Riley Brands

Photo Credit: Daily Texan Staff

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Tonight at 7:00 p.m., watch as Daily Texan editor-in-chief Riley Brands moderates a debate between the Executive Alliance and University-Wide Representative candidates for the 2015 Student Government elections. For live-tweets from the debate, follow news editor Julia Brouillette at @juliakbrou

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Voting will take place on Wednesday and Thursday at

I first want to say that I appreciate Riley Brands’ sincere interest in the welfare of COLA graduate students as reflected in his Oct. 1 article on the graduate student task force. However, I think that his opinion on the task force was premature and presented facts in an order that led to frightening, but largely incorrect, conclusions. Because The Daily Texan is usually a trustworthy source of campus information, this created a minor panic among graduate students who were unaware of the task force or the issues that sparked its creation. I want to set some of those things straight, if only to reduce the burden for myself and other task force members who are now forced to rectify the misperceptions surrounding our proceedings.

The “inconsistent numbers” presented by COLA administrators when predicting future cuts should have tipped Brands off that he or his reporters needed to wait and follow up more before publishing. The decision to exclude “prying eyes” — which just means reporters from the Daily Texan, because task force members’ eyes have been quite prying — was made after the publication of Brands’ article and with input from graduate student members. Task force members are individually permitted to convey any information about the proceedings to anyone who asks, at our discretion. Many of us are formally or informally answering questions that our graduate student colleagues have. But because we have only met twice, there really isn’t much to say. The fact that we have had barely enough time to orient ourselves within the task force should be another sign that the Brands’ article was premature.

The most dangerous sentence being repeated from the article is that “cuts could eliminate a large number of jobs.” Graduate students have inferred from this that they may lose their teaching assistant positions despite being guaranteed funding when admitted to the college. COLA administrators have said multiple times, including at the meeting on which Brands reported, that funding offers and teaching assistantships that were presented in admissions letters will not be rescinded. Brands’ conclusion that cuts will lead to the “elimination of jobs” skews the context and implies that these cuts will lead to graduate students fighting for the few number of teaching assistant positions left. In reality, it seems that many of those reductions will be produced through smaller cohort sizes produced by admitting fewer graduate students in the future. While one might be rightfully disappointed that there will be fewer students entering COLA’s graduate programs, it is hardly as dire as current graduate students being put out on the street.

I would ask Brands and the editorial staff of the Daily Texan to take more care when rushing to publish their opinions about such delicate and important proceedings as the graduate student task force. I, for one, would prefer to work on preserving the rights and livelihoods of my colleagues without being mischaracterized in the press by outsiders — even well-intentioned ones.

— Justin Doran, religious studies doctoral student, in response to Editor-in-Chief Riley Brands’ Oct. 1 piece, which ran under the web headline “COLA’s closure of task force meetings to chill proceedings.” Doran wrote this letter before his appointment last Wednesday as task force spokesperson to the press.

Parents just don't understand.

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to

Dearest Riley,
What should I do if my boyfriend’s family dislikes me? I really love him. I don’t know what to do.
Feeling Neglected

Dear Feeling Neglected,
Do they have a good reason for disliking you? If they do, go about making reparations and try to improve your image in their eyes. The change won’t come overnight, but an apology and a visible effort to set things right can go a long way.

If, on the other hand, they’ve taken an irrational dislike to you, try to ignore them as much as you can. In a perfect world, they would accept you with open arms and family get-togethers would be copacetic gatherings of joy and mirth. Unfortunately, things haven’t turned out that way, but you don’t have to let it ruin your relationship. Getting along with the ‘rents would probably ease some tension between you and your sweetie, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of domestic bliss. As long as the two of you openly acknowledge the friction rather than tiptoeing around it and letting it fester into a constant sore spot, it shouldn’t be a relationship killer. Granted, family reunions will still be awkward affairs full of shifty glances and long silences, but remember, you don’t have to live with them; you only have to be pleasant toward them a few times a year.     

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to

We’ve all been there: As we come to UT and leave the comfort of our hometowns behind, there are inevitably some adjustments that have to be made to live on our own. The Daily Texan has compiled some stories of freshman-year follies along with resident know-it-all Riley Brands’ tips for surviving your first year on the 40 Acres.


Dorm life has its good and bad moments. I lived in Moore-Hill Dormitory my freshman year. One day, I had gone to take a shower. While I was in the shower my roommate left and out of habit locked the door behind him. Since I thought he would be there when I got out of the shower, I didn’t think to take a key with me. I was locked out and clothed by only a towel. I went to the front desk to try to get another key, but with my luck I had maxed out the amount of times I could get a key without out a charge to my account. So there I was, in nothing but a towel arguing with an RA over a key, as people were walking by, judging away. After 30 minutes I made my case to the RA and he let me in free of charge.

