TUESDAY MARCH 9, 2021 VOLUME 110 ISSUE 6
DEFENDING THE FIRST AMENDMENT SINCE 1911
Freshman pitcher's hot start propels softball to 10-3 record SEE PAGE 5
On-campus residents reflect on power outages, food scarcity during winter storm
Veteran who provided free seafood during winter storm: 'God put it in my heart'
Opinion: Texas State should cancel spring break this semester
SEE PAGE 2
SEE PAGE 3
SEE PAGE 4
PROTESTS, ARRESTS, TEARS, NEGOTIATIONS Activism at Texas State leaves Black students with unhealed wounds
Students gather near the Quad, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at Texas State. Hundreds of students went to the area after four students were arrested on campus after a dispute between students. STAR FILE PHOTO
Then-Texas State public relations senior Tafari Robertson (left) and social work junior Cassidy Wright speak at a press conference during a sit-in, Friday, April 13, 2018, at the LBJ Student Center. STAR FILE PHOTO
Protesters at an event primarily organized by Texas State student Malina Sutton pose for a photo in front of the Hays County Historic Courthouse, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in San Marcos. PHOTO BY JADEN EDISON
Students gather around the Fighting Stallions and call for the impeachment of thenStudent Government President Connor Clegg, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, at Texas State. STAR FILE PHOTO
By Staff For the remainder of the school year, The University Star will take on “The 11% Project”, an examination of Black students at Texas State through History, Election, Hometowns, Activism, Creatives and 10 years from now. It took Tafari Robertson two years post-graduation to process the trauma he endured as a student at Texas State. “In the year [following] everything that happened on campus...I had graduated, but I was still in San Marcos,” Robertson says. “That was just, like, a really rough year for me because it was leaving the activist space. You know, it's hard to look back on and feel like you really did everything you could have.” Black students, like Robertson, have sometimes had to take on the job of the institution. Efforts to push for the university to denounce white supremacy, establish an African American Studies minor and hire and retain
more Black faculty members came at the cost of their own well-being. Black students' years on campus have included meetings with university officials in the aftermath of events that made them question why they enrolled. Racist flyers. A white supremacist banner hanging from the university library. Failed attempts to get elected student representatives to attend the impeachment trial of a student body president who posted racist and sexist material to social media. In this installment of The 11% Project, The University Star, along with the student activists who were involved, take a step back in time to revisit major protests that occurred on Texas State's campus in recent years and examine how they have impacted the students and university since.
THE MARCH ON CLEGG Over 300 students marched to the LBJ Teaching
Theater on the cold, overcast winter afternoon of Feb. 5, 2018, calling for the impeachment of then-Student Body President Connor Clegg. The event, formally known as the March to Demand Action to Racism at TXST, followed the resurgence of racist and sexist posts from Clegg’s personal Instagram account just four days prior. The account revealed photos of Clegg with people appearing of Asian descent featuring racist and sexist hashtags. The university administration took no action against Clegg other than the release of a statement from University President Denise Trauth calling racism, in any manifestation, “abhorrent” and stating Clegg had apologized — a response viewed by some in the Texas
SEE ACTIVISM PAGE 6
The University Star
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On-campus residents reflect on power outages, food scarcity during winter storm By Timia Cobb Assistant News Editor After going hours without electricity, water and heat, Texas State dorm residents were left on campus with scarce resources during the week of a historic February winter storm in the state, questioning what would happen next. "Mentally it was just depressing a little, because you're just kind of, like, there's no entertainment, so your mind is just sitting there wondering," says Katelyn Gorings, a political science freshman, who lives in Blanco Hall. While the storm, Feb. 14-19, impacted the electricity of some San Marcos residents early on, many residential dorms were able to maintain limited electricity with the help of back-up generators. However, the light and heat did not last long as dorm rooms eventually turned dark, cold and were left without internet. Gorings says the winter storm put her on edge and was stressful. However, she believes people did what they could to help during it all. "It’s been inconvenient, to say the least," Gorings says. "With the power going in and out and then we had the alarm that went off sometime this week, that was kind of nerve-wracking, but with them still having the dining hall opening, that’s still great. But the power outages — they’ve been inconsistent and kind of terrible.” The cold weather outdoors led to a pipe burst in Lantana Hall, flooding the hall and forcing residents, such as Ellery Campbell, a psychology freshman, to seek shelter elsewhere. “We had to evacuate to the dorm across the hall, or across the street, which is Butler, I think," Campbell says. "We had to sit in the lobby of Butler for a long time. We played UNO, we [were] occupying ourselves and then they finally told us like, ‘Hey, like it's going to take about 72 plus hours to fix this pipe burst.’” Ayanna Wilson, a music studies freshman, stays on the first floor of Lantana and says the dorm's resident assistants (RA) took initiative to make the situation less anxious. "They were just trying their best," Wilson says. "I applaud them so much because they kept their cool during the whole thing. I was dying and they were like, 'Here's what we're gonna do.' I didn't check the group chat when I first got up because I was confused...but in the group chat my RA was like, 'Unplug everything; get everything off the floor in case it gets to your room; maybe put towels under the door.'" According to the university, students impacted by the dorm flooding could temporarily stay at Sterry Hall or find an alternative location on their own. Campbell stayed with a friend in Angelina Hall, and Wilson opted to stay at Sterry Hall until she was given the 'okay' to move back into her dorm room. "When we were in Sterry there was no heat; there was no water. There was air conditioning actually when the power was on that we couldn't turn off,” Wilson says. “So, we stayed there for a few days, and a bunch of people left to go somewhere else because they were freezing." Wilson eventually left the hall to find better housing elsewhere. However, due to hotel room shortages in San Marcos, she booked a room in San Antonio instead. Jessica Ruckstuhl, a biology freshman, lives in building three of Bobcat Village and had to evacuate after an alarm went off, leaving her and other residents in the cold for hours. “We evacuated into the Mill Street parking lot, and we weren't really told what was happening,” Ruckstuhl says. “It was like 19 degrees, so super cold, and like we weren't allowed to get in our cars." After being outside for nearly 45 minutes, Ruckstuhl says she and other residents eventually piled into a resident's car to keep warm. Once realizing help was not coming, Ruckstuhl says she called the San Marcos non-emergency service line herself, only to discover they had not been informed of the situation prior to her call. "About five minutes after that happened the police came in and they cleared the building," Ruckstuhl says. "We still couldn't come back in until a maintenance man cleared it. It took about an hour for the maintenance man to get there, and we were still just waiting.” Ruckstuhl says she and other residents were outside for almost four hours and were told they could temporarily stay in Bobcat Village's COVID-19 quarantine building, which she did not feel comfortable with, or find somewhere else to go. “A few people ended up staying with friends and some people went to a homeless shelter for the night," Ruckstuhl says. "I was lucky enough to know somebody there who was able to take me to their apartment and let me spend the night." Weeks after the winter storm, she says still does not know why her building had to evacuate and only knows what she was told — it was unsafe to stay. “The next morning, all the buildings, we had no cell service, still no power, so all our phones were dying. I ended up calling the RA on-call and asked him to speak with a resident director, but the resident directors had stopped answering their phone calls from their RAs, so there was no superior to talk to," Ruckstuhl says. "It's just basically a bunch of students that are trying to figure out what to do. None of the university services were open, obviously, since it closed down, so [the University Police Department] wasn't answering, no resident directors were answering. So, we were just, really, like in the dark, and had like no idea what to do." Herb Jones, associate director of Residential Life and Education, says his staff at Residential Life and Housing faced complications with keeping communication with residents and workers at Bobcat Village during the storm but has made efforts since to figure out why that happened. “Part of the process that we are going through now is we’re going through our after-action review,” Jones says. “We’re collecting information; myself and [Vice President for Student Affairs] Dr. [Cynthia] Hernandez have met with a group of students at Bobcat Village, so we’re learning a lot of
Line server Dolores Rios serves a plate of breakfast to Texas State German language freshman Osvaldo Barrientos during a winter storm, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, at Commons Dining Hall. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH
