Gregory Plaza

Students, faculty and members of the community gathered at the candlelight vigil organized by the Nepali Students Association on Wednesday night.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The Nepali Students Association held a vigil Wednesday night at Gregory Plaza to express solidarity with those suffering in Nepal after the recent earthquake. 

Students gathered to remember the thousands who died Saturday in the devastating earthquake that hit Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, and surrounding regions.

The program began with the Nepali national anthem, and numerous candles lit up the steps leading into Gregory Gymnasium. Professors and students shared personal stories of their experiences during the earthquake, including engineering senior Santona Pandey, who was in Nepal at the time.

“It still feels like a nightmare,” Pandey said. “I rushed down from the fourth floor to save myself, but I realized that I could never make it. I stayed back, clinging to the door frame.”

Pandey said, as she reflects on the earthquake’s damage, what hurts the most is the constant reminder of her survival while countless others died beneath the debris of towns that no longer exist.

“I’m saved, my family is saved, but I’m not happy because thousands of people are still dying,” Pandey said.

Snehal Shingavi, an English assistant professor who was involved in aiding the Haiti earthquake victims in 2010, said Nepal can either rise from this tragedy by fixing economic problems that increased the gravity of the damage or fall into a trap leaders seeking to exploit the situation set.

“This has the potential of becoming an even worse disaster if the social conditions in Nepal allow this sort of suffering to continue,” Shingavi said. “The process of this becoming something hopeful depends on people caring about what happens in Nepal for at least another year.”

Niranjan Kc, biology junior and president of Nepali Students Association, said he has faith that current relief efforts will have a lasting positive effect on the people of Nepal.

“Even though this disaster is happening, we are staying united; we’re doing what we can,” Kc said. “We will rise out of this. This will bring a social change in Nepal. I hope that it’s for the good.”

Heather Hindman, an Asian studies and anthropology associate professor who has done extensive research on Nepal, said the earthquake can be a defining moment for the small, yet resilient nation.

“I’ve seen neighbors come together and say, ‘Hey, we need a car to drive out to Sankhu to see if we can rescue anybody,’” Hindman said. “The entire country of Nepal is mobilized right now. … It’s the youth that will turn this phenomenon into a tragedy — but not a disaster.”

Accounting sophomore Diane Wu Chiang signs a giant “thank you” card during UT’s Thanks Day on Thursday afternoon. The annual event allows students to show their gratitude to the University’s many financial donors.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Students signed whiteboards on Gregory Plaza thanking the University’s donors as part of the University Development Office’s fifth annual Thanks Day on Thursday.

Marsha Reardon, the student philanthropy and special campaigns coordinator who organized the event, said Thanks Day was created in 2010 to educate students about the significance of donations to the University’s budget. 

“The main idea is for students to say thanks to who makes school happen,” Reardon said. “They can learn that tuition and fees only pay for less than half of what the school needs, and, without donors and other sources, the school would have to close in November.” 

According to Reardon, activities organized for Thanks Day included writing “Thank You” cards to donors. The day ended with a celebration in front of the UT Tower, complete with fireworks to recognize the success of The Campaign for Texas, the University’s eight-year, $3 billion fundraising campaign that ended in August. 

“At the end of Thanks Day, we want to celebrate this by showing our donors the gratefulness of the students,” Reardon said.

Reardon said colleges, athletic units and various organizations also contribute to the event. 

“My signature course encouraged me to volunteer for the event,” said Kayla Marks, speech pathology freshman. “And I have noticed that a great goal for Thanks Day is to form a mutual appreciation for students, campus and faculty.” 

In addition to the activities offered on Gregory Plaza, Reardon said students also had the opportunity to get involved in the event by posting on social media using #UTTHANKSDAY and posting their stories online. 

“These activities have left an impact in the community,” Reardon said. “Students become more aware of how their school keeps on going and also realize the impact they are creating.”

According to Reardon, there has been an increase in young alumni donors since the first Thanks Day.

“Students are not the only ones who are participating,” economics freshman Shelby Gaylor said. “Teachers also come and participate, which, for me, shows the event is serving its purpose.”

