 Wednesday, April 3, 2024 STARNS LELAND Sports Editor @thedailycougar
Head coach Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars fell short in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year due to injuries to their star players. | Anh Le/The Cougar Houston couldn’t overcome any more injuries in its Sweet 16 loss to Duke. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Heart, soul and brotherhood: Cougars process tourney exit

The 2023-24 Houston Cougars will be remembered as a team defined by resilience.

First it was sophomore forward Terrance Arceneaux, who went down with a seasonending Achilles injury in December. Then it was junior guard Ramon Walker. He went down in February. In early March, freshman forward Joseph Tugler suffered a season-ending foot injury.

Injuries haunted this Houston team, and even though Walker surprisingly returned in time for the NCAA Tournament it continued to feel as though the Cougars simply could not stay healthy. Few knew this better than senior forward J’Wan Roberts, who fought through a knee and hand injury simultaneously through the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

The Cougars were tested through and through this season, given no choice but to become one of the country’s toughest teams. That toughness stretched beyond just injuries in the Round of 32 against Texas A&M, where so many Cougars fouled out that senior guard Ryan Elvin had to enter the game in overtime to seal Houston’s ticket to the Sweet Sixteen.

But the Sweet Sixteen had a curveball unlike any other. Just 14 minutes into UH’s matchup with No. 4 Duke, Houston’s AllAmerican senior guard Jamal Shead fell to the ground in pain, holding his ankle.

Shead would not return to the game, but the Cougars did not know that in the moment. UH was leading the Blue Devils

when Shead exited to the locker room and his teammates felt confident that, despite losing their floor general, they could keep things going their way.

“We went into halftime down by one,” Cryer said. “We felt like it was only a matter of hitting some shots because we were playing great defense. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we could win the game.”

It became about belief for Houston, something head coach Kelvin Sampson said came naturally to this group of players.

“That was a really tough locker room at halftime,” Sampson said. “It didn’t take a lot to convince those kids that we could still win. That’s just kind of what we’ve done all year.”

Houston’s many tests this year prepared them for virtually any obstacle, any loss. Those tests also instilled belief in the group, the unquestionable first step in overcoming those obstacles.

But losing Jamal Shead was not just any obstacle. For Houston, it was the nightmare scenario.

“I doubt any team in America has a player, except maybe (Zach) Edey from Purdue, means as much to their team as Jamal means to this team,” Sampson said. “We don’t have another Jamal.”

Senior guard Mylik Wilson did his best to fill in as UH’s point guard in Shead’s absence, but Houston struggled to string together any sort of momentum on the offensive end. Senior guard LJ Cryer picked up the bulk of the scoring load, but the group had lost the man crowned as “the heart of the team” by its head coach.

The Cougars’ belief in

appreciation and disbelief that a squad so bonded to one another had its season end in such a way.

“I think we played good tonight and we had a chance to win at the end,” Wilson said. “We made a few mistakes but I felt good with our overall performance ... I feel like if we had Jamal we definitely would have been going to the Final Four.”

The headlines will be about Shead’s injury, and this year’s Houston team will forever be tied to “what-ifs” about what could have been had the All-American never landed awkwardly on his ankle that night in Dallas. As Sampson has said, Shead was the heart of the Houston Cougars.

themselves, their coach and one another kept them competing until the very last possession. When sophomore guard Emanuel Sharp’s shot fell no good, it was shock, it was heartbreak and it was pain that permeated from the expressions on UH’s faces.

“They fought,” Shead said of his teammates. “That’s a really good team on the other side. We were down three crucial guys, myself included. They fought, bro.”

Sampson categorized the ending as unfair, saying it did not “feel like a fair fight.” In the locker room there was no bitterness between these teammates. There was love,

Beyond the heart though, there are more parts that make someone human. Namely there is the soul, and as the Cougars’ vocal leader was forced to watch from the bench, it was Houston’s soul that rose to the occasion.

“Jamal gets a lot of the credit as he should,” Sampson said on Thursday. “But J’Wan (Roberts) doesn’t get near enough credit. J’Wan is also a leader.”