different things and why certain things did happen. Jones says there were aspects of the winter storm situation he wishes he and his staff handled differently. “When you look back, you know, whenever any situation happens, you know whether you’re taking a road trip, you think, ‘Oh maybe I should’ve taken this road trip way to avoid this traffic.’ We’re gonna look back and say, 'Hey, there are some things we could've done differently, some things we need to tweak, some things we need to follow up on,’ and that’s part of our direction,” Jones says. "Also, I’ll acknowledge that every situation we may come to in the future may be different. We may not have another winter storm but may have another blackout that may be contributed to heat. So, people not having air conditioning, how do we respond to that? So, I think we can only work on a framework and then we gotta be able to adjust with that framework just based off what situation is presented to us, in terms of my teams.” Donyae Clark, a nursing freshman, says she knew there was severe weather but, because the university did not announce the first cancellation of classes until Feb. 14, she attempted to drive back to campus. "The university kind of took a long time to decide if they were gonna cancel classes or not,” Clark says. “I actually ended up driving to campus in the bad weather and ended up crashing my car and getting in an accident trying to get here in time for classes because I didn’t know if they were going to cancel class or not." Clark also lives at Bobcat Village, which is equipped with kitchen appliances, but says she was not prepared for the storm and had no cookable food. “I was actually planning on grocery shopping when I got down here, but thankfully I did have a few non-perishables," Clark says. "The three days straight without power, I really wasn’t prepared to eat anything. And most of the stuff I had, I had to cook, so I was just eating chips and snacks.” During the storm, Clark says neighbors would share whatever they had or go on runs to wherever was open to help one another and ensure they all had food. "I feel like we should’ve been a priority [to the university] as well because [students on campus] have dining halls and pre-packed lunches, stuff like that," Clark says. "Our only source of food was to make it and if our power is out, we couldn’t eat." The university opened its dining halls to all students who presented a valid student ID, regardless if they had a meal plan, until Feb. 22. Only Harris and Commons dining halls were open for to-go service due to power outages. While students were provided meals, some, like Danila Gonzalez, a marketing freshman, say meals were at times cold, small portioned and the lines to get food moved slowly. “Having to wait for food in the dining hall when it's snowing outside. I think I waited at one point almost 20 minutes outside and in a line of kids, and they finally just let us in the building," Gonzalez says. "When they let us in the building, none of it was socially distant so, it's almost, like, you know, unsafe. So, I mean, there's a lot of trouble with that." Senior Media Relations Manager Jayme Blaschke says the university's focus was to keep the dining halls open and stocked as best as it could to ensure on-campus students had access to food and drinks. "The university intended to provide hot food, however, at times that was not possible as we lost power intermittently," Blaschke says. "When that happened, we prepared sandwiches in accordance with food safety measures, so we always had something to offer." Mason Cook, a psychology freshman, lives in Blanco Hall and experienced the brunt of the storm. Cook was without water, electricity and phone service and says the experience was the only time he "actually wanted to do schoolwork" but could not. He says while the university was unable to predict the damage of the storm, it provided on-campus students with subpar assistance. “They tried a lot," Cook says. "They brought buses out to heat people up and stuff, but [it] felt like a real inconvenience for us because we just couldn't do anything. We were all trying to get together and then we were told to stay in our rooms and stuff which just didn't feel like it was gonna happen because it was dark, cold [and there was] nothing.” In a statement to The University Star, Vice President for Finance and Support Services Eric Algoe says the university has taken into account a need for improvement, and he is overall proud of its efforts. “We will endeavor to do better should an event like this happen in the future, but I’m grateful for the staff who worked so hard and ignored their own life issues [during the winter storm] to ensure our students’ needs were met,” Algoe says. Ricardo Delgado contributed to this story.
The University Star
Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | 3
LIFE & ARTS
Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran who provided free seafood during winter storm: 'God put it in my heart' By Sofia Psolka Life & Arts Contributor A day after Winter Storm Uri hit Texas, local business owner, Shane Billiot, like most San Marcos residents, woke up to sheets of white snow along the streets of his neighborhood and no electricity in his home. Billiot immediately thought of his restaurant, OMG Seafood, located at 205 Moore St., which had pounds of live crawfish in its freezers and knew they would not survive for long. Scrolling through social media, Billiot noticed the pleas of hungry students and San Marcos residents with no resources. He knew he had to help. On Feb. 16, Billiot took to Facebook to announce the opening of his restaurant and the surprise of free crawfish to the community. "Honestly, God put it in my heart. I knew I had gas still, so, with that, I knew I had a bunch of live crawfish that I didn't know how long would be alive without electricity," Billiot says. "So, God put it on my heart that I needed to boil them up and just give them away." With almost 800 shares on Facebook, Billiot gave away more than $12,000 in food between his establishments to feed nearly 1,000 people during the storm. In a Facebook post, Billiot writes, "difficult times like this is when the people with the means have an obligation to give back." OMG Seafood specializes in Cajunstyle seafood dishes from Louisiana. The restaurant's three pillars — serving good quality food for a decent price, coming as you are and creating a welcoming environment for customers — are what keeps the business afloat. Billiot, a military veteran raised in a low-income household as a foster child, says he understands the struggles of food scarcity. "I was in Afghanistan for a year, and seeing the poverty levels was just extreme, and when we go into the villages, we see all these children that weren't wellnourished," Billiot says. "So, I have compassion and empathy for people." When the news of free, warm food spread, students and locals bundled up in layers and stood in lines circling the parking lot of OMG Seafood. As customers patiently waited, Billiot and his cooks were hard at work boiling nearly 100 sacks of crawfish despite frigid temperatures and periodical outages of their generators. "I didn't really have any solid food throughout the entire storm," says Jose Loera, a Texas State student who visited OMG Seafood. "One of my floormates came knocking at my door telling me, 'Hey there's this place giving out free food if you want to come. It's gonna be a nice little walk in the snow, but you'll get some crawfish.'" The wait was long and cold, Loera says, but he saw how hard the cooks were working to boil the crawfish. "Every single time they would run out [of crawfish], they would boil some more. And when they ran out of crawfish, they started handing out catfish, which was awesome," Loera says. "The best catfish I've ever had, honestly. What they did was absolutely amazing. I'm super grateful." Despite the high demand the employees faced, Joseph Daley, district manager of OMG Seafood, found the smiles on customers' faces worth braving the harsh weather. "It was cold; I didn't have no lights; I had no water; I couldn't take a shower. I was like, 'Man, I really don't want to go up [to OMG Seafood],'" Daley says. "But I did and, at the end of the day, I felt really good about it. Everyone's smiling faces and stuff, you know, it was awesome." Daley has worked alongside Billiot for eight years. While working together in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the two men opened Craving Crawfish, a similar seafood establishment, and then headed to Texas to establish OMG Seafood in Bryan, Texas, and San Marcos. "[Billiot] is a man who's not just my boss but my friend and my brother," Daley says. "I wouldn't know where I'd be right now if it wasn't for Shane." During the storm, Michael Chatman, a cook at OMG Seafood, says he
Shane Billiot poses with newly-stocked crawfish, following the winter storm, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at OMG Seafood. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHANE BILLIOT
appreciated the people who filled the restaurant. "I was stuck in the house, there was nothing to do, and, you know, it hit [Billiot's] heart. He felt that he wanted [Daley and I] to join him. And it made my week better," Chatman says. "That day felt like a party, like, I didn't know San Marcos was such a wonderful environment. I love it." OMG Seafood's act of service received far more attention than Billiot and his employees ever anticipated. Not only have customers returned to pay workers back, but the overall business significantly increased at both locations. "People are coming in a lot more, giving bigger tips to our staff and they're telling us how much they appreciate us," Billiot says. "It's definitely helped with traffic." Billiot's southern hospitality and love for community date back to his roots in Louisiana. He says sharing his culture with the San Marcos community through his business is something that never fails to bring a smile to his face. "In Louisiana, as part of our culture, we have crawfish boils like people have a big backyard barbecue," Billiot says. "It's a good time for community and fellowship, so when people come to my place, [OMG Seafood], I want them to feel like they're getting a little bit of that experience." Carrying the values instilled in him throughout his unique life experiences, Billiot says the restaurant will make sure people who cannot afford food "get something to eat."
"YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR HEART, TO YOUR INTUITION. WHEN YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY, YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO DO RIGHT AND DO GOOD BECAUSE IT COMES BACK TENFOLD."
Texas State psychology senior Jennifer Porcayo (left) and psychology alumna Alexis Guiton pose for a photo while they promote the Elohim Bible Study Club, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, near the UAC. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN
University of Houston players and staff watch a softball game vs. Texas State as the sun goes down, Friday, March 5, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats won 6-1. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH
Texas State psychology senior Jennifer Porcayo displays a poster promoting the Elohim Bible Study Club, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, near the UAC. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN
OWNER, OMG SEAFOOD "You should always listen to your heart, to your intuition," Billiot says. "When you have the opportunity to do good for the community, you should choose to do right and do good because it comes back tenfold." For more information about OMG Seafood, check out its Facebook page @omgseafoodsanmarcos https://www. facebook.com/omgseafoodsanmarcos/.
The Bobcats cheer after sophomore pitcher Tori McCann (15) catches a ball for the third out of the inning, Saturday, March 6, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. Texas State defeated the University of Houston in an 8-0 shutout in the second game of a three-game series. PHOTO BY VANESSA BUENTELLO
The University Star
4 | Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Valeria Torrealba Opinion Editor email@example.com
Opinions in The University Star are not necessarily those of our entire publication, Texas State University’s administration, Board of Regents, School of Journalism and Mass Communication or Student Publications Board.
ILLUSTRATION BY THEO JANUSKI
Prioritize resident assistants once vaccines arrive on campus By Nadia Gonzales Opinion Contributor In the midst of one of the worst pandemics in history, universities across the country have allowed their students to return to campus. The staff that keeps the dormitories up and running, known as resident assistants (RA), have more responsibilities this year than RAs in previous school years. More responsibilities, during the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that RAs are putting themselves at risk. Now that COVID-19 is a prevalent issue, some RAs' concerns have shifted from misbehaving residents to residents who do not follow Texas State's COVID-19 policies. Some RAs, such as myself, live in a constant state of fear of contracting the virus from a resident or our dorm halls, and there is currently no way we can escape that fear without abandoning our job responsibilities. Our responsibilities as resident assistants include but are not limited to: Working the front desk, walking into each resident's room for inspections and enforcing all COVID-19 policies. Additionally, at the beginning of Texas' winter storm, RAs were still required to
show up to work the front desk regardless of us having no wifi, water or power. We are still expected to go into the rooms of our residents for inspections or walk around the halls of dorms every night regardless of the COVID-19 risks. RAs live and work in the same vicinity every single day. Therefore, most of the time, we are not able to get away from the hundreds of students we are responsible for. We are also exposed to many high-touch contaminated areas while completing our job duties. For example, while working from the front desk, we are expected to handle each resident's package that gets delivered from UPS, FedEx, USPS or any other delivery service. RAs also have first-hand experience with some residents not complying with the university's mask policy. Whether the task is walking the dorm halls, working the front desk or simply using the communal restroom, RAs are constantly faced with the risk of coming into close contact with someone who is not in compliance with the current COVID-19 policies. There have been many instances when residents have come up to me, less than 6 feet away, to ask for assistance while
not properly wearing their masks. I do enforce the COVID-19 policies, but it does not change the fact that encounters like these put us at risk. A senior RA, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of losing their job, says sharing a communal restroom makes her uneasy due to residents simply not following health and safety guidelines. "I think it would be great if RAs had the option to get the vaccine. I share a bathroom with 25 to 30 residents, so there is an exposure concern," the senior RA states. "I think it's important to get RAs to have that option if they choose to get vaccinated." When a resident believes they have contacted COVID-19, RAs are likely among the first people they alert. Once again we, the RAs, are put at immediate risk of contracting the virus. RAs are not the only ones who live in the dorm halls. However, we are especially responsible for anything that goes wrong in the building and must be on site for any crisis or if a resident requires assistance. Our job duties also include not-sopleasant tasks, such as stopping a leaking toilet during on-call duties or tending to
a resident's vomit while a custodial staff member makes their way to the scene. We are among the front-line workers for the university because we tend to any need of our residents at any moment. However, we go overlooked. We are often regarded as just students who are working at the mercy of the university. The Department of Housing and Residential Life hires about 50-70 new RAs for the fall and 10-20 new RAs for the spring. RAs are highly exposed and at risk for COVID-19 each day we choose to do our jobs. RAs are students as well, and the university needs to remember that dorms are not able to run without our help and efforts. We carry a large portion of the Department of Housing and Residential Life on our shoulders, and we are exposed daily to situations that put us at a high risk of catching the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 has raised the stress levels of our job. It is important that the university acknowledges its student workers and provides us the protection we deserve once the opportunity for vaccination on campus arises. - Nadia Gonzales is a public relations junior
Texas State should cancel spring break this semester By Toni Mac Crossan Opinion Columnist While spring break is a much-needed week to decompress that some college students look forward to, having a spring break does not make sense for a semester that has been as unpredictable as this one. Students, faculty and staff alike struggled through the recent snowstorm and associated power and water crises that plagued the state. Seven instructional days were lost, leaving faculty to rewrite their syllabi and move exams around — even cutting entire blocks of information for their courses. While this was by no means a break — it was an incredibly stressful time during which much of the Texas State community struggled to keep warm and find available food and water — this cut into valuable instructional time. It is not fair to faculty or students to leave this much material out of this semester's courses. It can place students taking prerequisites at a disadvantage for their next courses or for professional exams. Perhaps more critically, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that, as of March 10, "it is now time to open Texas 100%." This means rescinding a statewide mask order and allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity — despite the fact that March is projected to see a rise in frequency of emerging COVID-19 variants that put even those who have recovered from prior infection or
ILLUSTRATION BY ALONDRA VASQUEZ
who have been vaccinated at greater risk. During spring break, college students are notoriously known for letting loose. The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state last March did not stop party-goers from traveling to favorite spots, like South Padre Island or Port Aransas, mask-free and packed tightly on beaches. Texas State should not expect these students to all follow CDC-recommended
protocols this time around. Texas State has recommended that, if students must travel, they get tested for COVID-19 before returning. However, the entirety of spring break travel time — from the first Saturday to the last Sunday — is only nine days, and COVID-19 symptoms may take up to 14 days to make themselves known. Even in asymptomatic cases, rates of false negatives are worryingly high in the first week after exposure. Even if students get tested in time, the self-administered Curative tests available on campus are not exactly the most reliable, especially in asymptomatic patients. The risk of COVID-19 spread due to spring break travel has already led other area universities to make major changes. Texas A&M has shortened its spring break to a more manageable two-day holiday, and its satellite campus in Kingsville has canceled its spring break entirely. Texas State should follow suit. As Texas State is ranked the fifth-best "party school" in Texas by Niche, it is clear where the priorities of many students lie. Students cannot be trusted to resist the temptation of newly-opened bars, restaurants and other party venues for a week of unsupervised free time. University administrators must make the decision for them and either reduce or cancel spring break altogether to avoid putting the entire Texas State community at risk. -Toni Mac Crossan is a Biology graduate student
The University Star
Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | 5
Sumit Nagar Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas State freshman pitcher Jessica Mullins (4) watches a struck ball fly in the air, Friday, March 5, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats won 6-1. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH
Texas State freshman pitcher Jessica Mullins (4) pitches a ball to home plate as senior infielder Hailey Mackay (25) looks on, Friday, March 5, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats won 6-1.