Civil engineer freshman Rachel Piner (right) shop for clothes with her friends communication junior Millie Negron (middle) and corporate communication freshman Alexandra Gonzalez (left) at the Campus Environmental Center’s Trash to Treasure sale. Students could buy items ranging from clothes to kitchenware at a dollar an item or five dollars to fill a bag up.  

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

As part of a week of environmental awareness events centered around Earth Day, environmental student organizations and University departments hosted a carnival on Gregory Plaza on Tuesday to inform students about environmentally-conscious policies and sustainability efforts at UT.

According to biomedical engineering sophomore Sharmistha Maity, the festival focused on outreach and featured the collaboration of various student environmental organizations and University offices. Maity, a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World, said the organizations started collaborating in February.

“The whole concept of sustainability … everyone knows about it generally, but I really wanted to have a way to reach out to them, so they understand how they can make an impact on campus,” Maity said. “When people walk by, they’ll learn a lot of facts about sustainability and what’s happening on campus, and they’re more likely to have actions about it, like recycle more and use less water.”

During the festival, each organization had a booth focused on different aspects of the environment.

“For Engineers for a Sustainable World, we decided to create a trivia [game], so we would have people come by and they would answer questions about water, waste, energy and sustainability at UT,” Maity said. “They would participate and then get free fruit for participating, and if they won they would get a free shirt.”

Biology freshman Clara Dawson said she didn’t know it was Earth Day, but she enjoyed learning about water conservation and other green efforts at each booth.

“I actually picked up this vegan diet [flier] because I’m interested in healthy eating,” Dawson said. “You learn a lot about what goes on at UT.”

Emily Mixon, plan II senior and director of the Campus Environmental Center, said her favorite part about Earth Day was working on outreach efforts with the community.

“I just think it’s really great to see people’s faces when they realize it’s Earth Day, and you see people walking across campus who have no idea it’s Earth Day and just getting to go out and talk to them about how they can make a difference,” Mixon said.

Mixon said people can easily help the environment every day of the year — not just on Earth Day.

“UT is actually pretty green, so just doing your part by recycling on campus, taking shorter showers, using the water bottle fillers instead of buying your Dasani water — there’s a lot of little steps you can take, and I think finding a way that works for you is easy for most people,” Mixon said.

PETA's youth division demonstrates to students how animals are kept in factory farms by displaying graphic pictures and descriptions outside of Gregory Gym on Monday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Toussaint | Daily Texan Staff

On Monday, peta2, the youth division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, set up a tent in Gregory Plaza that exhibits the treatment of animals in factory farms in an attempt to persuade students to take action against animal cruelty.

The tent, which is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, contains graphic pictures and descriptions of the ways animals are treated, leading up to their slaughter. The tent was organized by peta2 but was partly staffed by members of Students Against Cruelty to Animals, a UT student organization. Volunteers outside the booth asked students walking by to view the exhibit, offering free food and merchandise to those who entered. 

The walkthrough ends with a video called “Glass Walls” — narrated by Sir Paul McCartney — which highlights the type of violence that is inflicted in the farms. In the video, McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, then everyone would be a vegetarian.”

Psychology freshman Autumn Rodriguez said she felt pressured by those running the exhibit to change her diet but couldn’t see herself becoming a vegetarian.

“I think they obviously are trying to push us to be vegetarian or vegan, but not everyone wants to do that,” Rodriguez said. “They are very passionate.”

According to PETA’s website, the organization has 3 million members and supporters worldwide. It focuses on factory farms, the clothing trade, animal testing laboratories and the entertainment industry.

Retail merchandising sophomore Denise Chavez said she has attempted to stop eating factory-farmed foods, but finds it challenging as a college student who requires cheaper options. 

“I knew it was going to be about animal cruelty,” Chavez said. “It’s really sad, and I kind of wanted to leave immediately. It was hard to see.”

Kenneth Montville, the college campaign coordinator for peta2, said the purpose of the exhibit is to pull back the curtain on the way factory farming treats animals. Montville claimed students are usually horrified by what they see.

