Astroworld’s Utopia Turns into Catastrophe

Rager mentality of Travis Scott’s fans fueled the deadly crowd surge incident at Astroworld Festival, placing Houston on headlines across the globe

Angelica Ruzanova runs towards the Astroworld Festival entrance marked by a giant inflatable object depicted as Travis Scott’s head, a landmark which has made an appearance throughout all his previous festivals. Photo by Camille Nul

By Angelica Ruzanova

There is nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill you experience before attending a concert. Months worth of built-up energy, relentless preparation, and memorizing music culminates in a grand euphoric experience shared with other fans. 

But when the audience’s temporary bliss of a live performance becomes an out of control mob, you have no choice but to give into the uncontrollable forces of the crowd. 

Multiple investigations are trying to figure out how harmless enjoyment turned the third-annual Astroworld Festival into a catastrophic event, leaving 10 attendees dead and hundreds more injured. The festival, founded and headlined by superstar rapper and Houston native, Travis Scott, has sparked living hell for the survivors and the families of the lost concert-goers. 

After my friends and I attended the 2019 Astroworld Festival, we expected a similar experience extended into two days rather than one. The festival felt like it’s own Travis Scott mini-world, with everything from a Cactus Jack pop-up store to amusement park rides. 

Many people in a crowd in front of a massive outdoor stage at the Astroworld Festival. Screens display the schedule for day-one with Travis Scott headlining.
The “Thrills” stage scene with the festival schedule for day-one flashing on all screens.
Photo by Angelica Ruzanova

It soon became painfully obvious to us that the number of concert-goers had more than doubled, and the Astroworld “utopia” seemed beyond the maximum capacity offered at the venue. As we noticed the lines of fans growing larger and the crowd becoming extremely packed, things did not feel quite right. 

I witnessed people who were missing shoes and wrist-bands required for entry after running through unprotected security fences. I also observed inattentive staff skipping the mandated COVID-19 tests once the lines of attendees grew longer and more impatient. 

With only one single water dispenser area in the arena, people grew dehydrated and ill. Those who fainted as a result of these circumstances were crowd-surfed out of mosh pits. A vast landscape of haze covered the area near the stage as groups of people smoked in the midst of the crowd.

The countdown before Travis Scott’s grand-finale performance felt like the calm before a storm. As minutes turned into seconds, the spaces in between each person morphed us all into a collective clump of bodies. 

My friends and I were standing near the front of the crowd on the stage-right side and we were quickly swept up in the shifting waves of people around us, who unintentionally stomped on our feet and continuously hit us with their shoulders. At one point in the madness, I was able to lift up my feet and be held up in the air due to the intense pressure of those surrounding me.

As the crowd’s mixture of excitement and impatience grew more ravenous, people began forcing their way toward a better view of the famous rapper. This came at a cost to those who were in a more vulnerable, unprotected area where they struggled for relief and gasped for fresh air. 

I was fortunate enough to grasp onto someone’s backpack which allowed me to make my way through the crowd, but many others were stuck towards the center with no chance to get out. 

A lot of people in a crowd in front of a stage where Yves Tumor is performing. One concert-goers holds up a poster that states "Stampede of Lost Souls".
Musician Yves Tumor and band performs at the “Thrills” stage, with a poster titled “Stampede of Lost Souls” raised in the air from the crowd up front.
Photo by Angelica Ruzanova

To be honest, most attendees did not realize what was happening at the time, but when the tragic news came out, it was a mind boggling thought. 

“I remember at first it took a while for the news to settle for me, to comprehend how big of a deal it all actually was,” said Isabella Conti, a fellow Austin Community College student who attended the festival with her friends.

“I thought to myself, this could’ve been my friends. It could’ve been anyone”, Conti said. “And the ages of those young kids reminded me of my younger brother. They were kids who went to the concert expecting to have fun and enjoy music.”

The night at NRG Park on 5th of November ended with 10 confirmed deaths, hundreds of injured attendees and a  crowd of over 50,000 people. The Houston Police Department is currently investigating exactly how this tragedy unfolded. 

Rumors have run rampant after the event. Stories have spread throughout social media of involuntarily injected security guards, drugs laced with fentanyl sold to some of the attendees and even a conspiracy theory of a satanic ritual. 

One of the deadliest concerts in United States history has resulted in more than 100 lawsuits being filed against festival organizers and performers, including Live Nation and Travis Scott himself.