Texas State freshman pitcher Jessica Mullins (4) pitches a ball to home plate, Friday, March 5, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats won 6-1. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH
PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH
Freshman pitcher's hot start propels softball to 10-3 record By Sumit Nagar Sports Editor After nearly a year away from competitive play, Texas State softball has returned this season to build on a foundation set in 2020 prior to the season cancellation. At the forefront of its efforts is a freshman pitcher the team hopes develops into a star for years to come. Jessica Mullins made her collegiate debut in the Bobcats' season opener against Abilene Christian University on Feb. 22, where she finished the contest with a seven-inning no-hitter with 12 strikeouts. It was the first seven-inning no-hitter by a freshman in programhistory since former All-American Randi Rupp accomplished the feat on March 23, 2015. Mullins says she was nervous going into the game. Those nerves translated into hitting a batter with her first career pitch. But it did not take long for her to get into a rhythm, as she struck out three consecutive batters in the first inning. “I knew I needed to get over the jitters quick,” Mullins says. “Once the first couple of innings went by, I felt like I settled in and I got into my comfort zone and I just started dealing.”
Assistant coach Paige McDuffee, who primarily works with the pitching staff, noticed Mullins’ excitement in pregame warm-ups and helped calm her nerves. “I definitely talked to Jess about slowing herself down because she’s an athlete who can get very hyped,” McDuffee says. “She gets very into that gamer mode where she gets a little too overhyped… So we worked on some breathing and just worked on slowing it down as much as we could before [the game].” Head Coach Ricci Woodard praises Mullins’ ability to stay focused in the game and says she was "fun to watch." “When you have a freshman that’s able to keep her emotions under control like that on opening day of her career, you know she probably has a bright future ahead of her," Woodard says. Mullins says she did not expect to start the game. When she did, she did not expect to put up the kind of performance she did. “I just came out with the mentality to just do my job,” Mullins says. “Get nice grounders that my defense can back me up on. Just overall get the win, not necessarily get a no-hitter with 12 K’s.” Mullins finished the week with 24 strikeouts, a .179 opponent batting
average, a 1.22 earned run average along with her first career save against Mississippi State University on Feb. 26. Mullins subsequently was named the Sun Belt Conference Softball Pitcher of the Week. Since then, Mullins has tacked on another complete game along with 18 strikeouts. “To start your career that way is kinda where you want to be,” Woodard says. “That’s what you dream about is coming into college and being able to kinda leave your mark right away and build from there is what you hope.” Woodard says that Mullins’ ability to stay aggressive and not shy away from batters makes her unique compared to other pitchers. “She throws the ball hard,” Woodard says. “She goes right at hitters. A lot of pitchers like to have more finesse than she does, but she wants to go right at you.” Regardless of the start to her season, Mullins says she wants to ensure she continues to play at a high level. “I know I have to keep doing good in order to show everyone that I still have the capabilities to be D1 material and be great D1 material, but the baseline is to keep doing my job,” Mullins says. “You
hear about Cat Osterman, Jennie Finch, Amanda Scarborough all just being these top pitchers. I just want to want to be one of them or maybe even better.”
"I KNOW I HAVE TO KEEP DOING GOOD IN ORDER TO SHOW EVERYONE THAT I STILL HAVE THE CAPABILITIES TO BE D1 MATERIAL AND BE GREAT D1 MATERIAL, BUT THE BASELINE IS TO KEEP DOING MY JOB."
-JESSICA MULLINS, FRESHMAN PITCHER, TEXAS STATE SOFTBALL
The University Star
6 | Tuesday, March 9, 2021
THE 11% PROJECT FROM FRONT ACTIVISM
Members of the Pan-African Action Committee sit silent during Student Government president Connor Clegg’s impeachment hearing, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in the LBJ Teaching Theater. STAR FILE PHOTO
Students provide comments in front of a full audience during a Student Government public forum, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in the LBJ Teaching Theater. Students attended the public forum after marching from the Fighting Stallions. STAR FILE PHOTO
State community as lackluster. Students and members of the Pan African Action Committee (PAAC) gathered on the Quad by the Stallions statue at 4:40 p.m. to call for the impeachment of Clegg and voice their concerns with the university — an institution they believed had a history of unsatisfactory responses toward racism. Najha Marshall, a Texas State alumna and former president of PAAC, was a freshman at the time and helped organize the march as a member of PAAC. Marshall says while she felt empowered by the march, she felt angry the protest needed to occur in the first place. “As a freshman, one of the things that got me to come to Texas State, as well as many other students of color, is like the picture of diversity [Texas State] sells,” Marshall says. “Seeing, like, that we’re sitting here having to do all of this just to get someone who is racist out of office is just not right. And so, it makes you feel angry, not because like as a Black person in America, but as a student who’s paying to have an education at the school.”
"SEEING, LIKE, THAT WE’RE SITTING HERE HAVING TO DO ALL OF THIS JUST TO GET SOMEONE WHO IS RACIST OUT OF OFFICE IS JUST NOT RIGHT. AND SO, IT MAKES YOU FEEL ANGRY, NOT BECAUSE LIKE AS A BLACK PERSON IN AMERICA, BUT AS A STUDENT WHO’S PAYING TO HAVE AN EDUCATION AT THE SCHOOL."