Sampson’s words on the eve of Friday’s game came across prophetic in retrospect. When Cryer’s shooting alone was not enough to keep Houston in the game, Roberts took to working the paint with aggression and physicality. A 51% free throw shooter on the year, Roberts was never the one the Cougars would ideally want at the line, but the forward earned the “soul” moniker and proved why

Sampson views him in such high regard.

“He stepped up to the plate,” Shead said. “He did what he was supposed to do, and he almost brought it home for us. It sucks. That guy works. He fought through injuries all year. We were so close.”

For Roberts, emotions ran high in the locker room. The forward sat hunched at his locker, jersey over his head, overcome with emotion and consoled by his teammates for several minutes before speaking to the media.

“We started this back in June,” Roberts said. “I love every single one of them. They’re like brothers to me. We never go a day without talking to each other.”

Other Cougars had similar words.

“This group of dudes that I’ve been with for a while like J’Wan and Jamal,” Elvin said. “They helped me grow as a person. They were with me through my toughest times ... they’ve showed so much love to me, and are people I can call my brothers forever.”

Houston is an experienced team. It is unlikely many of its core pieces will be back in the fall even with extra years of eligibility. These Cougars will go in many separate directions, but it is the brotherhood built between the players that pulled Houston just moments away from the Elite Eight against all odds, fighting until the bitter, bitter end.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 5
The Houston Cougars leaned on their culture of resilience and brotherhood with one another all season amidst constant trials. | Anh Le/The Cougar Despite his best efforts, a hobbles J’Wan Roberts was unable to carry Houston past Duke in the Sweet 16 after Jamal Shead’s devastating injury. | Anh Le/The Cougar


UH needs to stop tolerating radical extremist faculty members POLITICS

The University likes to pride itself on its commitment to “free speech” and “diversity of thought.” While this commitment is admirable, the University has demonstrated a frustrating double standard, suppressing some viewpoints while maintaining faculty that regularly promotes shockingly radical ideas.

For an example of this, no need to look further than a rather peculiar gathering that took place a few years ago.

In August 2021, hundreds of self-professed “patriots” gathered in Frisco, Texas for the annual Reckoning Fest. As attendees shared food and discussed politics between speakers, a lone figure took the stage.

She was introduced as Dr. Seema Nanda, an adjunct clinical professor who taught optometry at the University. While other speakers had put on a variety of stunning performances, she said she preferred a simpler option: poetry.

As the audience politely applauded and then eventually quieted down, Dr. Nanda cleared her throat and began reading the poem, a self-titled piece called “Patriots Ignored”  that loosely mimicked Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”

“Suddenly there came a tapping, as patriots gently rapping, rapping at the Capitol door,” she read with conviction. “Tis some visitors requesting entrance to the floor, only this and nothing more.”

Nanda’s poem was politically charged, to say the least, taking aim at everything from “the mobs of BLM” to her frustration with the fact that insurrectionists at the Capitol had been arrested simply for “going against the status quo.”

While a pro-Jan. 6 insurrection

back on track,” she said in an interview with Campus Reform. “Everyone is allowed to be who you are, but don’t push your philosophy on me.”

To Dr. Nanda, the chance to mentor students on campus was a “gift from god.” She said that one of her students approached her at a CPAC convention in Dallas, complaining that it was hard to find an advisor for the YCT chapter they were trying to start.

Nanda took the job, both because she wanted to help connect students on campus to the conservative community in Houston and out of a desire to mentor students to a greater degree than just in the classroom.

parody of a classic poem might seem out of place to an ordinary person, Dr. Nanda’s reading was actually one of the tamer acts of the night.

In fact, the very next act that followed was greeted with applause as they performed a song from a pro-QAnon musical. “False Flag,” as the song was titled, got the audience to their feet as the performer sang about the Sandy Hook shooting being a hoax. Events like Reckoning Fest occur more frequently than the average person might be aware of. They tend to host speakers promoting everything from the idea that presidents drink the blood of children to conspiracies that John F. Kennedy is still alive.  And while Dr. Nanda’s day job as a UH optometry professor and faculty advisor for the Young Conservatives of Texas on campus is relatively tame, her nights are frequently spent at events like these.

According to one source, Dr. Nanda has served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, done extensive activist work opposing the COVID-19 vaccine and has spoken at hundreds of events including rallies in support of Jan. 6 prisoners.

