While a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Priscila’s historical feature on the limestone walls surrounding the UT campus was selected for publication in a book printed by Forty Acres Press. The walls were built in 1969, largely to prevent students from rioting and protesting in a time of social unrest and to keep non-students off the campus.
“To the students of the 1970s, these walls were the weapon of the enemy — Frank Erwin.
‘It was Erwin, we heard, who ordered walls to be built around campus to make it harder for non-students to enter,’ then-student Betty Flowers wrote in The Times They Were A’ Changing, a short memoir about her time at UT.
The walls went up after two particularly powerful protests on campus—the Waller Creek and Chuck Wagon incidents, as they became known. In 1969, Erwin wanted to expand the stadium, which required the moving of San Jacinto Street into Waller Creek. Numerous trees would be cut down, and students and faculty protested, eventually occupying the biggest trees until the chairman forced them out with bulldozers.
Less than a month later, students protested the closure of the Union to non-students. The Chuck Wagon eatery in the Union had become a central hangout and hotbed of radical conversation, largely due to non-students.
When UT decided to close the Union to non-students, students protested and were met by police with tear gas and mace. The tires of some police cars were slashed and many protesters ran into West Campus to escape arrest.
These events demonstrated that protesters could easily flee from campus, as long as they could run in any direction and keep running. UT soon realized the walls would not only limit the number of access points in, but force those going out to use only a few exists, creating a funnel that facilitated trapping and catching demonstrators.”