Never assume anything from your roommate. Even if you’re just running to 7-Eleven for a late-night snack, take a key with you, just in case. Unless you hit it off right away, if ever, they won’t be notifying you of their every move, so always leave your room with everything you need to get back in.


One night I fell asleep when I’d just started studying for a major test I had the next day. I forgot to set my alarm, so I woke up five minutes before the test and ran downstairs and to my test in my pajamas. I was only two minutes late (totally record time), but I failed the test and my shirt was also on backwards.

College will teach you several lessons in time management. While it’s tempting to burn the midnight oil and study all through the night, you run the risk of oversleeping and missing that big test the next morning. Unless you pull an all-nighter with someone who can pinch you if you nod off, it’s often better to hit the hay as early as possible and set your alarm for sometime in the middle of the night, if you must.

However, if worst comes to worst and you wake up just before or after a test is set to begin, don’t panic. Just hightail it on down to class and make the most of the time you have left.


I farted once in my government class. Luckily, the sound was absorbed by the cushion on the chair, but the girls next to me and behind me heard, and they were whispering about me for the rest of class. Oops.

What can I say? It happens. While our status-conscious selves try to hold it in, sometimes we just have to let one rip. It’s an uncomfortable experience as all eyes land on you, but don’t let it bother you too much. Instead, let it serve as a reminder that freshmen are just a few months removed from high school and still have some growing up to do. Trust me, you’ll have bigger problems to worry about.


Jester stir-fry, while delicious, can make you gassy if you have a queasy stomach, so watch out.

Be careful about what you eat. Your parents aren’t cooking for you anymore, so the temptation will be great to pile on the carbs and fatty foods, which can wreak havoc on your digestive system, so try to take it easy and listen to your body above all else.


Our community bath had a connected changing place, and one time, some girl straight up opened the curtains when I was naked.

Always leave something sticking out under the curtain, and if you’re really afraid of being walked in on, don’t dawdle and be conspicuous so people can tell you’re changing. And if you do get exposed in the nude, well ... don’t worry, you’ll probably see plenty more shocking things in college.

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to 

Dearest Riley,
I have been struggling with my feelings recently over this guy I work with. He’s a total flirt, and everybody at work thinks so. He seems to really like me, and I just like him only a little. His flirtiness really turns me off, and we’re totally different, in terms of morals and our interests. He’s sweet, but I can’t tell if he’s genuine. Mainly, I’m scared of what people at work will think if they find out I’ve been dating him. Is that shallow? Plus, I’m going back to school soon, and I don’t want to waste my time. Help me, please!

Shallow and Confused

Dear Shallow and Confused,
Based on what you’ve told me, I don’t think y’all are a good match. You’re not on the same page emotionally or morally, and the physical distance will only make matters worse. As hard as it can be to let someone go when you clearly have feelings for him or her, you’re going to have to cut him loose, preferably sooner rather than later. You don’t want to lead him on any more than necessary, for both your sake and his. Of course it will sting when you deliver the bad news, but he must know that this relationship can’t last forever given that you’re only home for the summer.

Now, as to what your co-workers will think: You certainly have a legitimate concern; everyone wants to be accepted by their peer group. However, you’re not going to be working there much longer, so why worry about the opinions of people whom you’re likely never going to see again after this month?

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to 

Dearest Riley,
I have feelings for one of my friends who has been really supportive and good to me in the last year. I don’t want to ruin what we have, but I also care about him a lot and want him to know that. Should I say anything or play it cool?
Friends or Something More?

Dear Friends or Something More?,
I know it’s hard to hide your feelings for someone when that someone is a close friend. You don’t want to risk opening yourself up because the gamble is so much greater than if they were a mere acquaintance. That said, if you really care about him, it will probably be immensely frustrating and unfulfilling to stay quiet while still remaining friends. Unless you’re the sort of person who can happily deal with the uncertainty, you should just be honest with him. Tell him how you feel in no uncertain terms and hope it turns out well. At worst, he can say he doesn’t feel the same way, but if he’s a good friend, he won’t run away. He may be a little withdrawn for a while, but you can take that time to re-adjust and move on from the idea of you and him as something more than friends.

If he does cut out, that definitely won’t be easy. However, it will call into question how good a friend he was in the first place. If, after all the support he’s given you over the past year, he bolts at the mention of a natural development of feelings, he either isn’t really a very good friend or is just less mature than you thought. Neither of those is the sort of person you want to be with.