“It’s that kind of cruelty that students don’t want to support, and, with all the vegan options popping up on college campuses all around the country, they usually don’t have to.” Montville said.

According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme, food demand will outgrow sustainable production by 2050. Montville said he believes factory farming is a top contributor to environmental degradation, and, consequently, animal rights and human rights are closely linked.

Alex Bean, a member of Students Against Cruelty to Animals and a cell and molecular biology graduate student, said he has been a vegan for years. Bean said he does not believe humans need to eat meat, regardless of how well the animals are treated.

“Ethically, I can’t support breeding [and] then killing these animals when we have so many amazing alternatives. We just don’t need to,” Bean said. “[Better treatment] is good, but that should just be a step toward not needing them.”

Say the word “free” and every college student will come running, which is exactly what they did at Healthyhorns Fest, hosted by University Health Services at Gregory Plaza on Wednesday .

Free apples, hand sanitizer, T-shirts, pocket first aid kits and water bottles were easy to snag but the most popular booth was Sex Trivia, where students received free condoms upon answering questions correctly.

University Health Services provided students with a lot of information on how to stay healthy, said Susan Hochman, assistant director for public information and health promotion. 

The information included high-risk drinking prevention, their new “nap map” to show students the best places to sleep around campus and their flu shot campaign that starts Sept. 24 . 

“University Health Services is here to prevent health-related issues from becoming a barrier in students’ academic performance,” Hochman said.

After conducting surveys, UHS discovered that the main reasons students suffer negative academic impact are colds, the flu and sore throat.

“The goal is for students to get to know the types of services that UHS offers, to know all the partners in health on campus and also maybe to learn something that will help them stay healthier and have a little fun,” said Sherry Bell, consumer education and outreach coordinator for University Health Services.

Students also demonstrated yoga, fencing and ballroom dancing on the steps of Gregory, and UTPD held a session.

The three UHS student volunteer programs — the clinic volunteer program, student health advisory committee and Healthyhorns peer educators — were some of the 100 volunteers who helped at the festival. 

Government junior Kevin Alcantar was an alcohol peer mentor last semester and is now a part of the revamped Healthyhorns peer educators program that allows students to get course credit and develop public health leadership skills.

“I had some family members who had trouble with alcohol and was personally motivated to educate as many students about the negative impacts alcohol can have in your life if you don’t have it under control,” Alcantar said.

Alcantar volunteered at various booths, similarly to other students in the program. Alcantar assisted at the Love Your Body  booth to encourage students to focus positively on themselves in addition to helping other tables at the fair.

The Student Health Advisory Committee also asked students if they felt like UHS would be successful doing dental care. The results from questions such as this are sent to UHS to give them feedback.

“It makes the relationship between health care and students closer,” health promotion senior Meredith Labrasca said. 

Labrasca said she was happy with the heavy traffic at the event and that it allowed organizations to get the publicity they deserve. 

This is the second year the Healthyhorns Fest has been at Gregory Plaza. 

English freshman Arati Warrier and economics sophomore Mitali Sathaye perform the “Liquid Dance” from "Slumdog Millionaire," representing Nritya Sangam as part of Global Village. The event promoted cultural awareness, with student tents representing different countries.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Tents representing countries lined the Gregory Plaza Wednesday at an event called Global Village to encourage students to find internships abroad and promote cultural identity.

The event, hosted by the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, consisted of tents representing different countries current students in the program traveled to, such as Nigeria, Italy and Egypt. The tents also provided information on the culture in the respective countries and food samples.

“We want to promote cultural awareness and show UT students the different opportunities they have for studying abroad,” computer science sophomore Cindy Jaimez said. “UT is diverse and in order to be culturally aware and to get along with them we need to understand them.”

The association offers multiple types of internships, including the Global Internship Program, which ranges from six to 18 months and come with a stipend. The association also offers the Global Community Development Program, which lasts six to 12 weeks and deals with a specific issue in the community where the student is placed.