“After trying to stay optimistic about the situation, I got angrier with what I heard. The more I learned about the circumstances, the more aware I grew,” Conti said. “I hope this horrible tragedy will change safety measures which go ignored by many festival organizers, and the ‘rager’ mentality gets the awareness it deserves. The tragedy trickles down to poor organization and people’s lack of decency when it comes to helping those around them.”

Our generation chases ceaseless sprees of carpe diem within the pressures of our social media presence. Carpe diem, a Latin phrase for making the most of the present time with little thought for the future, holds a dangerous explanation to why some concert-goers danced on ambulances that carried unconscious fans rather than at least standing back. 

The cost of this failure by numerous parties is personal and painful. We must remember and honor these 10 young people who died:

  • Brianna Rodriguez – 16 years old
  • Axel Acosta Avila – 21 years old
  • Madison Dubiski – 23 years old
  • Danish Baig – 27 years old
  • Rudy Peña – 23 years old
  • Jacob Jurinek – 20 years old
  • Franco Patino – 21 years old
  • John Hilgert – 14 years old
  • Bharti Shahani – 22 years old
  • Ezra Blount – 9 years old

How Students Stay Active

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness.

By: Pete Ramirez

One of the most significant ways the pandemic has affected Austin Community College is by the cancellation of in-person intramural sports. Losing these extracurricular events placed a hold on what is normally a fun way for students to stay active and socialize with their classmates.

No one has felt this loss greater than Tracy Partin, intramurals coordinator and health & kinesiology professor at ACC.

“It’s been kind of tough, the last year, not being able to see my students or get out on the court with them,” Partin said.

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness. Last March, Partin began sending an email with workouts and health tips to his subscribers every Tuesday and Thursday during the semester.

Partin’s email fitness program hasn’t missed a semester since it began a year ago.

“Tracy’s emails have been great,” said Brienz Edwards, a student at ACC studying peace and conflict within the interdisciplinary studies program. “I used to think that a gym was a pretty necessary part of working out and it has been quite the revelation for me that that’s not what I really need.”

Edwards mentioned underestimating a workout Tracy sent earlier this semester that only called for using a kitchen chair for the movements. 

“I was like, ‘oh I can do a chair workout, that’s no problem’ and I was immediately sweating,” Edwards said. “It sounds ridiculous that you can sit in a chair for ten minutes and sweat but I promise you.”

Partin’s fitness emails not only include workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels but they also touch on mental health and wellness advice.

“I send them suggested YouTube workout videos,” Partin said. “And on Thursdays I touch upon mental health a little bit. Stress relief. Things that you can do mentally to help your mindset.”

For Jeshika Lamsal, a prospective ACC student and subscriber to Tracy’s fitness emails, staying active means being conscious about what you are doing.

“My favorite way to stay active is first meditation and second is working out,” Lamsal said. “I think everyone should try to meditate.”

Lamsal encouraged ACC students to adopt a meditation practice a few times a week at first and then slowly increase the frequency as time progresses. 

Lamsal also compared starting a meditation practice to going to kindergarten and learning the alphabet. When you first begin, you may not know anything about the subject but as you continue to practice, you learn and grow to have a better grasp of the practice.

Regardless of the route Partin’s students take to stay active, his ultimate goal is to get his subscribers to reconnect with their bodies and improve their mental and physical health.

“It gets those endorphins going and it does make you feel better so anything you can do – whether it’s taking a walk, whether it’s doing some exercises at the house – it helps”, Partin said.

Edwards said her favorite way to stay active is by taking walks at her own pace through her neighborhood.

“It’s a really good way for me to get back into my body and be able to think clearly”, said Edwards. “It helps me organize my thoughts for whatever I need to do next and reconnect with myself but also with the world outside.”

With his fitness emails, Partin wants ACC students to realize that there are simple yet effective things they can do to be active while staying within and nearby your home. 

“Most importantly, try to keep a consistent time when you are going to workout”, Partin said. “There’s going to be those days where you are tired and want to blow it off, but you’ve got to push through.”

Partin said he will begin to send out his summer semester fitness emails on June 8 and students will be able to sign up via Student Life.

“I would just like for the students to know they can contact me at any time,” Partin said. “I want them to know that there is somebody out there, that we do care about them.”

Signing Up with a Study Group

The Study Session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.

