Tag: The University of Texas

What Starts Here… Really Changes the World

A Humanity First member working as a disaster relief volunteer.  Photo courtesy of Humanity First

A Humanity First member working as a disaster relief volunteer.
Photo courtesy of Humanity First

 

 

Anahita Pardiwalla, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

With hundreds of student-run humanitarian groups at the University of Texas to choose from, Irenla Bajrovic did not think she’d have trouble finding one that would be willing to help a cause close to her heart. Bajrovic, a natural-born Bosnian, wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide by organizing a fundraiser. She did not anticipate finding her answer in the merely days old organization, Humanity First.

Coordinating a fundraising dinner is a feat for any organization, never mind a newborn one with just six members. Yet, founder and executive director, Usama Malik, was eager for Humanity First to make its grand debut. About $10,000 later, Malik and his peers were excited about the future of their new Texas Chapter.

A year later, 102 members stronger and with numerous successful events under its belt, Humanity First is more confident than ever. Under its motto “serving mankind” the international organization promotes peace and provides aid to victims of natural disasters and human conflicts.

Malik, however, has tailored the Texas Chapter to stand for more than just the humanitarian relief drafted in their motto.

“One that provides a platform for other organizations and other students to accomplish similar goals,” said Malik.

Through this idea of diversifying the Texas Chapter, the organization has been able to work for a number of different causes—all outside the traditional realm of Humanity First’s mission statement.

These causes have ranged from fundraising for victims of domestic violence to raising awareness of childhood cancer, from feeding the homeless to volunteering at elderly rehabilitation centers. Most recently, the organization assembled hygienic kits for homeless veterans.

 

A few of Humanity First's milestones. Photos courtesy of Google Images and Bosana Foundation

A few of Humanity First’s milestones.
Photos courtesy of Google Images and Bosana Foundation

The group’s scope is wide and limitless; and members are proud to be a part of an international organization that still maintains a local focus.

“You’re touching someone’s life, and it doesn’t matter how big the scale is, as long as you’re helping someone,” said member Marina Khaled.

Upcoming events include a charity fashion show and a culture appreciation night. Learn more at http://www.humanityfirsttx.org/.

 

Humanity First has worked for numerous causes since its birth last spring. Check out a timeline of some of their past events here:

 

Learn more about the Humanity First – Texas Chapter in the video below. The members of Humanity First made hygiene kits for homeless veterans and are currently in production for a fashion show in partnership with Voices Against Violence.

Not On My Campus comes to UT


Words By Jacob Kerr, Video By Jewel Sharp and Megan Breckenridge

Not On My Campus from Megan Breckenridge on Vimeo.

A student movement aimed at preventing sexual assault has been gaining steam at college campuses around the country. And now, it has arrived at UT.

NOMC handIn late March, three students launched Not On My Campus at UT before the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The campaign first started more than a year ago at Southern Methodist University and has been spreading to other colleges in the state and the country.
“This issue has been present on campus for a while, and it was never talked about. It was never a topic of conversation,” said Caroline Bennett, Not on My Campus volunteer and UT senior. “Actually after all the success we’ve had in bringing awareness to the issue, we now realize just how big of a problem it was.”

According to the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men are victims of sexual assault. Furthermore, 80 percent of rapes occur before age of 25.
As part of the campaign, the group has been encouraging students to sign a pledge vowing to help end sexual assaults on campus. According to Bennett, the pledge has more than 1,600 signatures.NOMC Names
“That’s going to be one of ongoing initiatives and goals is to continue getting more signatures,” Bennett said.

Using social media, the campaign has passed along its message by posting photos of supporters writing “Not on My Campus” on their hands. Participation hasn’t been limited to just students, even UT President Bill Powers took part.

“It’s been able to show people what our message is,” said Meredith McDonald, Not On My Campus volunteer and UT freshman. “This is kind of like a stop sign. We want to stop sexual violence.”

 

Not On My Campus has partnered with other campus groups working to prevent sexual assault such as Be Vocal and Voices Against Violence, which offers resources to students.Last month, an organization, "Not on My Campus" was formed at UT. Representatives from the group attended the event.

“They have given us so much support,” Bennett said. ”We really like that our message aligns with their efforts and all that they have done thus far on campus.”

While the group has plans going forward to offer self-defense classes and support legislation in line with its goals at the Texas State Capitol, McDonald reiterated that main goal is to make UT a safer place to be.

“I’m hoping that we are able to build a more safe and aware campus,” volunteer Meredith McDonald said.

@notonmycampus

Take the Not On My Campus pledge here

 

Smoking Not Extinguished by Campus Ban

IMG_9824

Tony Taferes, a junior film student at the University of Texas, smokes a cigarette on the Walter Cronkite Plaza.

 

Although the University of Texas at Austin has implemented a tobacco ban since 2012, not everyone plays by the rules.

To escape the pressures of school, work and life in general, Tony Tafares, UT junior film student, enjoys an occasional cigarette on campus.

Due to the full-fledged tobacco ban in place at the University of Texas at Austin, it will be difficult for Tafares to continue his pastime. The ban, enacted April 2012, prohibits the use of tobacco and tobacco-free electronic cigarettes on university property.