Students who worked abroad with the association were available to answer questions about the program and tell stories of their experience. 

“I wanted to immerse myself in another culture and new experience,” psychology senior Kelsey Stewart said. “During my internship I was able to be a part of the AIESEC chapter in Nigeria, which was very receptive, and be in a program where English was spoken while exploring areas of health in Africa.” 

Stewart said the event helped showcase how studying abroad broadens perspectives and said the event helps in informing people about varying cultures. 

In addition to the booths representing a variety of countries, a free concert followed the event with music from the Arab Students Association and Atash, a Persian band, along with other groups. 

Biology freshman Kari Yanez said the event helped her obtain more information for her future plans to study abroad. 

“Events like this are very helpful, educational and informative,” Yanez said. “I don’t have to go out of my way to get information on something I hope to do as early as my junior year.”

This article was edited for accuracy after its original posting. The Global Internship Program ranges from six to 18 months, while the Global Community Development Program ranges from six to 12 weeks. Also, students in the program work abroad.

Members of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity march toward Gregory Plaza as they carry a hand-painted poster of the 1916 Mexican flag.The fraternity was one of several organizations that took part in the Dia de la Bandera festival, which celebrated the history of Mexico’s national flag. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Students marched and cheered through campus in celebration of Mexico’s Dia de la Bandera, or Day of the Flag, on Tuesday. 

Established as a holiday in Mexico in 1937, the day commemorates a pledge to the Mexican flag. 

The Mexican American Culture Committee organized the event, which began with a parade from the Cesar Chavez statue in the West Mall, and led to a social at Gregory Plaza filled with Mexican music and history. 

“The purpose of the event is to show our cultural pride and heritage,” said Yadira Ramos Luna, Latin American studies senior and chairwoman of the committee.

Luna said the event is the first Dia de la Bandera commemoration the committee has organized. 

Several groups collaborated with the committee to create the event, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority and other greek organizations.

Each group arrived at the Chavez statue with its own hand-painted replicas of flags from Mexico’s history. Music and cheering accompanied the parade as the flags were carried in chronological order from oldest to newest, representing 10 flags across 147 years of Mexico’s history.

Nancy Gonzalez, budget and assessment officer for the committee, said showing the evolution of Mexico’s flag reminded Mexican citizens of what they have accomplished as a nation. 

“I think it’s important to think about what countries ruled over us and how we came about to what we are now,” Gonzalez said. “Each flag signifies a different time period and what the people fought for during that time.”

Once in the plaza, the flags were taken to separate tables, each with descriptions of the flags’ histories, along with drinks and chips drenched in Valentina Hot Sauce.

Beyond the parade, the activities in Gregory Plaza included a student singer from Sigma Lamda Gamma, the observance of the Mexican National Anthem and a performance by a mariachi band, Mariachi Relampago.

“It’s a really big holiday in Mexico,” history sophomore Carlos Martinez said.

Martinez said he believes the occasion is an opportunity to bring a well-known Mexican festivity to the larger UT community.

“[The point of the event is] to bring to the general population of UT a little sense of the ceremonies that we usually have in Mexico,” Martinez said. “We try to bring a little bit of Mexico to campus.” 

Published on February 27, 2013 as "Celebrating the flag".

UT study abroad programs are wide-ranging but expensive, and students looking to travel afar should consider other options.

By participating in a faculty-led program, such as “Theater in Italy,” “Language, Culture, Biology and Engineering in Santander, Spain” and about 20 others, credit is guaranteed, but so are huge fees. The program is laid out for you, and so are your accommodations and weekend trips. The only thing you do yourself is book your flight and get your visa. Where’s the experience in that? It’s really not so different from a summer camp you attended back in high school, except for the price.

 There are also exchange programs and affiliate programs which place students at foreign universities, where they study alongside foreign students and are taught by foreign professors. If you participate in an exchange, you pay the normal fees at UT as well as travel and living costs. Sounds reasonable. However, by choosing this option you run the risk of not getting credit for all the courses you might want to take abroad and end up having to prolong your studies.