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to 

Dearest Riley,
My roommate doesn't have a car and never pays me for gas so I stopped taking her places. Now she's taking public transit everywhere, should I feel bad?
Running on Empty

Dear Running on Empty,
Taking the bus is hardly the torture some make it out to be. While on a hot summer day the tightly packed quarters of a city bus might not be the most pleasant surroundings, I’m sure your roommate is holding up just fine.

Don’t punish yourself for cutting off the free chauffeur service. If she had the money and still didn’t pay you, she clearly didn’t appreciate it, or else she would have gladly coughed up the cash. If she didn’t have the money, I can see why you might feel insensitive for putting her on the bus, but ultimately, it’s not your responsibility to foot the bill for her transportation needs.

As long as you didn’t make the decision rashly, which I take it from your email you didn’t, you have no reason to feel guilty. Besides, both you and she can think of it as a learning experience for her. I find the bus to be great for people-watching and zoning out, what with the snail’s pace at which it generally inches along in Austin traffic. It also gives plenty of time for reading and writing; there are a number of things you can occupy yourself with on the bus.

Dearest Riley,
My sister is getting bullied and I want to help her but I don’t want to approach her about it for fear it will make her uncomfortable. What should I do?
Sympathetic Sibling

Dear Sympathetic Sibling,
There’s often a temptation in these cases to go around the victim and seek help for them without their knowledge. I want to take this opportunity to advise against that course of action; the victim generally finds out and is rightly aggrieved.

Simply tell your sister you’re worried about the treatment she’s receiving and offer your support, but don’t frame your concern in terms of her helplessness or inability to deal with the bully herself. Instead, focus on the unacceptability of the bully’s abusive behavior. She probably already feels insecure enough as it is, so there’s no need to rub it in her face that the bully has succeeded in exerting control over her.

Where to go from this point is the tricky part. I’m of the opinion that it’s better to give your sister the option of taking or leaving your offer of help, unless the situation calls for immediate action. Encourage her to take steps against the bully, but don’t force it. It hurts to see someone you love suffer, but this is a battle she’s going to have to fight for herself.

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to

Dear Riley,
I did it. I defied the odds and nabbed a job right out of school with a degree that is marked by its legacy for turning out people who eventually go crazy. (Suffice to say it is of a liberal arts-y, non-useful and not business or science or technologically persuasion.)

And it seemed like a great gig, too: I would ostensibly be doing exactly the kind of work I've always wanted to be (paid) to do. But three months in, I am drowning — I hate this job and everything it involves.

I'm a monkey, doing the work of a well-paid intern, slowly schlepping through the menial, maddening, and mind-melting. I so desperately want to quit. I've asked around — to my parents, mentors, and close friends — about my situation, and I am now fraught with a whole other anxious problem: Am I just being a whiny, entitled twit?

I should be so lucky to even have a job (especially considering my field and my degree), right? And I can't expect to be doing all the career-making, fabulous things right out the gate, right? I have to put my time in and earn my stripes, so to speak, right?

I am aware of these facets and also deeply aware that I spend most of every day bitterly chugging away and then spend all of my free time dreading ever having to go back. I no longer sleep to dream — only nightmares where I have to go back to work. Despite everything I've tried to do to make my internal relationship to the Job from Hell a better one, it ends up ruining my mood, my mind, and my life.

What kind of working life hell do I have to go through before I'm allowed to want better? Am I just typifying every Millenial cliche by wanting at least some small sliver of fulfillment in the work that I do?

Seeking enlightenment


Dear Enlightenment,
Congratulations on snagging a job right out of college! That’s no small feat. Now, what to do about your situation there?

Assuming you like your new work environment (meaning where you work and who you work with), your problem seems to me to all boil down to your prospects for advancement. Are there any paths you can take from here, or are you stuck in a “dead-end” job? Talk to your boss and see if you can work out a timeline for advancement. Having a goal to strive toward can be motivation enough to get you through the monotony of the intervening months.

If, however, there’s no way to move up the ladder, it still might not hurt to stick it out a few more months and build up some experience. To make the day-to-day drudgery at least somewhat bearable, ask your boss about taking on slightly different responsibilities. A change of pace should be enough to power you through the remaining months. If your boss demurs, then you’ll have to carefully consider your options. Jumping ship at this point would be a drastic move, but it may be one you need to make.

Finally, as a postscript of sorts, I’d like to address the point you make about fulfilling every Generation Y stereotype by quitting. Don’t let this weigh too heavily on your decision; the older generation has been complaining about its progeny from time immemorial, as can be seen in the following remark by Plato: “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” Some things never change.