 

 

“It feels pretty unfair that you have to walk quite a distance away from the library just to have a break,” Tafares said. “I’ve had many times where people come up to me and ask me for a cigarette at the library and I think that’s pretty typical, people studying, you know they want a break.”

According to Adrienne Howarth-Moore, director of Human Resource Services at UT, the impetus behind the ban was not to punish people who smoke, but to help fund cancer research.

“The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) gives a significant amount of dollars to our university for cancer research,” Howarth-Moore said. “As the awarding agency for those grant funds, they made it a requirement on their policy end that they would not award dollars for cancer research if the recipients of those awards were not tobacco free.”

To help people adjust to the new policy, UT designated temporary smoking areas throughout the campus. Those areas were phased out in 2013. The university offers a free four-session tobacco cessation class called “Quitters,” to help students quit.

Matthew Olson is the program coordinator of  “Quitters,” and says that he has seen many positive results over the years.

“Overall the feedback is pretty unanimous that it has been beneficial for them,” Olson said. “They learned something, they attempted to quit, even if they weren’t 100% successful at it.”

Though some of the program participants are frustrated by the new campus policy, others have tried to use it as a motivation to help them quit using tobacco.

There is no penalty in-tact for those caught using tobacco on campus. UT expects tobacco users to self-enforce the ban. If students or faculty see someone smoking on campus, the university encourages them to tell the non-complier about the ban.

Howarth-Moore says that she is aware that some students don’t play by the rules.

“Outside of a library, during finals week, in the events are the three most common situations when people will violate the no tobacco policy.”

When students are trying to study and need a cigarette to relax, the ban just stresses them out more, Tafares says.

“I feel calmer when I have a cigarette,” Tafares said. “I started smoking my freshman year of college. My brother smoked and I was in theatre and doing film and it was pretty typical to see people around me smoking. I mean, I enjoy it.”

Tafares doesn’t think the ban will help people quit smoking.

“It’s this idea like, ‘Oh if we ban it less people will smoke,’ and I don’t think that’s really going to happen,” Tafares said. “It’s going to make people more annoyed and frustrated and stress them out even more. So now they have a new stresser that they have to deal with like being afraid to smoke.”

Inside 6th Street

6th Street, formerly named Pecan Street, is a historic street and entertainment district in Austin, TX. (Photo/Rocio Tueme)

6th Street, formerly named Pecan Street, is a historic street and entertainment district in Austin, TX. (Photo/Rocio Tueme)

 

By Jessica Garcia, Erin Spencer, Raisa Tillis and Rocio Tueme

Austin, TX – With almost no traffic coming in from Lavaca or Interstate-35 early in the day, Austin’s own 6th street is unrecognizable to its night dwellers. Blaring bars become quiet oases and day drinkers, nomads and homeless occupy the street sparingly.

6th street is a historic entertainment district widely known for it’s live music, weird culture and variety of bars. College students, locals and tourists invade the street at night to celebrate a variety of occasions, the end of the work week included, and to simply get drunk.

Many may think of 6th as a place for fast paced drink guzzling at night, but during the day there are people who like to go to 6th street and drink at their own speed.

Glen Ford, a tourist from New Orleans, enjoys a brief moment of alone time drinking a beer at the Chuggin’ Monkey Thursday afternoon. “I like the day time, because if I’m by myself you know, in the daytime, you do whatever you want to do,” he said.

Chupacabra's

As opposed to its busy Thursday nights, Chupacabra Cantina is deserted on a Thursday afternoon. ( Photo/Jessica Garcia)

The Blind Pig Pub, a sixth street favorite among college students, is practically deserted on a Thursday afternoon compared to the business it gets at night. However there are some customers that come during the day who plan to stay until the busy street closes.

“It’s a longer period of time that we’re drinking for. It’s a marathon,” said day drinker, Nicole Resnick, a Blind Pig patron.

Although some day drinkers stop before sunset, others continue drinking throughout the night, consuming more alcohol than the recommended amount.

The businesses of 6th street receive more money during the nighttime, and some of its clientele struggles with controlling their alcohol intake levels. No matter the time of day the repercussions of overconsumption are the same.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “low risk” drinking levels for men are no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 for women. Research shows that moderate drinking is usually defined as no more than two drinks in a given day.

Regardless of the statistics many who come to drink on sixth street aim to drink as much as they can before the night ends. It can be especially easy to get carried away during the day without a larger crowd blocking access to the bar area.

“It’s easier to get drinks. You just go up to the bartender and get the drink immediately you don’t have to wait around. It’s pretty easy. I like the daytime,” added Ford.

However, the crowds at night do not stop drinkers from packing the bars and pubs to indulge in drinking as much alcohol as they can.

UT exchange student from Spain, Paloma Rey-stolle, prefers to visit the street at night. “The thing I want to do when I’m at night here is like party. I don’t even care about the quality of alcohol or anything I just want to party. I mean for example, Thursdays are one-dollar drinks. It’s like let’s have fun tonight,” said Rey-stolle.

Regardless of the time of day, the people of Austin and its visitors all have the same goal when venturing to Historic 6th and that’s to come out and have a good time.