Though she tends to speak most frequently about the negative effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Nanda has spoken on everything from the idea that late-term abortions are meant to harvest body parts to promoting Texas’ secession from the United States.

While she is fairly open about her more moderate positions, Dr. Nanda firmly believes that professors should not push their ideology on students.

“You’re here to learn, so if a professor starts deviating into ideology you need to get them

Edison-Hayden said. “What they’re doing is using the reflexive nature of people getting offended to promote their careers.”

Walsh’s presence did indeed spark controversy, as Richie and other LGBTQ+ activists on the campus mobilized dozens of students to protest outside where he was speaking.

While the protesters represented a significantly sized force, student activists expressed dismay that Walsh was still able to attract a large number of people to attend the event.

“My goal was to help them expand and grow. I had them plant the seed, now it’s my turn to watch them fertilize and bloom,” Dr. Nanda said.

But to some students on campus, that seed has bloomed into something hideous. As the YCT’s faculty advisor, she played a large part in providing the connections needed to bring speakers such as Matt Walsh to campus.

Walsh, who has at points described himself as a “theocratic fascist” tends to attract protests when he speaks, largely due to what some students have described as “deeply harmful transphobic rhetoric.”

For Landon Richie, a student and trans rights activist on campus, Walsh’s presence represented more than just a commitment to free speech. It represented an attack on their very identity.

“There was a real anger from the students here, and a lot of frustration came with it,” said Richie. “We were frustrated that the university would allow this transphobic speaker on campus amidst an already volatile period for trans people.”

While Dr. Nanda rejected the idea that Walsh’s presence could be considered harmful to students from marginalized populations, she noted that her goal in bringing speakers like him to campus was to spark controversy.

Senior investigative reporter Michael Edison-Hayden with the Southern Poverty Law Center, says that the presence of speakers like Walsh is rarely intended to actually start productive conversations, despite what they might claim.

“Extremists like Matt Walsh do what they do to promote their own careers; they’re not really interested in edifying anyone,”

comment, nor did Dr. Nanda. In regards to Walsh’s presence, the University expressed a desire to “uphold free speech.”

But to many on campus, the dedication to “free speech” doesn’t extend to everyone. In January, a group of social work students protested the ousting of the dean of UH’s Graduate School of Social Work.

“The fact that it had the reach to draw in such a massive outside community was really hard for a lot of students to grapple with,” said Richie. “Students weren’t just angry; they were afraid of what might happen if his rhetoric was uplifted by the university.”

To Edison-Hayden, Walsh is a clear byproduct of an extreme far-right shift amongst certain conservative movements. He noted that Turning Point USA and other related groups have become inundated with white nationalist ideas in recent years.

“Once Trump emerged as the nominee, almost everything in the Republican party started to change because he ran on this racist, anti-immigrant position. More extremists came out of the woodwork, and that was also true on college campuses,” said EdisonHayden.

Dr. Nanda’s reach goes beyond just UH. In fact, she’s been affiliated with controversial speakers on several campuses. At one event, hosted by YCT at Sam Houston State University, she spoke alongside anti-trans rights activist Kelly Neidert.

Neidert, who has also selfdescribed as a “Christian fascist” at points, has attracted controversy for the various “antidrag” protests she’s organized alongside her organization, Protect Texas Kids.

The anti-drag protests, including several that took place in Houston, have attracted farright militia groups, neo-nazis and groups like the Proud Boys. Several of these protests have ended with violent clashes between protestors and counter-protesters.

While Neidert and other organizers have disavowed the presence of neonazis, both Kelly and her brother Jake have previously tweeted about “rounding up drag queens” for public execution.

When asked about Dr. Nanda’s affiliations and public statements, the University did not respond for

The former dean of the program, Alan Detlaff, was an outspoken critic of police involvement in social work and a committed advocate for abolition. Internally, some faculty and students suspected he was let go for ideological reasons.

“We feel excluded from the process,” said GCSW associate professor Mclain Sampson in an interview with The Cougar. “To see him be demoted, so unilaterally, sends a chilling message to us all.”

Even beyond the school of Social Work, both students and faculty that hold liberal positions on Texas campuses have felt significantly strained as of late.