TEXAS STATE ALUMNA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF PAAC
Students gather around the Fighting Stallions during the March on Clegg, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, at the Quad. STAR FILE PHOTO
Shortly after Trauth’s statement was released, flyers and graffiti were found on campus calling Clegg racist and Trauth an enabler. Some graffiti stated Trauth supported racism and called for her to step down. Mena Yasmine, a freshman at the time who had just joined PAAC and Black Women United, saw the flyer about the march circulating on social media. She says despite not knowing many people within her organizations, she felt compelled to attend and was one of the first people to appear at the Stallions. “I just felt like it was something I had to show up and voice my opinion on,” Yasmine says. “I specifically remember buying these poster boards and, you know, trying to figure out what I was gonna say...I think my sign said, ‘when will this institution serve me too?’” Nahara Franklin, a member of PAAC and Black Women United at the time, says she recalls exactly how the crowd looked. “I remember seeing a majority of the crowd be like students of color, which was really endearing, but also
kind of sad,” Franklin says. “I also remember seeing mostly women, which was also kind of sad, mostly Black women.” Months prior to the march, in November 2017, following the publishing of the column “Your DNA is an Abomination” in The University Star, Clegg released a statement via Texas State Student Government’s official Twitter account calling for either the resignation of The Star’s editorial board or the defunding of the news organization in its entirety. PAAC quickly released a statement demanding the immediate resignation of Clegg for his “record of disregard for Texas State’s Black and Latinx populations,” adding that it stood in solidarity with The Star. “As an organization that concerns itself with concepts of race on campus and the pervasive institutional racism that our community faces, we find Connor Clegg unfit to serve as student body president of such a diverse student population and ask for his immediate resignation,” PAAC says in the statement. PAAC cited Clegg’s silence in addressing Nazi-tied fliers and banners posted around campus in 2017, his prevention in passing legislation to allow for an immigration attorney on campus and his utilization of a veto following the senate’s approval to sign on to an amicus curiae brief filed by the Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund against Senate Bill 4, known as the “show me your papers” law. Emmy Orioha, who was a political science junior and the president of PAAC at the time, says the organization’s central goal was only highlighted by the news of Clegg’s actions. “Our goal was always, how do we institutionally change Texas State so that 20, 30 years from now Texas State is a radically different organization that meets the needs and [is] able to be home for a diverse group of students,” Orioha says. “And when the things happened with Connor Clegg, it just felt like the antithesis of what we wanted for our school, and that’s really why we stepped up in that time because there had to be, to us, a real declaration.” Orioha, who was repelled by Clegg’s attempt to label his past remarks as “locker room talk”, says he had several one-on-one discussions with Clegg to mediate the situation to no avail. “I actually began talking to Connor as early as December (2017) about all of this. I went to his office, I called him, I texted him, had conversations with him, but he just didn’t back down,” Orioha says. “And so I told him, and I think we’ve kind of made it clear, that if you weren’t willing to really recuse everything that you’re doing, then steps had to be taken to remove him.” While chanting “hey, hey, ho, ho, Connor Clegg has got to go”, the group marched through Alkek Library to the LBJ Teaching Theater at 6 p.m. where Student Government hosted an open forum. The group then delivered a petition with more than 1,900 signatures calling for Clegg’s removal. Despite hearing word of a large “silent majority” in support of Clegg, Orioha says he was happy to see the majority of those present were there to protest for Clegg’s removal. “The entire place was completely full. People were standing all around. [There] was probably like just hundreds of students that day,” Orioha says. While Marshall says the march was effective in showing the Student Government and university administration that they built a united front, she believes it was more symbolic than consequential. “I don’t really think much happened after the march. I feel like the march and the protests, like, they were more symbolic just to show like, this is something students care about and we are going to join together to get it done,” Marshall says. After the march, Alissa Guerrero, an international relations senior, and then-Student Government Sen. Claudia Gasponi drafted articles of impeachment against Clegg and submitted them on Feb. 16, 2018, stating he had violated six articles within the Texas State University Constitution. Student protesters attended Clegg’s impeachment hearing on Feb. 27, 2018, in the LBJ Teaching Theater, some with duct tape over their mouths to represent their platform, “silence but not silenced”. However, to the protestors’ dismay, the Student Government Supreme Court unanimously found Clegg not guilty
of any violations. The move sparked outrage among students and led to the #BoycottTXST movement. Gasponi later filed an appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision on March 19, 2018, to then-Dean of Students Margarita Arellano, which was approved on March 28, 2018, placing Clegg’s removal back on the table. The appeal allowed Student Government 10 business days to call a vote. On April 11, 2018, the day of Clegg’s second impeachment trial and a joint session with Student Government and the Graduate House of Representatives, protesters in attendance pointed out a noticeably absent theater. “As they started calling roll, you know, people are starting to get angrier and angrier because we’re realizing they’re not there, what is going on? Like I can’t believe they’re doing this. And then Clegg is sitting there in the front row looking smug as hell, like smug as hell,” Yasmine says. The Student Government failed to meet quorum that day with only 19 of its total 40 members absent, effectively ending the session. “That is when all hell broke loose, and we were kind of just forced to do what we needed to do to fight back, so we were all devastated,” Franklin says. “And then that’s when I jokingly said, I don’t remember who was around me, but maybe we should just stay and not leave, and then someone’s like, ‘Yeah let’s have a sit-in’. Then the word got out and then we all just moved.”
Students held a sit-in on the fourth floor of the LBJ Student Center after the failed impeachment trial of Student Government President Connor Clegg. STAR FILE PHOTO
Professional staff listen to students requests given at protest. STAR FILE PHOTO
After feeling unheard and disrespected, students attending the April 11 Connor Clegg impeachment trial rallied together on the fourth floor of LBJ Student Center and conducted a sit-in. The decision to have the sit-in was a quick team effort among the protesters, led by Robertson, former president of PAAC and University Star columnist. “I remember walking into the auditorium; I grabbed the mic and I said, you know, there was a lot of students who were there specifically for this moment because it’s what we had been building towards, and I remember grabbing the mic and saying we wouldn’t leave the auditorium until Connor Clegg came back,” Robertson says. Robertson felt personally responsible for everyone attending the sit-in as he was the one to start it. He says he felt a lot of pressure in reassuring that nothing
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THE 11% PROJECT CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6 escalated to an uncontrollable point. “I think it was, you know, for some, it was like a moment where it's, like, a lot of good friends and support systems came together but, for others, it was just like being pushed to the edge by the incompetence of our school, you know, like, students shouldn't have to spend the night on like, a hard, cold floor, just to get like, the very basics of [their] education,” Robertson says. On the second day of the sit-in, Yasmine says the group decided to make and give out pamphlets explaining the recent events and why students were occupying LBJ. After conducting meetings and talking among one another, the protesters came to an agreement that they were not only upset because of Clegg’s failed impeachment but also the overall infrastructure of Texas State. The sit-in goers took advantage of their situation by establishing a list of demands for the university to act upon. The students asked Arellano and Trauth to remove Clegg from office, to denounce the Student Government for their inability to represent their constituents and for Texas State to adhere to the needs of their students of color. The students said they would not leave the student center until their demands were met. Yasmine says at first, the university ignored their demands, which discouraged the students. As the sit-in continued, Yasmine says they were treated with more respect by the administration, but only their demands of a timeline were considered. A meeting was arranged with Robertson to discuss what the university could do. “All the people who have, like, control over different aspects of how Texas State runs were there to kind of like, answer questions, but really to just like, show [a] face, you know, at that moment, which was ultimately a waste of time,” Robertson says. After the meeting ended, the students felt defeated. Yasmine says anger finally resonated as Jackie Merritt, Clegg’s vice president, left the building with a police escort, which was presumed to be for her safety when everything got out of hand. “It's even crazy to think how we ended up in that situation but like we were mad that they were basically getting a police escort off school,” Yasmine says. “They were getting a police escort off campus because of a mess or because people were angry because of the mess that their office basically created, and obviously we don't [expletive] with cops. Everything from that point on just escalated.” The group, the police and the vice president entered a parking garage. Yasmine says the reason for them following Merritt was due to the desperation and need for answers. “We're like, we just want them to answer questions,” Yasmine says. “We want them to take responsibility, be held accountable for these things and denounce something, like keep in mind that throughout this process, Denise Trauth never, like, publicly denounced, you know, Clegg’s actions or racism, but she had the audacity to call [the 'Your DNA is an Abomination'] column abhorrent and racist.” Yasmine says the amount of disappointment, unanswered questions and the university's incapability to denounce racism was fuel to the fire. “We all form like this chain blocking, like, the cruiser that was escorting them and one of our friends, he graduated that year, Russell, you could just see, I think there's like a photo album of this whole situation somewhere in the Texas Tribune, somewhere, where you can see like, the emotion like bubbled up inside of him,” Yasmine says. “This emotion was like bubbling up inside him
and he's just like, bloody murder screaming like, ‘I'm tired of this, I'm tired of this,’ basically just screaming like into the void like he was just tired of it, and I can understand. So, we're all crying and we're all blubbering messes just here, just on this chain-link like, ‘no like where are y'all going,’ like we need something, like give us anything, crumbs, like all we're asking for is the bare minimum,” Yasmine says. As they blocked the vice president from leaving, more police arrived and were able to calm the students down and persuade them to leave. Yasmine explains, however, that this led to a bigger situation. “I think after that, one of the cops tries to grab Russell even though we're moving like, you know, the situation has de-escalated and everybody's like leaving, and doing whatever they have to do and then [someone] got grabbed by the officer and started to have a panic attack and it was just a mess,” Yasmine says. Afterward, the sit-in continued. Yasmine says with more donations and resources the sit-in became easier to manage, but the students needed to make a decision on whether to continue. “We started brainstorming on like, you know, what to do now, because it's clear that the administration isn't hearing us, they aren't listening to us, they’re just kind of like, ‘okay, they're going to get tired or whatever,’” Yasmine says. “I think a few months before Howard [University], had just had their sit-in, so we spoke on a call with those student leaders and kind of, you know, wanted to know what they did, because it was so successful for them and we started like, organizing events and things, you know, to make it less stressful.”
