A suggestion that University of Houston student actors wear neon vests was rescinded this week, a faculty recommendation made after campus police pulled a gun on a black student rehearsing a scene last semester. past.

The drama department faculty developed the plan for students to wear bright safety vests while rehearsing in outdoor public spaces, according to Andrew Davis, dean of the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts. The idea was to identify actors working after a University of Houston police officer pulled a gun on a graduate student who was rehearsing a scene on campus.

Graduate students received vests last semester and undergraduate students received them in January. according to the Houston Chronicle, which first reported the story.

The faculty suggestion was rescinded this week.

“Among other concerns, the vests do not address the issue of providing our students with safe and appropriate rehearsal spaces, especially for scenes involving alleged criminal activity or violence,” Davis said. «For this reason, the School of Theater and Dance has retracted this proposal and will not ask students to wear vests.»

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The University of Houston confirmed that the decision came from the College of Arts and Letters and was not a campus-wide policy. The request to wear vests «was not the correct course of action, nor was it reviewed or approved by Police Chief Ceaser Moore,» the university said.

“McGovern College leadership is taking the necessary steps to review protocols to ensure student actors are provided with appropriate rehearsal space and security protocols, especially for scenes of suspected criminal activity or violence that could cause public alarm or confusion. the university said in a statement. declaration.

the test went wrong

On November 4, a student reported that a black man with tattoos was grabbing a woman and covering her mouth in an alley between two buildings on campus. The student, who was not identified, said he heard the woman scream for help.

«Listen, do you have any weapons?» a dispatcher asked, according to a 911 call provided by the school.

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to get any closer,” the caller said.

The caller remained on the phone until officers arrived. An officer “drew his weapon in the low ready position” after observing an object believed to be a knife in “stabbing motion,” according to a university police report.

That object was not a knife. It was a script, the student later reported.

Both students immediately carried out the officers’ orders to get on the ground and yelled that they were rehearsing, according to the report. The officer then holstered his gun and tried to comfort the students, who were crying and shaking.

A police report indicates that the students informed campus police that they were rehearsing a scene from Sam Shepard’s play «A Lie of the Mind.» The woman told officers that she was «supposed to be in danger» because her character was a disabled woman trying to escape from her brother, and her classmate was holding her as part of the investigation. scene.

University police reports have the students’ names redacted, but the man who was mistaken for an assailant has been identified as Domonique Champion. Champion did not immediately respond to a message seeking an interview from NBC News on Wednesday.

Champion is a graduate student studying acting and theater, according to The Cougar, the University of Houston student-run newspaper. He told the newspaper that she has been struggling since the incident, experiencing panic attacks and suicidal ideation.

“I kept looking at this image of a gun and almost hoping something would happen to me,” Champion told The Cougar.

On social media, Champion posted a link to a recent university town hall where he shared his experience with students, faculty and the university’s police chief. At the event, she held up the paper that she said she had mistaken for a gun in November.

“There are holes in this story that are tearing me apart,” Champion said during the town hall. «There were two people involved in that… I am terribly aware that the gun was intended for me.»

These ‘not bulletproof’ vests

Senior Brandon Sanders told the campus newspaper he didn’t realize a classmate had pointed a gun at him until the college began handing out vests in January.

Sanders did not immediately respond to an interview request, but he posted about the situation on social media and spoke to The Cougar.

“I want students to be informed and I want them to know how much power they have,” Sanders told the school newspaper. «Because they need to understand that their lives are at risk.»

Sanders said on Twitter that he was given a neon green vest on January 24. He wrote that he was upset that it had taken him so long to find out about the incident and urged university officials to make a campus-wide statement.

«I feel insecure. This situation is so much bigger than what they tried to play out,» Sanders tweeted. It could have been me. I fear for my life and the whole school should know it. “

Sanders documented his frustrations and protests about the vests on his social media, post videos on youtube chronicling his interactions with other students and Thursday’s town hall with the faculty. In the videos of him, Sanders wears the vest with the words «I’m not a threat» handwritten in its reflective silver lines.

At one point in his town hall video, Sanders can be seen crying and stating that he is «not bulletproof.»

“A bright green vest is not going to change the color of my skin,” Sanders told The Cougar. “I saw it as the greatest disrespect. These vests are not bullet proof. All they do is make me stand out.”

Davis, the dean of arts, acknowledged the students’ frustrations, saying via email Monday that the faculty came up with the idea for the vest «with the best intentions on all sides.»

“I recognize that despite the appropriateness of the actions of the responding UHPD officer, these situations may be troubling to those directly or indirectly involved, especially considering the lack of full information and misinformation in the public dialogue surrounding the incident.” Davis wrote. .

He also informed the students that the university would make trained doctors available to provide advice. The school is creating a task force with students, faculty and staff to better respond to concerns, Davis said.