In the wake of Senate Bill 17, students expressed outrage and grief as the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion were dismantled to comply with state law.

To many, the bolstering of conservative speech while leftwing “extremists” are censored speaks to a frustrating double standard on the University’s part.

“On the right, these groups aren’t really advocating for policy, they’re just looking to tear down marginalized communities,” said Edison-Hayden. “They’re a small and vocal minority, but they’re always looking to take more power.”

As of the writing of this article, Dr. Nanda is still listed as an adjunct professor on her website and she still serves as the faculty advisor for the Young Conservatives, who did not respond to requests for comment.

Nanda’s various speeches at events that paint Sandy Hook victims as “crisis actors” and calls for insurrection are still publicly viewable on Rumble. To LGBTQ+ students, in particular, this rings as a blatant betrayal on the University’s part.

“A university’s values are communicated by who they hire and who they don’t,” said Richie. “It makes me as a trans student wonder where the university stands when it comes to protecting students like me.”

6 Wednesday, April 3, 2024 MALACHI KEY Opinion Editor @thedailycougar
Students protesting Matt Walsh, the anti-transgender speaker that Dr. Nanda invited to campus on Oct. 13, 2o22. | Atiritka Kumar/The Cougar

The Pornhub ban poses a serious threat to civil rights

Recently, the adult entertainment company Pornhub announced that it would be shutting down access to its website for users in Texas. On the surface, this might seem to be an issue that would only impact overly horny college students that need to touch grass anyway. But in reality, this situation should raise serious concerns for Texans from all backgrounds.

While some have taken to referring to the shutdown as the “Pornhub ban” the website’s parent company voluntarily removed access to the website in protest over House Bill 1181 being passed.

HB1181 was, in theory, meant to protect minors from accessing adult materials by requiring that porn websites ask for ID verification from each user that tries to access them.

Naturally, keeping minors from accessing age inappropriate material is something pretty much everyone can get behind. But the potential impact of the law runs much deeper.

For one, this approach would mean that adult websites would keep your personal information on file in exchange for you accessing them. While many websites already track certain pieces of information, this law would escalate data collection to an arguably ridiculous level.

There’s no shame in what you get off to in your personal time, but do you really trust these

websites to keep your information safe? Imagine uploading your student ID or driver’s license to some sketchy corner of the internet one lonely night, only to get a call the next day threatening to tell your mother about your horrendous porn habit.

This is an exaggeration, of course, but in an era where so many websites are already mining our data, do we really need to be giving them more access to it?

Beyond data security, who’s to say that this law wouldn’t be abused by the Texas government itself? The people pushing for pornography restrictions are and always have been handwringing conservatives who make a fuss over the slightest show of an ankle, after all.

First it’s porn being restricted, then it could be anything from basic sex education to abortion access resources to pro-LGBTQ+ content. Your personal freedom to access these websites doesn’t matter because these people will do anything in the name of protecting kids. Except for cracking down on rampant sex abuse within Texas churches, of course.

That being said, children do deserve to be protected from this kind of content, and the adult film industry is far from innocent. At the end of the day, these companies are more interested in turning a profit than they are in discussing ethics, so some kind of restrictions might be in order.

One potential option could be what’s known as “device-based

age verification.” Essentially, new phones and tablets would come with content filters pre-installed that could then be removed once your age is successfully verified. This means that, while your data would still be on file, it would be in the hands of device manufacturers like Apple, rather than adult websites.

At the end of the day, everybody watches porn in one way or another. Sex work is called the “oldest profession” for a reason, after all. Your dad probably kept sketchy magazines stashed under his mattress and your grandmother was definitely reading... intimate novels with hunky cowboys on the cover. Sex is a part of life, and everyone has to learn about it at some point. Porn has and will continue to be a place where people find representation, education and simple pleasure that no one should

be ashamed of.

Online pornography means that sex is more accessible than ever before, and we have yet to fully grasp how to handle the implications of that yet. Pornography could probably stand to be better regulated, and the adult industry as a whole needs to be more carefully scrutinized.

But leaning away from it instead of trying to healthily regulate it is, simply put, denying a part of ourselves that’s utterly human.

