UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves issued a statement Wednesday authorizing a new campus policy that allows the Office of the Dean of Students to temporarily suspend a student accused of “actual or threatened” violence on campus while university officials investigate the incident.
This comes in response to an on-going administrative probe into an allegedly racially-motivated West Campus incident involving three white males, of which two stand accused of throwing bottles and shouting racial slurs at a black student. Fenves condemned the “attack.”
On the evening of February 20, Tucker Sauer, 21, and Lucas Henderson, 20, were arrested, charged with public intoxication and deadly conduct, a Class A misdemeanor, for allegedly throwing bottles at mathematics senior Cody Young from a fourth floor apartment balcony and yelling racial epithets.
The Austin Police Department arrest affidavit stated when the alleged victim said he would call police, the purported suspects came downstairs and threatened to fight him, according to Austin’s KVUE-TV (ABC). A third man was not charged. Young told police the three men threw bottles while yelling “F— you, n—–!”
Several days later, Young filed a grievance with Office of the Dean of Students seeking disciplinary action against his alleged attackers. However, on Tuesday, March 29, Young spoke to UT-Austin’s campus newspaper, the Daily Texan, and expressed his frustration with the amount of time that passed and the seeming university inaction since he submitted the report to the dean’s office, which handles administrative disciplinary processes for code of conduct violations.
The UT-Austin school newspaper indicated Sauer and Henderson, who were both Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at the time of the incident, are appealing this potential disciplinary action. Their attorney, Mindy Montford, released a statement after their arrests:
“As this is a pending investigation, Mr. Sauer and Mr. Henderson are not at liberty to comment at this time. This was a regrettable incident in many respects, and these events do not accurately depict the character or attitudes of these young men. Mr. Sauer and Mr. Henderson are cooperating fully, and we hope that all parties will wait until the completion of the case to make a final assessment about these events.”
One day after Young spoke to the Austin flagship’s campus newspaper, on March 30, Fenves announced the policy change that will give the Dean of Students the authority to impose interim suspensions on students accused of actual or threatened violence. “As I wrote to a group of student leaders on Feb. 26, soon after the attack, there is absolutely no place in our campus community for that type of behavior. It does not reflect the values of our university or our students and faculty members. I will not tolerate such hateful acts.”
Fenves also directed the Dean of Students and Vice President for Legal Affairs to update university policies to give the dean the ability “to expedite the investigative process into allegations of acts of actual or threatened violent conduct.”
He commented that some of the university’s rules make it difficult to resolve these matters quickly and it revealed a need for policy improvement, especially in matters regarding hatred and violence. “The university remains firmly committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment in which every student feels he or she belongs. We will not waver from those efforts,” he said.
Fenves maintains the dean will review an individual’s conduct, not speech, and the revised rules “will continue to provide appropriate due process to any students accused of wrongdoing.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.