So, here’s a third option: Do it yourself! It might take up some more time and it might involve filling out some more forms, but it might actually involve a real, unique experience and save you a lot of money.

I study English and Portuguese, and, if I were not on an exchange at UT-Austin myself, I might want to go abroad to Portugal or Brazil to improve my Portuguese. Wandering around the Study Abroad Fair sponsored by UT’s International Office on Gregory Plaza last week, I came across the following offer: a faculty-led summer program in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Credits earned: six. Estimated cost: around $9000. Includes: application fee ($50), affiliated studies fee ($400), program fee ($4550), books and materials ($350), food ($100), airfare ($1,600), local transportation ($200), personal items ($210), medical insurance ($114), passport ($135), visa ($270) and emergency funds ($500).

Here are two alternatives. The first one is for a 6-week summer experience in Portugal at the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe. The course takes place in June and July, and you’d have 20 hours of class per week for four weeks. Let’s calculate what that would cost you: You need a flight ($1,500), there is a program fee (about $600), you need to live somewhere ($1,000 is a very generous budget for that), you need to eat (plan $500) and you need insurance ($120). That sums up to $3,720. You don’t need a visa. Local transportation is cheap — for seven dollars you can go to the coast (a one hour train ride) and back. Even if you travel on all your weekends and need lots of so-called “personal items,” you will have a hard time trying to even get close to the $9,000 of the Salvador de Bahia program.

You insist on going to Brazil? Go to Rio de Janeiro. Take a six-week language course at the Casa Do Caminho Language School (about $750, materials included), a school that has been recommended to me by people who have been there. Add a flight ($1,600), visa ($270) and insurance ($120). The school can organize a home-stay for you (around $1,000), or you opt for a hostel (also around $1,000). Let’s add that all up: $3,740. Again, you would have to travel a lot to get close to UT’s $9,000 fee. By the way, the school also offers various organized trips for very little money. Oh, and did I mention that 70 percent of your course fees will help to finance the orphanage of Casa do Caminho?

Besides organizing the trip itself, you also have to make sure that you will get credit for it, which is possible. A representative at last week’s Study Abroad Fair on Gregory Plaza told me, “Say you travel to Lisbon or to Rio and participate in a course there [where you would be speaking Portuguese].” You wouldn’t get credit for the course as exactly Portuguese 610D or whatever level you are on, but you would get general credit for it toward you Portuguese minor or major. Then, through UT, you would test out of the course you did abroad and proceed with the next one.

Going abroad for a summer can be a lot cheaper than the options UT offers. None of the alternatives I presented are turnkey. But for people who have to keep an eye on their spending, they show some of the possibilities.

Hardt is a English junior from Freiburg, Germany.

With Tuesday marking the last day students can register to vote for the Nov. 6 elections, Hook the Vote is having one last campus-wide voter registration drive.

Hook the Vote, a Student Government agency dedicated to registering students for elections, will have registration tables throughout campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Starting at 8 p.m., Hook the Vote will host a voter registration rally at Gregory Plaza.

“The idea is to have tables wherever students will go during the day,” Bill Calve, Hook the Vote president, said.

Calve said there will be tables on the West Mall, inside and outside of Jester, in front of Gregory and in front of the Co-op on the Drag. At the rally, Hook the Vote volunteers will continue to register students until midnight.

Calve said there will be speakers at the event, who will talk about the importance of civic engagement. Feature speakers include the vice president of Student Affairs Gage Paine and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

“Voting, even though it is something you hear about all the time, is something that really matters in our everyday lives,” Calve said.

The voter registration rally at Gregory Plaza will also have free food and entertainment for students.

After registering students, Hook the Vote will also work to inform students about issues in the election. Calve said Hook the Vote will host a debate between College Republicans and University Democrats at 8 p.m. Oct. 24.

