North Texas Daily

2015, a year of debate, change and tough losses

2015, a year of debate, change and tough losses

The North Texas football team poses for photos after winning their first game of the season. Ryan Vance | Senior Staff Photographer

2015, a year of debate, change and tough losses
December 31
00:31 2015

Dalton LaFerney | News Editor

@daltonlaferney

2015 for UNT and Denton was a year of big debates, fast changes and tough losses. As the nation broiled over complex issues, like what to do about the Islamic State terror group, or whether same-sex couples should be able to marry, Denton was not shy of the spotlight.

UNT opened new buildings, leveled old ones and took neighboring properties in 2015 as it expanded its tier-one horizons across Denton and North Texas, with the addition of a campus in Frisco. Neal Smatresk, the university’s president in his second year, has described 2015 as a momentous year for the university.

The new University Union will stay open on Wednesday Nov. 25 until 7 p.m. It will be closed for Thanksgiving break on Nov. 26, 27, and 29, however, it will be open Saturday Nov. 28 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for the football game. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

The new University Union finally opened after several delays. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

And to mark that momentum, Smatresk and other administrators invited Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May to deliver the keynote address for the reinstated mass commencement. But large portions of the student body rejected Abbott’s visit — even the student government was unaware of Abbott being the speaker. Hardly anybody showed up to the ceremony, and there was a small protest inside the Super Pit before police removed the activists.

Why the disdain for Abbott? Well, the body he represented, the Texas Legislature, led a policy charge against several ideas — largely, immigration reform and marriage equality — favored by UNT’s more liberal students on campus. But that’s not to say all students opposed Abbott; one student was even arrested in Abbott’s defense during a heated exchange in Library Mall.

But it didn’t help Abbott’s case that the Legislature passed House Bill 40 earlier in 2015, a law which many believe declaw’d Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, approved by voters in 2014.

A man with a mask on a bike rides with protesters during the impromptu "parade" held on Nail Road Friday morning. Kristen Watson | DRC

A man with a mask on a bike rides with protesters during the impromptu “parade” held on Nail Road on June 12. Kristen Watson | DRC

The city’s battle over fracking within its boundaries called the attention of national and international news media organizations to cover the struggle between the oil and gas industry and citizen activists. The City Council, facing pressure from two lawsuits filed against Denton in response to the fracking ban, retracted the ban, leaving many frustrated and feeling defeated by the industry.

The fog has yet to clear, still, from the hazy energy struggle over fracking. Amber Briggle, wife of UNT professor and leader of the anti-fracking coalition, ran for a City Council spot, signaling the prominence of the fracking debate in the legal and social halls of Denton.

Briggle lost, but her opponent, Kathleen Wazny, joined Keely Briggs on the dias to bring a more diverse City Council than years past, with councils of men. The two share the Council with Joey Hawkins, who may soon enter a recall election. Activists in town want him removed because of his participation in repealing the fracking ban. Kevin Roden, some say, could soon join Hawkins in the hot seat.

Colleen Darraugh, right, prays on the courthouse steps during the wedding ceremony for Ellen Depee, left, and Angelia Ford as they became the first couple to be married in Denton after the SCOTUS ruling. Kristen Watson | DRC

Colleen Darraugh, right, prays on the courthouse steps during the wedding ceremony for Ellen Depee, left, and Angelia Ford as they became the first couple to be married in Denton after the SCOTUS ruling. Kristen Watson | DRC

But there was more to Denton’s 2015 than just fracking. The Supreme Court pulled at heartstrings and ignited religious fears when it ruled that marriage is a constitutional right to all people — including same-sex couples. In Denton County, Clerk Juli Luke first denied same-sex couples their right to a marriage license, following the lead of Abbott’s and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s.

In fact, to avoid discrimination charges, Luke denied all couples marriage licenses that day. Over the weekend, however, she changed her mind, and on the Monday after the ruling, she decided her office, despite her own religious objections, would begin serving marriage licenses to all couples.

Luke’s hesitation did little to deter couples looking to marry on the day of the SCOTUS ruling. They were forced to get their license in Dallas County, but Angelia Ford and Ellen Depee were wed on the steps of the Courthouse on the Square before an audience of celebratory tears on cries — the fight for equality, on that day it seemed, was nearing its long-awaited end.

As people across the nation praised the summer victory, UNT was gearing up for its 125th anniversary celebration. A big birthday gift came in the shape of forgiveness: UNT, along with other Texas universities, did not have to pay back its full debt to the Texas Legislature — even after years of financial mismanagement.

sethLcoach3

Seth Littrell greets students in the Union after being named head football coach. File Photo

The fall semester was the time for homecoming, visits from notable alumni and the grand opening of the University Union. But the Union did not go as planned, and in early November, the university had a soft opening for the building, with the official grand opening planned for 2016. (See how the Union affects people’s meal plans.)