By: Jaxon Williams

In this time of remote learning, Austin Community College resources have found ways to support students in challenges that come with virtual classrooms. Shortly before the pandemic, the Learning Lab began offering study group sessions where students could easily register for a wide array of online tutoring sessions with their ACC Gmail accounts, held through services like Zoom and Google Meet. As more and more students transitioned to remote learning the attendance numbers for all Learning Lab online sessions shot up. So much so that the Learning Lab made the effort to hire full time online instructors to help meet the new demand. Wondering myself exactly what benefits students were receiving from participating in these sessions, I decided to register for one myself.  

After attending my first online session, it was clear to me that the Learning Lab at ACC is one of the most valuable resources available to students. A resource that I myself have not been taking advantage of. My experience with the Learning Lab and with their online methods of instruction was nothing short of insightful as well as convenient. From the process of registering to the actual delivery of the instruction, the Learning Lab has definitely managed to make something that could be difficult to navigate and plan out so streamlined and quick. All students need to do is visit ACC’s website and register for a session under the ‘Tutoring’ tab. There, students will find a calendar with a list of future sessions in a variety of different subjects. It only takes registering with an ACC ID and email to reserve a space for you in the session held through Google Meet. The session that I attended was centered around Redox Reactions in Chemistry. I myself am not majoring in science, but surprisingly I was still able to keep up and participate in the session. The instructor took the time to answer any questions I had while also making sure that what was being reviewed was being fully understood. No stone was left unturned. No question unanswered. The experience as a whole was surprising and incredibly insightful. It made me wonder how I had gone for so long without taking advantage of such a useful service. 

After having such a positive experience, I decided to reach out to José Resendez, a tutor at the Learning Lab, to discuss what benefits students saw after participating in online study groups. Resendez shared that students who participated in these study groups on a regular basis saw an improvement in their class performance. Not only that, Resendez also reported that the majority of students who attended the Learning Lab sessions were successful in both graduating and transferring to other institutions. He credits these figures to the fact that by attending sessions on a regular basis. Resendez said that “Students begin building the good study habits that are the foundation for success.”. 

The study session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.  Getting started with these good study habits is as easy as going to ACC’s website. There, you will find the option to sign up for online study sessions under the Tutoring tab of the Student Support section of the website. All available upcoming sessions will be shown in the list of Learning Lab Virtual Events. 

ACC Students Take on Virtual Events

Three students of Austin Community College share their perspectives on how virtual events have impacted their life, and what they believe could be done better; a guide for officials to consider, and implement into the academic format we now consider our new normal.

By: Renata Salazar

Austin Community College has continued virtual learning during the global pandemic for over an academic year, as of now. As we approach another semester of online education, it is easy to become overwhelmed during the school year when navigating online classes and might often feel discouraged from the lack of every day interaction  with classmates and staff. ACC provides more than education, as students continue to develop relationships and interact with each other through student organizations and events. From Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, to online advising, ACC continues to provide several virtual events and resources that allow students to unwind between classwork, and tips to stay on track with  online courses. 

ACCENT spoke with student Katheryn Pharr, an active member in the Student Life community, Vice President of ACCess Autism Iva Millsap, and Todd Snow, a student pursuing studies to qualify for a bachelor’s in software development at ACC to learn how student organization can be another resource for peer support. Three students with varying perspectives share their take on the perks and disadvantages of ACC’s online presence and what the school and student organizations can do to improve them.

Pharr feels that in-person events are more casual and provide a sense of community that virtual events lack. 

“Student life is doing a great job making sure we can still connect with each other even though we’re all isolated and spread out” Pharr says. 

Pharr attended Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, a recurring event within Student Life. One thing Pharr appreciates from virtual events is the ability to go back and review the event with recordings. Pharr is open to the potential virtual events possess with the fact that abilities such as recordings and screen grabs, allow students to utilize the information from events at any given time.  Regarding school resources, Pharr primarily takes advantage of online advising and the ASL IT Lab online. 

“I appreciate that even though we are not able to be in-person on our respective campuses, that these services are still available. Although helpful, there is something lost by not physically occupying the same space,” Pharr says. 

She added that it is easy to become distracted during online advising, whereas “in-person the advisor can probably tell when the student loses focus.”

The increase of virtual events in student life has made some student organizations get creative and implement new perspectives into their events.  Vice president of student organization ACCess Autism, Iva Millsap believes the new virtual platform has driven them to find new ways to make events more interactive by implementing new concepts. 

