What is the role of student protest in affecting change in the present political climate?
In your eyes, what impact has the Cocks Not Glocks protest made on the future of campus carry?
The Students Against Concealed Carry, Cocks Not Glocks activists, and independent student-activists that have voiced their concerns about SB 11, academic freedom, and public safety have been absolutely invaluable allies to the University’s faculty and staff–a vast majority of the campus community that vehemently opposed the law due to the harm that it would wreak on an open, dynamic, rigorously analytical, and challenging educational environment. Today, one of the keynote speakers for my Department’s distinguished annual TILTS (Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies) conference rescinded her agreement to come to the University of Texas (see attachments below, which we have been given permission to share). Another speaker, Dr. Harry Edwards refused to appear at the LBJ School Conference named for him (“A Letter to the University of Texas About campus Concealed Carry“). Scholars are refusing to come to U.T. in solidarity to its scholarly community.
The student-activists have helped to call the country’s and world’s attention to our plight here; they have called attention to the battle for commonsense gun control measures on college campuses and in the United States. The plaintiffs, students and I have done interviews with The New York Times, The Telegraph (UK), Swiss National Broadcasting, BBC Radio, NPR, The Nation, Rolling Stone, The Daily Show, Inside Higher Education, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, just to name a few. The Cocks Not Glocks pranksters are brilliant political activists in a great tradition of American and European theatrical, excessive, and absurdist protest (from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, to Dada and the Theatre of the Absurd, to the Yippies, Act-UP, the Guerilla Girls, WAC/The Women’s Action Coalition, the performance artist Dread Scott). Several of the Cocks Not Glocks students are Arts and Theatre majors; they are media savvy, too, and they have an idealistic vision of education and society that they are willing to fight for.
The Los Angeles Times described what is happening on campus at U.T. as the “epicenter of a new movement.” Student activists have a lot to do with that. The Cocks Not Glocks’ activists are now receiving odious and violent threats (see example below) from the so-called 2nd Amendment, Constitutional Carry “good guys” with guns. Those of us on campus that are protesting the harm that SB 11 has inflicted on the foundations of meaningful education and the Academy itself, know that there are responsible, mature and well-trained gun owners across this state. There are also terrifying extremists. The Cocks Not Glocks’ activists have posted the hate mail they have received, including casually expressed wishes for the students to be raped or murdered. They are exposing the extremists at great risk to their own well-being.
Our student-activists’ courage has been an inspiration to me and to many of my colleagues, neighbors, and friends. This week, I have had some of the most fascinating conversations of my life, across all kinds of differences and divides. This is a generation of young people that were raised on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report; they are also a generation that grew up with mass and school shootings and the epidemic of gun violence that is afflicting this country. Platitudes and prayers after explosions of gun violence no longer cut it for increasing numbers of people in this country. I believe that Sandy Hook was a tipping point. These kids are saying enough! More lethal weapons in American society only open the door for more violence and tragedy, too much of which is accident-based, or related to anger, suicide, and despair.
One of the questions that the Cocks Not Glocks’ student activists are asking, rather provocatively is this: is our great University’s administration willing to stand up to challenge the State’s elected extremists who aim, apparently, to humiliate and harm public safety, public space, and public educational institutions in the state of Texas? Are our University of Texas donors and alums willing to stand up and fight to protect this and other public institutions in this state–educational institutions that are the engines of the economy and of working- and middle class achievement and success? These young women get what scholars call “intersectionality”–overlapping systems of oppression. Cocks Not Glocks has made shockingly visible the intersections of the monied interests of the gun lobby (Governor Abbott “tweeted-out” his celebration of higher gun sales when SB 11 was passed); 2nd Amendment extremists’ patriarchy, racism and misogyny; and class and privilege (the private colleges’ and universities’ freedom to opt-out on the privilege of private property rights). Some legislators have already announced their wish lists for the next session: no exclusions zones; no permits, licenses or training; and, universal open carry.
Several reporters asked me this week why women so visibly dominate this movement. I really could not find a lucid answer at the time, but I think it is this: women live with threats of danger, sexual violence and oppression in this culture all of the time. From before adolescence and on, women are aware of threats to their bodies and well-being. Working around fear, learning to own one’s body and space is a process of maturation and development for women in this and other countries. We can live in fear, or embrace joy, self-knowledge, pleasure and adventure, and be brave. And lots of us feel brave without guns as extensions of our being.