"WE STARTED BRAINSTORMING ON LIKE, YOU KNOW, WHAT TO DO NOW, BECAUSE IT'S CLEAR THAT THE ADMINISTRATION ISN'T HEARING US, THEY AREN'T LISTENING TO US, THEY’RE JUST KIND OF LIKE, ‘OKAY, THEY'RE GOING TO GET TIRED OR WHATEVER."
TEXAS STATE ALUMNA On the last day of the protest, students held poetry slams and allowed one another to take breaks. That same day, a timeline was released from the administration laying out the demands they would attempt to meet which, to Robertson, was a success. “All of our demands from the sit-in [were met] and that's something that I have to remind myself is that that was the only sit-in in Texas State history that was successful,” Robertson says. “I think maybe one of the only successful student protests in history, the last time they did a sit-in at Texas State, all of the students got expelled. So, it was a big deal that we basically did have them kind of on the ropes in the sense of like, basically, within the first two days of our sit-in, all of our demands were met.” After the timeline was released, the students decided to end the sit-in by a majority vote on April 13. “I think because mostly everyone was tired, it was finals, getting [close] to finals times, it was the end of the year...So, we took a vote and in the end, we voted
to leave,” Yasmine says. While the university met the group’s demands, Robertson says feelings of frustration toward Student Government and the university administration still lingered. “It was raining that night, which, you know, only put salt in the wound,” Robertson says. “Not only are a lot of students frustrated, at this point, nobody actually feels good...in a way we kinda won but this moment was like very, very bittersweet, much more bitter than sweet.” Just three days after the end of the protest, Clegg was impeached and removed from office during a joint session between the Student Government Senate and the Graduate House of Representatives. “I think the [impeachment] rejuvenated, you know, a lot of the students who were worried that they had, you know, come to show support in the sit-in [for] ultimately nothing...Connor Clegg was a big rallying point that students could make a symbol [to represent the feelings toward racism at Texas State],” Robertson says. “When he was impeached, even though the [Student Government] manipulated it in a very political way, a lot of people were able to sort of feel good about that moment...a lot of just like students of color, Black and brown students, were all very happy about that moment.” However, a month later in May 2018, right before semester finals, four protestors who had altercations with UPD while in the parking garage on April 12 were arrested and charged with Class B Misdemeanors of Obstruction of Highway and Interference with Public Duties. “Basically, I'm wondering, are they coming for me next? [One of the students was] my best friend at the time. I'm like, ‘Oh [expletive] gotta go get [them] out of jail.’ So, we look up their charges when they're booked and you know, and inside the jail and it's for obstructing a highway…turns out that what happened in the parking garage was grounds enough for arrest and they decided to wait so as not to get everybody riled up again. Instead of doing it that day in the parking garage, they wanted to wait until literally like a couple of days before finals,” Yasmine says. The money from the sit-in’s GoFundMe was enough to cover each person’s bail, but Yasmine says the arrests coming weeks after the incident angered her. “We went on to the end of the school year, I moved out of my dorm,” Yasmine says. “A bunch of people still were uncomfortable on campus because of what happened with the arrest and we went into the summer into a haze, like in a haze, basically.” Robertson says the battles students have to fight on campus take away from the personal good they could be doing for students. “The Connor Clegg [situation] really drew us into like a combat, like into a more combative mode, that I think ultimately took away a lot of the energy that we might have been able to spend directly helping students of color,” Robertson says. “It was a good moment for people to see but, I don't know, I think we had done so much leading up to that. It is a little bit disappointing that it's like, that is the big event that we left with, you know, when there were so many positive things that had happened.” Robertson says students have more power than they are aware of and can use it to make important changes. “I want students to see the things that we accomplished and understand that it was the students who did that. It was first-generation students, it was bilingual students, it was immigrant students, it was undocumented students, it was trans students, it was, you know, at large, it was Black women who really were a part of these movements, at least consistently,” Robertson says. “So, it was all the people who are,
Student Government President Connor Clegg leaves the LBJ Teaching Theater after he was found guilty at his impeachment trial, Monday, April 16, 2018, at Texas State. STAR FILE PHOTO
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The University Star
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THE 11% PROJECT CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7
Students gather near the Quad, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at Texas State. Hundreds of students went to the area after four students were arrested on campus after a political dispute. STAR FILE PHOTO
University Police Department officers make one of four arrests, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, near the Evans Liberal Arts Building following an altercation with protesters who gathered in anticipation of the arrival of the Texas Nomads SAR, a group that announced via social media it was coming to campus to hold a demonstration in opposition to Student Government’s proposed TPUSA ban. STAR FILE PHOTO
you know, taking on some of the full force of that oppressive system but we, you know, pushed and were able to make a difference and force them to, because in the same way, they rely on us, you know, for our money, and for a lot of things.”
"I WANT STUDENTS TO SEE THE THINGS THAT WE ACCOMPLISHED AND UNDERSTAND THAT IT WAS THE STUDENTS WHO DID THAT. IT WAS FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS, IT WAS BILINGUAL STUDENTS, IT WAS IMMIGRANT STUDENTS, IT WAS UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS, IT WAS TRANS STUDENTS, IT WAS, YOU KNOW, AT LARGE, IT WAS BLACK WOMEN WHO REALLY WERE A PART OF THESE MOVEMENTS, AT LEAST CONSISTENTLY."
FORMER PRESIDENT OF PAAC
During the 2019 spring semester, the Texas Nomads SAR, an outside political organization that students associated with white supremacy, announced it was planning to visit Texas State's campus. The decision to visit Texas State, the group says, was in defense of Texas State’s conservative student group, Turning Point USA (TPUSA), after the Student Government proposed and passed a resolution to ban TPUSA from campus. As rumors erupted, students planned to protest the group’s arrival. After hearing about the student protest, the Texas Nomads decided to call off its planned visit to avoid possible conflicts. Despite the group never arriving on campus, students from different sides of the political spectrum got into a dispute. Four students of color were arrested — one of whom was previously arrested the year before. Camara Burleson, now a psychology senior, was unaware of the situation as she was leaving her class and just saw the Quad filled with students. “When I came out of class, I just remember everyone being around the police station standing around and [everyone] was yelling and stuff; the news was there I think. It was just like, ‘What’s going on, what’s happening,’ then you find out one of your friends got arrested,” Burleson says. Destiny Whitaker, a Texas State alumna, recalls many people talking about the protest days before it happened and that people had skipped class to attend it. She waited until her classes ended to go to the protest and, by the time she arrived, the Quad was flooded with people.