“We had an event where our members would create artwork on how their autism affected them in sensory ways.,” Millsap says.

Though Millsap feels she has been equally involved during the pandemic similarly to in-person events. She still prefers attending events in person due to the sense of community that in-person events can bring to some students. 

Virtual events may seem more complicated than a casual in-person event, but ACC’s online platform has encouraged some students to give Student Life a try. Snow shared that his involvement with Student Life became more frequent once Student Life events began going virtual. What kept Snow from getting involved with in-person events prior were factors such as commutes and personal obligations, which can be the case for many other students.  

“Virtual events have been great for me. These events have allowed me to explore aspects of SL and ACC that wouldn’t normally pique my interest or just would not have been a priority,” Snow says. 

Proving virtual events do present advantages towards students thanks to their accessibility. Snow aforementioned the knowledge they have provided him and how much more understanding he is of what ACC offers to students. Adding he believes the benefits are definitely there when contrasting to in-person events, hoping that “any events in the future conducted in-person maintain a virtual component.

Virtual events and resources prove to have both pros and cons. Though students seem to prefer in-person events as they present a sense of community that can’t be rendered through a screen,  they have managed to adapt and make amends with the pandemic and restrictions we abide by during this era. 

Some students are even benefiting from this  virtual environment and are becoming more  involved with Student Life at ACC for the first time, just like Snow.  

“I have a much broader understanding of campus operations and the ACC mission.  Virtual events have shown me great opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, and have fundamentally altered how I look at my career and academic choices.”

I Tried Pomodoro Studying

By: Pete Ramirez

I’ll admit it, managing my time has never been easy for me. At times, I have felt as if my to-do list is a never-ending tower that enjoys piling onto my anxiety. Luckily, I received an assignment that has given me an effective tool to combat that pesky to-do list. I have a feeling it can help you too.

My task was to learn about the pomodoro technique. Then, adopt pomodoro into my studying methods for a couple of weeks. Finally, create a vlog along with a companion opinion piece. I had never heard of this technique but after speaking to Jordan Easley, an Austin Community College academic coach, I was ready to go. If you haven’t watched the vlog yet, here is a quick explainer:

  • The pomodoro technique is a time management strategy that uses intervals of time to focus the mind on one task at a time.
  • Begin by choosing a task to complete, limiting distractions, and setting a timer for 25 minutes.
  • After working for the allotted time, take a five-minute break.
  • After four rounds of this, take a longer break.

I had a few issues at first, but it did not take long for me to get used to using this technique. During the first few rounds, I would get frustrated when my timer would ring because I did not want to be pulled away from my work. But I soon learned to enjoy those precious five-minutes. Those breaks are great moments for you to assess how your work is going.  During one of those breaks, I realized that putting my phone on silent was not enough for me to overcome the hypnosis of my little black mirror. I learned that airplane mode is a much better solution.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

Easley, mentioned that you can make this technique as flexible as you like so I also tried various work-time to break-time ratios. Most things fit nicely into twenty-five minute increments but with some tasks, like writing, I get into a flow and refuse to stop working when the timer rings. The pomodoro technique helped me prioritize and hone-in on one task at a time instead of doing twenty tasks all at once.

Give it a try. Play around with the work-to-break ratios and find what works for you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you break the rules (I broke plenty.) Sometimes the hardest part is getting started and this technique will help you take the first step.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

How to Be Sustainable Through the Holiday Season

This is a large amount of trash that is being produced during a small period of time and that can be easily avoided if more sustainable choices are made.

By: Angela Murillo-Martinez

close up of Christmas tree with ornaments and lights

The holiday season is finally here! It’s time to bring out the gingerbread cookies, play Mariah Carey on repeat, and watch Home Alone every day until Christmas. Although the holidays are going to be a little different this year it won’t ruin the holiday spirit that we all love so much and look forward to each year. That being said, it’s important that through this season, we keep in mind the harms that our habits can have on the environment. 

The holiday season is the perfect time to spend with friends and family, however, a lot of waste may be caused because of it. The United States alone produces 25 million tons of garbage Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s, according to Stanford University.

