UT Austin Statement Regarding Reported Bleach Balloon Incident

Aug. 28, 2013

Statement from Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, The University of Texas at Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Department and The University of Texas at Austin are cooperating to investigate a report that a balloon filled with bleach was dropped on an individual in the area that is west of campus. Indications are that the balloon dropped last week was filled with water. However, the university has collected clothing and balloon remnants from the site and sent them a lab for further forensic testing.

Even though this event occurred off campus, such reports are distressing and disappointing. The university is actively aiding Austin police in their investigation, and the Dean of Students and our campus climate response team are also currently reviewing these allegations.

We take seriously the concern that this reported incident may have been racially motivated. However, water balloon incidents are not uncommon near campus, especially during fall rush activities. University officials have been working with building managers in the area west of campus to create protocols to help prevent such activities in the future.

Any person who believes such actions are merely schoolyard pranks is mistaken. Throwing balloons filled with any substance on another individual may be considered assault — a criminal offense and, if students are involved, punishable under Chapter 11 of the university’s Institutional Rules and Regulations.

A university investigation of similar reports last fall of balloons containing bleach found no evidence that bleach was used, and the students responsible for that incident were held accountable under the university’s disciplinary system.

Episodes such as these undermine ongoing efforts by the university to create an environment that celebrates its diversity and its value to the community and educational experience. It also is the antithesis to the unity that normally defines this campus. The University of Texas at Austin has long been committed to promoting diversity and ensuring respect and inclusion throughout the campus community. Our university should be a haven and home to students of all backgrounds.

The actions of a few individuals out of a community of more than 52,000 students should not be taken as representative of the entire community. Building a community on a foundation of respect starts with the actions and words of each individual, reflective of the caliber of students we hope to recruit and send back out into the world as our future leaders.

For more information, contact: University Communications, Office of the President, 512 471 3151;  Leslie Blair, Div. of Diversity & Community Engagement, 512-232-4621.