Monday, August 1, 2016

50 Years Ago Today.

I've lived my whole academic life in the shadow of the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas. For me, the story seems a tipping point between one kind of world and the one we live in now. Every time a new school shooting occurs I worry how numb we have become.

When I took this job many years ago, the specter of the clock tower often crept into my dreams. It scared me. It was ever present and sad. Of course those victims are long forgotten to most, the whole story nearly unknown to my students. But I say Godspeed today to their souls; I hope they found peace in another world.


In effect today.


  1. Amen to the first part (and shaking my head at the second part, though it looks like UT Austin has come up with the best local regulations it can under the circumstances). I know someone who was on or near campus that day (but not directly involved), and it definitely left an impression on her. I can imagine how the clock-turned-sniper tower could serve as an all-too-ominous reminder.

    I have to admit that I never really thought about the possibility of an on-campus shooter until Virginia Tech, which means that I managed to get through the first decade plus of my teaching career *without* thinking about whether my classrooms locked, and how to block the windows, and whether I could manage to distract a shooter who targeted my own classroom specifically long enough for the students to escape (and, one hopes, seek help; that's definitely one of many moments when I'd be happy to have a combat vet or two in the room, but not necessarily a(nother) gun).

  2. I know, I know...makes me sick.

  3. I have long been aware of the UT shooting but had never read the full story before. It's harrowing and sad and victims who lived were tormented, including the police officer who disabled Whitman first. (There's some debate over whose shot actually ended his life.)

  4. The Washington Post has a good article on the event as a whole, and another brief one on the first victim(s) shot (a young woman who was eight months pregnant, who lost both the baby and the ability to carry additional children).

    I had not known that students shots back with deer rifles (or loaned same to the police, who didn't have weapons equal to the situation). That does complicate the narrative, but so does the fact that the fusillade from the ground didn't work, and the officers who made their way up to the sniper's nest were then at risk from the shooter and those trying to take him down from the ground. Though I see some are arguing otherwise, to me that echoes the confusion over open carriers following the recent Dallas shooting. Fortunately in both cases there don't seem to have been any significant friendly-fire casualties, but that strikes me as an increasingly real possibility the more guns you bring into a situation, especially if some of them are in the hands of un- or minimally-trained 21 and 22 year olds (apparently one has to be 21 to carry a gun on campus in Texas; at least that both reduces the potential numbers slightly and ups the maturity quotient a bit. The whole thing still worries me, as it apparently does many professors and students there.)

  5. It looks like gun-control is the topic here. I'm not touching this!

    1. It seems to be one of those moments when it's hard not to think about how our on-campus lives/jobs are affected by larger cultural and political currents.