This is a large amount of trash that is being produced during a small period of time and that can be easily avoided if more sustainable choices are made. From changing the way we wrap our gifts or changing the kinds of lights we use to decorate our house. Every change, big or small has an impact towards our community and our planet. Here are some ways you can continue to have a fun Christmas while being sustainable. 

close up of a tree wrapped in LED lights next to two light up reindeer

Decorate with LED Lights

Not only are they more environmentally friendly, but they also last longer than incandescent bulbs. This saves you time and money by not having to be changing light bulbs every time one stops working. 

LED lights also use much less energy than incandescent bulbs. So not only will your house look great with all the colorful LED lights you put on, it will be using much less energy than the regular bulbs you use. Since they generate light without producing too much heat, they also help reduce the risk of burning yourself with the bulb. 

Using LED lights leads to a more sustainable and economical choice to decorate your home this year that will not only have the planet thanking you but also your wallet. 

local magazine shops

Shop Local and Small

Buying your gifts at local shops helps reduce the amount of packaging that is used to package and ship online orders. Although ordering online can seem more convenient and fast, especially during these times. It can be harming the environment much more than we realize. 

Many times, the package that you ordered online, will have to travel many miles to get to you. Which produces more CO2 emissions and harms our environment even more. 

When you buy local and support small businesses, you are supporting those who live in the same community as you. Instead of investing in big businesses such as Amazon, you are investing in your community. 

Many of these small businesses are what make our community so unique and fun, and without them, it wouldn’t be the same. So not only would you be reducing the amount of CO2 emissions and packaging waste, you would be supporting your neighbors, by shopping at their small, local businesses. 

layered reusable bags

Get Creative with Wrapping Gifts

Many of us look forward to unwrapping gifts each year, but we don’t realize how much waste we are producing by doing this. Using conventional wrapping paper often leads to all of it being thrown away and is left unrecyclable. Especially if they have glitter on them or are made of foil. Each year, Americans throw away tons of wrapping paper and only create more harmful waste. But look no further to find ways that opening gifts can still be exciting yet sustainable. 

As we move towards a more sustainable future, many online shops are beginning to sell eco-friendly paper that is not only recyclable but biodegradable. Many of them offer many different kinds of decorated wrapping paper that will continue to support your holiday spirit and will also create a cleaner community. You can also get creative and recycle old maps and newspapers to wrap your gifts. This makes your gifts look truly unique, but it will be giving another purpose to that newspaper you were going to throw away. You can also use one of the many tote bags you may have. Not only will there be a nice gift inside the bag, but they will be able to reuse the bag for their own use. 

It’s changes like this, that can truly make a positive impact in the long run. As much fun as the holiday season can be, one should always be conscious of what the impact of their decisions and habits are. Even though this year, holidays will look a little different and we’re going to be physically apart from each other, we are still able to continue our traditions while making sustainable decisions. 

Local Coffee Shop Bennu Opens Third Location

By Alexa Smith

An Austin Staple, Bennu Coffee, has recently opened their third location on Jacob Fontaine Lane right next to Austin Community College’s Highland campus.

Bennu’s first location opened on East Martin Luther King Blvd. in 2009. The coffee houses’ second location was opened in 2017 after Bennu owners Stephanie and Steve Williams bought the location formerly home to Domincan Joe’s.

Bennu has long been a staple for college students around Austin, as they used to offer 24 hour service. This was a hit for students to stay up late studying for exams and getting homework done. While their hours have been reduced due to COVID-19, students still flock to all three locations to get a dose of caffeine and productivity. 

The new location on Jacob Fontaine Lane is part of the overall development of the area around Highland. If you haven’t made it to campus in a few months, you’d be surprised to see there are apartments and a small shopping center quickly growing. This will offer ACC students more food and drink options within walking distance of The Highland Campus, something that was missing before these developments.

 While Kick Butt coffee and 89 Degrees are nearby, they can take a while to walk to and aren’t the best option for grabbing a bite in between classes without driving. 

The new Bennu location and other restaurants nearby, such as The Pho and iBubbleTea offer easily walkable options right next to the Highland campus. 

The hours of operation for this new location are from 6 am to 7 pm. Bennu coffee also offers take out as well as socially distanced seating inside and outside. Although there is limited seating outside the indoor area is spacious and makes for a great study spot while keeping your distance.

If you’re not sure what to order, I recommend the cold brew and an almond croissant. Steve has been perfecting the cold brew for years and it’s brewed for over 16 hours with organic South American beans.  

Bennu’s other locations are also open from 6 am to 7pm. To connect with the business virtually, visit their instagram page @bennucoffee.