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to

Dearest Riley, 

I live with three other girls and we are all very close. One of my roommates has a new boyfriend, whom, suffice to say, none of us like. The worst part is, she doesn’t even seem that happy with him, despite claiming to be. We would all be able to ignore our personal distaste for him if we felt that she was truly happy. To complicate the issue, this new boyfriend is also our neighbor, so we cannot push her to end their relationship without awkward repercussions. What should we do?


Cringing Roommate 


Dear Cringing Roommate,

I think a little tough love may be in order. Have a talk with her to feel out whether she’s truly happy with him. If she’s not, tell her she has two choices: end it or move out. You can even start the search for her by compiling a list of potentials based on what she’s paying now.

However, if you don’t want to be quite so dramatic, tell her you’re concerned and only want to see her happy. Describe the changes you’ve seen in her since she started dating the Boyfriend of Bile. Hopefully, this will open her eyes not only to her own unhappiness but also to the toll it’s taking on you. If she doesn’t come around, tell her you don’t want her boyfriend coming around anymore. While it is her place, it’s yours, too, so you have just as much right to a calm, peaceful living environment. While she may not listen to your pleas to end the relationship, she should at the very least respect that right.  


Dearest Riley,

Thank you for taking the time to advise me. Over the past year, I have developed an unhealthy addiction to sparkling water. I consume, on average, three to four cans of La Croix bubbly water EVERY DAY! I’m worried about the potential health risks of my habit; some friends have warned me that too much carbon dioxide can be bad for your teeth. Additionally, I am beginning law school in the fall and am worried that the stress will only enhance my addiction. Help! I’m drowning in sparkles! What do I do?!

In hopes you can help,

Addicted to Bubbles


Dear Addicted to Bubbles,

I’m actually more worried you may blow up from all the carbon dioxide. You’ve got to put a stop to this before you explode and leave a big mess for someone to clean up, which would be the height of rudeness. Here’s what you need to do: Dilute every glass of the bubbly beverage until you can cut it out completely.

Start with two parts sparkling water to one part regular water. Then, once you get used to the weakened taste, water it down some more. Once you reach a point where it’s mostly water, throw caution to the wind and leave out the fizz completely. Chances are, you’ll hardly notice a difference. But if you do, it’s OK to fall back to the previous step. Take your time. There’s no reason to rush the process as long as you keep your end goal in sight and don’t stop until it’s achieved.   

Editor’s note: This is an advice column written by in-house know-it-all Riley Brands. All answers are based on personal experience. Brands is not a licensed professional. Questions for Brands can be sent to

Dearest Riley,
Waking up in time for class has always been a huge struggle for me. I set multiple alarms every night and place my phone out of reach so I can’t turn it off in my sleep, but nothing I try seems to work. Most of my classes have strict attendance policies, so if I can’t pull it together, I fear my grades will suffer. Do you have any tips for an habitual over-sleeper?

One More Snooze

Dear One More Snooze,
I’m not sure if placing your phone out of reach is the best idea. You say you’re afraid you’ll turn it off in your sleep, but has that ever actually happened before? If so, that’s both impressive and unfortunate. If nothing wakes you up, you’re just going to have to work with your natural sleep cycle. You can only stay asleep for so long, so the earlier you get to sleep, the better your chances of waking up in time for class. Of course, this is only possible if you finish all your homework before, say, midnight, so cut out the distractions and start giving yourself time limits on assignments so they don’t drag on into the night. 

Dearest Riley,
My boss, who typically responds to my emails quickly, has not responded to two important emails in more than 24 hours. Should I be worried? Should I send another email? Should I just wait?

Impatient Inbox Checker

Dear Impatient Inbox Checker,
Email etiquette is an obsession of mine. I always try to respond to emails as quickly as I can, even if it’s just to confirm that I received them. Because of the importance I place on promptness, I tend to worry when someone is unusually slow to reply. My mind begins to race as I imagine all the nasty, cutting remarks they could be thinking up. For instance, a few weeks ago I sent a two-page summary to my thesis adviser, expecting a fairly quick turnaround time. But after a week had gone by, the panic set in and I began to expect a completely demolished draft. I very nervously emailed her again and it turned out she had no comments for me and simply forgot she hadn’t emailed me back. All that to say there’s probably no reason to worry. If she’s usually quick to respond, she probably had something come up or just has a backlog of emails to catch up on. Since it’s an important matter, I’d say wait another day and then send a gentle reminder, perhaps with a delivery receipt, and if that fails, call or text her to get this sorted out.