UNT did not plan for a dismal football season to underscore its 125 years of success, but the North Texas football team finished with a record of 1-11, tied for the worst in school history. UNT let go of head coach Dan McCarney midseason. After the season, the university hired Seth Littrell to be the next head coach.

Littrell, former offensive assistant coach with the University of North Carolina, got paid big, and was introduced to the UNT community on Dec. 7, with a conference in the University Union.

Six days after the administration celebrated the acquisition of Littrell, Smatresk sent an email to the university community announcing the death of Ryan McMillan, 21, who was shot and killed by a UNT police officer on the corner of Oak and Fry streets.

Police block off the road outside of the UCentre apartment complex on Fry St. Saturday night after a UNT police officer shot and killed a suspect. Hannah Ridings/North Texas Daily

Police block off the road outside of the U-Centre apartment complex on Fry St. after a UNT police officer shot and killed a suspect. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

McMillan’s death is still under investigation by the Texas Rangers, and the officer, Stephen Bean, has been assigned to desk duty. Police camera footage shows McMillan walking toward the officer, yelling, “Shoot me! Just shoot me!”

McMillan’s death, at the hands of a lawful firearm, came just after his first semester at UNT, the same semester administrators shaped its policy on campus carry.

Ed Reynolds jumped to the head of the policy-making on campus, as he became the police chief for UNT’s police department. He’s been at UNT for a long time now, working for the parking office (Oh, and students still have trouble with parking) back when he was an undergrad, but leads a quiet ranch life when off duty, as journalist Matt Payne showed us all.

Payne also gave us, along with Morgan Sullivan, a story inquiring into the gender spectrum across which many UNT students find themselves. And in 2015, the university community was reminded of how much the students can care about each other, like when Julio Santos was found dead in Austin, or when Eboniey Jeter was found dead in her dorm.

Perhaps the most resounding death for the history of UNT was that of Joe Atkins, who is credited with leading the effort to desegregate the university, then under a different name. His death loomed over the university in the 2015 summer, just as activists on the Square rallied around the Confederate soldier statue, calling for it be razed or moved in the wake of the racist murder of churchgoers in South Carolina.

The debate on the Square attracted many audiences and participants. One man even brought his AR-15 to aid his argument (a Second Amendment display) against Willie Hudspeth, the county NAACP president and leader against the statue. Nobody was injured, and people have since shifted their focus elsewhere, but a coalition has been formed to explore racial divides in Denton. Some UNT student groups in the coalition.

Spray paint lettering that reads, "This is racist," covers the confederate monument on the Denton courthouse lawn on July 20. Kristen Watson | DRC

Spray paint lettering that reads, “This is racist,” covers the confederate monument on the Denton courthouse lawn on July 20. Kristen Watson | DRC

Led by president Adam Alattry, the Student Government Association sought to reposition itself to the student body this year — and by some accounts, it did. First, it split from the Graduate Student Council, which created a representation puzzle that could, campus government leaders say, be solved by the new shared office space in the University Union.

Alattry’s SGA abolished its House of Representatives because it had been inactive for too long. But SGA’s Senate had its own representation issues, as Sarah Lagro reported. Eventually, however, those issues were somewhat patched up, as SGA appointed new senators mid semester.

In 2016, Bill Nye the Science Guy is coming to campus, construction will continue and the presidential election will hover over the university and its hometown. As UNT tries to become nationally recognized, 2015 will always be milestone year for the community.

Featured Image: The North Texas football team poses for photos after winning their first and only game of the season. Ryan Vance | Senior Staff Photographer

About Author

Reporter

Reporter

Related Articles

0 Comments

No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","https://chimpstatic.com/mcjs-connected/js/users/de9596854f37498d65b58fa8f/42480106fd1ae582112be0c96.js");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Twitter Feed

North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@Reed_Smith25: #ReedPuns return for week two. Read my preview for North Texas’ matchup with Liberty tomorrow.A great picture of Tyreke Davis taken by @Tzac24 accompanying this week’s preview: https://t.co/H4kZeHv5Eh
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
PREVIEW: Football hopes to extinguish Flames, Willis in Saturday afternoon matchup versus Liberty📝@Reed_Smith25 📸@Tzac24 https://t.co/olYtEprv57
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
NEWS: New on-the-square restaurant Graffiti Pasta keeps the Ol’ Dirty Basement running📝@DanielH_UNT https://t.co/CZoenhoLKn
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
ARTS & LIFE: Local jewelry shop aims to support local nonprofits, other small businesses📝Dominique Weaver https://t.co/gSeOUL57Ti
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
NEWS: New SGA legislation calls for Canvas shortcuts and braille sign improvements📝@jbetancourt_15 📸@JohnAndersontx https://t.co/RarraM07zu
h J R

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad

Instagram