So as you go about your regular... viewing habits this week, start thinking like a Texan. This state was built by rugged individuals who distrusted the government’s ability to regulate their personal life, and the future will be built by the same kinds of people. Take a stand and make them come take the pornography from our cold, dead fingers.

Whom you associate with will make a difference in how events unfold. Don’t let your emotions decide things for you. Get the facts, consider your goals and align yourself with like-minded people who can help you reach your destination. Shoot for the stars, and master what you need to know and do to reach your goals. Your effort will reap rewards.

ARIES (March 21-April 19)

-- Digest as much information as possible, and don’t put up with anyone’s negativity or pressure tactics. Be good to yourself and be wary of anyone who tries to undermine you.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20)

-- Put your life in order and your mind at ease. Take care of unfinished business. Clear your schedule to make time for exercise and

socializing with people you love. Don’t hide your feelings.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20) -Learn something new. Refuse to let anyone crowd your space or come between you and what you want. Visit places that bring back fond memories, and reconnect with old friends.

CANCER (June 21-July 22)

-- Rely on your instincts and put your energy into whatever brings the highest returns. Refrain from hesitation; make up your mind, get moving and don’t look back.

Romance is in the stars.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22) -- Don’t let the changes others make tempt you. Think for yourself and do what offers the highest return. Control your emotions, and don’t put pressure on yourself or others. When in doubt, sit tight.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

-- Educate yourself and pay attention. Consider trends and how your skills and connections can help you advance. A partnership offer will tempt you, but first consider what others expect of you.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) -Look at the possibilities, then approach people who can offer insight into something you want to pursue. A social or networking event will open doors to many exciting alternatives. Explore and expand.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 22)

-- Take your time when an opportunity presents itself. Show enthusiasm, make suggestions and change the dynamics of your life. Consider domestic changes that ease stress.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 23-Dec. 21) -- Don’t get involved in something that doesn’t interest you.

It’s better to say no than to send the wrong message. Be tactful but direct, offer positive suggestions and go about your business.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

-- Keep your thoughts to yourself and your emotions under control. Make changes at home that promote frugality. Put more energy into increasing your income or updating your qualifications.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) -Don’t believe everything you hear. Look for cost-effective ways to get your desired results. Push back if someone tries to pressure you into something questionable. Stick up for yourself.

PISCES (Feb. 20-March 20) -Set the pace and work hard, and you’ll get the support you need. Trust and believe in yourself; don’t let anyone dampen your spirit. Put your energy where it counts.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 7 i The Cougar EDITORIAL BOARD EDITOR IN CHIEF John Lomax MANAGING EDITOR Cindy Rivas Alfaro WEB EDITOR Emma Christensen NEWS EDITOR Robert De La Garza SPORTS EDITOR Starns Leland OPINION EDITOR Malachi Key PHOTO EDITOR Anh Le CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jose GonzalezCampelo ASSISTANT EDITORS Atirikta Kumar Camryn Alberigo Grace Rednoske Logan Linder Regan Grant Riley Moquin ISSUE STAFF CLOSING EDITORS John Lomax Cindy Rivas Alfaro COVER Jose Gonzalez-Campelo LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The Cougar welcomes letters to the editor from any member of the UH community. Letters should be no more than 250 words and signed, including the author’s full name, phone number or e-mail address and affiliation with the University, including classification and major. Anonymous letters will not be published. Deliver letters to N221, University Center; e-mail them to; send them via campus mail to STP 4015; or fax to (713) 743-5384. Letters are subject to editing. ABOUT THE COUGAR The Cougar is published biweekly on Wednesdays during the fall and spring semesters, on Wednesdays during the summer and online daily at The Cougar is supported in part by Student Service Fees. Copies of The Cougar are free. COPYRIGHT No part of the newspaper in print or online may be reproduced without the consent of the director of Student Publications. ABOUT CSM The Center for Student Media provides comprehensive advisory and financial support to the university’s student-run media: The Cougar newspaper, CoogTV and COOG Radio. CENTER FOR STUDENT MEDIA (713) 743-5350 ADVERTISEMENTS (713) 743-5340 Advertisements in The Cougar do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the University or the students as a whole.
Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar
8 Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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