Printed on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 as: SG motivates voting registration

Last Wednesday, hundreds of students gathered on Gregory Plaza for the Study Abroad Fair. There they learned about the life-changing nature of study abroad programs and listened to inspiring catch phrases such as, “Develop a global perspective!” and “Enjoy a once- in-a-lifetime experience!” These selling points are not disingenuous. Pursuing study overseas offers many benefits, which are thoroughly documented on the Study Abroad Office’s web site.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone should partake in these programs. Particularly to those students drawn to the idea of a summer study abroad program in Western Europe, I offer an alternative: solo travel.

Despite originally considering UT’s faculty-led program in Würzburg, Germany, I opted for a solo adventure instead. I spent eight weeks this summer gallivanting throughout Deutschland, falling in love with its language and developing a fascination for its cultural history. They were the best, most informative eight weeks of my entire life, and I returned to the U.S. with a renewed passion for life and the gratification of having made the right choice not to enroll in the Würzburg program. Here are my top reasons.

First, I learned a heck of a lot of German. The Study Abroad Office touts on its website that studying abroad is “the most effective way to learn a language,” but I contest that claim. Sure, going abroad and immersing oneself in a language is almost certainly the best way to learn it, but that doesn’t suggest that the “studying” component is necessary. In fact, many study abroad programs provide unintended hindrances to language learning. I was shocked to discover that at least one of the German classes offered through the Würzburg program was taught in English. If I wanted that experience, I could find it at home.

There are also subtler disincentives in many study abroad environments that detract from the language immersion process. Picture your first class day at a foreign university: you find yourself in the cafeteria for lunch, where you’re met by a waving group of Americans with whom you share classes, a dorm and a Facebook group that won’t stop sending you notifications. Even the most adamant language learner might fail to turn these people down in favor of venturing off into the foreign masses and hoping an established lunch group of native speakers will adopt you. By comparison, when traveling solo and staying in a hostel, it’s much easier to avoid the English-speaking tourists (mostly Australians). Instead, you’ll find yourself conversing with the solo-traveling native speaker across the room. He or she is likely to be impressed by your willingness to converse in his or her own tongue, I promise!

My second reason for preferring solo over Wurzburg: I saved a ton of money. The Study Abroad Office’s estimated cost for the Würzburg program is $9,983, and most Western European summer programs offered range in cost from $8,000 to $13,000. I spent less than $1,600 during my eight weeks and $990 on airfare. Obviously, I didn’t have to pay tuition during my travels, which accounted for a significant portion of the difference, and therefore I didn’t receive any class credit. I think the idea of a summer one can’t include on a resume terrifies a lot of overachieving UT students, but it shouldn’t. I’m on track to graduate in four years, I’m not pursuing a German major, and even without being in school, I learned more than I’d ever thought possible.

Unfortunately, I also didn’t qualify for any scholarship money. For many students, the Study Abroad Office can help in that regard. Of its many laudable objectives, most commendable is to “reduce the disparities in study abroad participation.” But for students who don’t qualify for Pell grants or who aren’t in special programs with specific study abroad scholarships, avenues of funding can be competitive and difficult to find.

Finally, I made a number of “risky” decisions — that is to say, decisions the Study Abroad Office would explicitly discourage — but which taught me the most. I had to get over myself and accept help from those who were happy to provide it. I learned to find my voice in a language I hadn’t mastered, not to mention German words like “obdachlos” (homeless) and phrases like “Do I seriously have to pay to use the toilet?” Of course, as a tall male in a highly developed country, I was less preoccupied with personal safety than others might be. But even so, few of my adventures were actually dangerous. I merely took advantage of situations that might have seemed radical back home: striking up conversations with strangers, often befriending them after spending an afternoon together and occasionally taking those friends up on offers of transportation or hospitality.

Not everyone stands to gain more from solo travel than a study abroad program. Solo travel requires a specific kind of student with enough diligence to actually speak a foreign language and self-confidence to befriend strangers. Even more, it requires a departure from the generational obsession with doing something “productive” during every waking moment of one’s life. For the remaining students, however, solo travel offers a perfect opportunity for total immersion and language learning, a cheaper alternative to study abroad and a guaranteed personal transformation.  

Walters is a plan II major from Houston.