Students sit near the University Police Department building, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at Texas State. Hundreds of students went to the area after four students were arrested on campus. PHOTO BY JADEN EDISON
Students listen to statements from student activists, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at Texas State. Hundreds of students went to the area after four students were arrested on campus. PHOTO BY JADEN EDISON
“I went to class and then I came out, and I tried to meet my friends by the police department because that’s where everything was happening, and it was literally like that meme where the guy goes out and, like, he can’t find anybody, because that’s what it was. The whole place was so crowded and they were like, ‘So and so went to jail,' 'This person punched this person,' it was literally crazy,” Whitaker says. Corey Benbow, former Student Government president who was sworn in just weeks prior, heard about the protest and knew beforehand that students planned to protest against the Texas Nomads. But he did not expect what would happen that day. “When we get down there, the scene for me is very chaotic because there's a large crowd of students, everybody is saying a lot of different things, everybody's having encounters with the police. Of course, at this point, you see all these administrators down there... it was just kind of this mix of all kinds of things that were going on. So, the [police] chief wasn't there yet and then I saw, you know, all these state troopers and all these police officers and my mindset at that point is that I'm just kind of an observer. But, as the situation got more intense, and people started, you know, kind of really getting riled up, I thought to myself, 'nothing good can come from this situation,'” Benbow says. Benbow attempted to calm the crowd out of fear the situation would escalate and result in more student arrests. “That day...I was in a very vulnerable spot, and I took a calculated risk of asking the crowd to calm down, disperse, and to say that nothing good can come from this because I feared that they were going to send more police as the crowd continued to increase and I thought, you know, this just wasn't going to be a good
Mena Yasmine reacts emotionally after a student arrest, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, near the Evans Liberal Arts Building at Texas State. STAR FILE PHOTO
thing,” Benbow says. Burleson says the arrests confused her, considering the Texas Nomads never came to campus. "It was just like a lot of misinformation going around and for them to not even be there I was trying to figure out, like, ‘why did an altercation break out with the police against the students?'" Burleson says. “The little jail on campus, that’s where they were holding them, and we were basically, like, getting news from people inside. It was like, ‘They’re waiting to process them’ and, ‘They might get a charge, they might not,’ ‘We don’t know how long they’re staying,’...it was just a bunch of miscommunication and misinformation going on and around that whole day.” Turning to social media as an outlet, students kept one another updated on the situation, but Whitaker says not hearing from UPD bothered her. “There was a whole bunch of misinformation then the buzz started with the students and then it moved to Twitter and people are talking about it and it's just like everywhere,” Whitaker says. “That day it was just like a whole bunch of people talking; no one really knows the truth and the police have a platform to let people know what’s going on. UPD is on Twitter, they send out alerts and they weren’t even making an effort to make things clear either, it was just really shady, the whole situation was just really shady.” Whitaker believes UPD used the situation as an opportunity to attack outspoken student activists. Police Chief Laurie Clouse, however, would later put out a statement that says "the incident that led to the arrests began when one student took a hat off another student’s head and fled." "Police officers quickly interceded and directed the student to drop the stolen property. The student refused multiple directives and was then detained with the intention of being given a ticket for theft. The student was later arrested after providing a false identity to the police," Clouse says in the statement. Clouse says a student ran to the officers during the situation and "began to interfere." "After refusing to comply with the officers’ directions, this student was arrested for interference with public duties,” Clouse says in the statement. “When the students were escorted into the police department, other students followed and one additional student was arrested in the police department lobby for interference. A fourth student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct outside the police department." The four students were soon transferred to the Hays County Jail and charged. Gasponi, one of the students arrested, says they were detained because they were looking out for the others arrested. Gasponi believes the students were targeted and questions why no white students, who were also involved in the dispute, were arrested. "I know [the other three students arrested are] really smart...And I know that they know how to interact with police officers in a way that doesn't compromise their safety. So seeing them being arrested was really scary for me," Gasponi says. Gasponi says three of the students arrested were placed in the same cell and comforted one another. The three worried about the fourth student, who was placed in another cell. "The majority of the conversations weren't about what's going to happen [but rather] 'let's enjoy.' Let's enjoy each other's company. Because that's all that we have," Gasponi says. "We braided each other's hair, we let each other use our body for warmth; we shared the ends of our blankets so our feet would be warm...We
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THE 11% PROJECT CONTINUED FROM PAGE 8 all knew that no matter what information we shared, talking about our charges was just too overwhelming to do so in a way that felt comfortable." After the events on the Quad, Benbow started to question his role as Student Government president and as a Black student. “After that, it was really a hard time because some of them were saying this about me, ‘All skin folk ain't kinfolk,’ and then to the point where even one of them called me a coon,” Benbow says. “So, those were kind of the experiences that I was having, but I still was steadfast in my determination to try to make something meaningful come from this. So, I took it upon myself to kind of talk to the administration about the protest that happened on May 1, about their response to the protest.” Benbow says the actions that took place on May 1 are similar to how the university continues to mistreat its Black and brown students. Another overnight sit-in took place on May 2, 2019, with students drafting a list of four demands: Allow the Dean of Students to handle student conduct issues rather than UPD, mandatory sensitivity training for officers, a cultural diversity requirement for the core curriculum and the creation of a campus workforce by Student Government to protect workers' rights. Benbow also wrote a letter to Trauth on May 6, 2019, describing his worries about Texas State’s future and the university's response to the protest. He asked Trauth to publicly apologize “for not being proactive in addressing racial issues in our community.” “I think that the appetite of the administration to listen to students at that point, there was none. They had already labeled Black students as troublemakers and protesters and somewhere in me, I feel like the administration feels like they gave too much from the last sit-in and they didn't have the appetite to do it this time,” Benbow says. “I do think that even though we can't quantitate what came out of that particular sitin and that protest, I do think that all of this kind of noise and stuff has moved us further along than where we were two years ago. The changes are small, and so that makes them seem less significant. But I do think that the university administration is slowly but surely waking up.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Texas State student Malina Sutton sheds tears as she reads off the names of Black lives lost in recent years to police brutality, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at the Hays County Historic Courthouse. PHOTO BY JADEN EDISON
(Left to right) Desyre Collier and Allie Lawrence sit and listen, Friday, June 12, 2020, outside of the Hays County Historic Courthouse at an organized rally hosted by Black Lives Matter San Marcos. STAR FILE PHOTO
Following the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Texas State and San Marcos communities rallied for justice across the nation and for the university to take action to create a more inclusive environment. On May 29, 2020, the first of several major protests took place in San Marcos. Led by Diereck Montes and Tyeronta Norman, the protest in San Marcos encapsulated the outcries against police brutality across the nation. “Black Lives Matter has always been a thing since Trayvon Martin,” Norman says. “But, when [the murders of ] George Floyd and Breonna Taylor happened, that was just too much. That was basically the straw breaking the camel’s back. I definitely saw the impact of not just protests locally and in the state of the person that died, but literally all across the nation, all across the country. It was a global impact like literally, the world stopped.” Norman says the organization for the first protest did not take much time at all — the motivation and drive facilitated the process, and the assurance of safety propelled it forward. “It took us maybe half a day [to organize the protest],” Norman says. “We called the public officials of San Marcos. We talked to attorneys and everything to make sure that you know, if anything happens, everybody will be safe.” With a history of race issues on campus, the Texas State community had a moment to come together as one throughout the Black Lives Matter protests.
Norman feels that the community bonded by protesting for something larger than itself and creating a space she can call home. “I saw everybody come together, regardless of whether they were like Black, or white or Hispanic or anything. I saw people come together and literally protect each other and make each other feel like we're a family,” Norman says. “It was just a lot of like humanitarian things that I saw throughout that day that made me feel like you know, Texas State is somewhere that I could call home, somewhere where I know there are people that actually care in my community.”
"I SAW EVERYBODY COME TOGETHER, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY WERE LIKE BLACK, OR WHITE OR HISPANIC OR ANYTHING. I SAW PEOPLE COME TOGETHER AND LITERALLY PROTECT EACH OTHER AND MAKE EACH OTHER FEEL LIKE WE'RE A FAMILY."
-TYERONTA NORMAN, POLITICAL SCIENCE JUNIOR
Charnae Brown, a social work senior, participated in several key protests in San Marcos, rallying at the courthouse and the San Marcos Police Department building. In total, Brown attended over 15 protests across Austin and San Marcos. “I remember coming straight back to Texas from a vacation in Colorado with my brother, and when we came back, I went straight into protesting about two days later,” Brown says. “I began to notice that the rest of the world was sort of watching us, too. And, arguably, the rest of the world was contributing to our protesting and trying to shed light because we began to see protests erupting, not just across America, but also in different places like London.” Brown says bringing awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement on such a hyperlocal scale made her feel the most empowered she had ever felt. “This is during the time that [Austin Police Department] was shooting at protesters. I was in the crowd as people were being shot at, and it was terrifying, you know, but at the same time, like I said, it was very empowering because it was a moment of selflessness, where I realized I was here because this was bigger than me,” Brown says. Statistically, Black people have a higher chance of being murdered at the hands of police. Protesters across the nation called for the defunding of police departments and the reallocation of those funds to other useful programs, such as education and mental health. “UPD were going to build a whole other police station for like $3 million,” Norman says. “That’s ridiculous to me because y’all can’t even arrest students right. Why do you need $3 million for a new station when your station is right there? And when we went to go protest, they didn’t want to talk to me. They locked the doors and everything. I just think that the money that they’re using it for is not to help the greater good. It’s for personal gain for the police officers. And I don’t like that. We’re the ones technically paying for it.” The university, however, says converting the UPD building into the Academic Testing Center and constructing a new building for UPD is included in the university’s master plan, which was approved in 2017. “It provides the most fiscally responsible solution to better deliver student services,” says Jayme Blaschke, Texas State’s senior media relations manager. Trauth responded to the protests across Austin and San Marcos, stating that Black lives do matter — a statement that is “not debatable at Texas State.” Trauth’s statement came after Justin Howell, a Texas State student, was shot by police at an Austin protest. For Norman, the messaging was not enough. “[Texas State] only addressed it for real one time,” Norman says. “And it was because one of our students at our school got injured during a Black Lives Matter protest. And that was literally just the president, we didn’t really get any Black Lives Matter anything. The only time I really saw them posting something was literally organizations at our school. I haven’t gotten any VPSA emails that they send every damn day. Why is it an issue to post something about it? Why is it so hard? Why do you have to go through a protocol to post something simple as hell? But they still have time to post something for Christmas. For 9/11.” But Norman says the impact of the protests outweighs what she feels was a lackluster university response. “I think [the protests] will have a big impact long term. I definitely know we’re going to be in history,” Norman says.
Through a racial reckoning where institutions across the country are being held accountable for systemic issues that have disregarded the needs of Black communities, Black students at Texas State continue to advocate for lasting change across campus. Students opened the Multicultural Lounge in 2017, a safe space for students located in the Honors College, along with the Black Student Resource Library. Texas
State launched its long-awaited African American studies minor in fall 2019, a key piece to protesters’ demands in previous years. “I never left a meeting with President Trauth or the Provost [Gene Bourgeois] feeling included. I never felt listened to, I never felt like, even at the end of the sit-in and after we left that meeting, that didn't feel good,” Robertson says. “You could call it a successful movement or whatever; it didn't feel good.” Robertson says a lot of students left their activism efforts with a lot of “mental baggage” that resulted from disputes with Texas State and university police — a reality he says is a “shame.” Following nation-wide protests against racism after the killing of Floyd, Texas State began executing a series of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts — listening sessions, the creation of task forces, planning to rename campus buildings/streets after Black and Latinx figures, a partnership with a restorative justice organization and a change in Trauth’s messaging. “In retrospect, you know, as I look at the messages, and my messaging really started in 2016, it was probably not strong enough,” Trauth says. “If I were to do it again, if I was to go back to 2016 and write my messages, I would probably use some different language. Because what has become very clear to me is that those words, ‘we denounce white supremacy,’ those are the words that need to be said.” Trauth says she disagrees with the sentiment that the university’s recent efforts are performative and do not address the systemic issues present at Texas State. She says the university’s changes have, culturally, made it “a better place.”
"IN RETROSPECT, YOU KNOW, AS I LOOK AT THE MESSAGES, AND MY MESSAGING REALLY STARTED IN 2016, IT WAS PROBABLY NOT STRONG ENOUGH. IF I WERE TO DO IT AGAIN, IF I WAS TO GO BACK TO 2016 AND WRITE MY MESSAGES, I WOULD PROBABLY USE SOME DIFFERENT LANGUAGE. BECAUSE WHAT HAS BECOME VERY CLEAR TO ME IS THAT THOSE WORDS, ‘WE DENOUNCE WHITE SUPREMACY,’ THOSE ARE THE WORDS THAT NEED TO BE SAID."
TEXAS STATE PRESIDENT “I don't think [our actions are] one offs or band aids; I think that they are authentic changes,” Trauth says. “I think the reorganization that we did for our diversity, equity and inclusion staff and faculty is authentic and, it will, it is already resulting in real change, because one of the things that's happening coming out of that, for example, is an increasing emphasis on the recruitment of underrepresented faculty, but with the real tools that our departments need to recruit more underrepresented faculty.” There are still students and alumni dealing with the aftermath of the events that resulted in student arrests. Part of their frustration is a perceived lack of institutional support from Texas State. Others, like Robertson, feel as if students arrested in previous years were targeted by the university administration. Trauth says when a student is arrested, “that takes it out of the hands of the university.” “If it's inside the university, if it's a violation of university policy, that's different,” Trauth says. “But if a student is arrested, I have never intervened. And it's not because I don't care. It's because it's just simply not appropriate for the president of a university to intervene in an arrest.” Student Government senators passed a resolution on Feb. 22, nearly three years later, to overturn the impeachment of Clegg. The resolution surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas State’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and a recordbreaking winter storm which left students without power and water. “We are proud that after years of an illegitimate, violently achieved impeachment of the former student body president our student body has finally been heard,” College Republicans, some of whom are Student Government senators, wrote in a letter to The Star. But Robertson says Clegg’s impeachment was only an example of what students are capable of when they unite for a bigger purpose. Not the “most important thing we accomplished.” “Why would that even be worth pursuing at this point? But regardless, it's like, it's more just proof that Texas State continues to...racism continues at Texas State as an institution,” Robertson says. “Whether that flows through the [Student Government] or whether that flows through just what's happening on campus, and how students of color are affected, in their, you know, daily lives and their educational lives. That's something that is definitely alive.”
10 | Tuesday, March 9, 2021
The University Star