Chris Gilman

I’m not proud to say that in the over half-dozen times I’ve been to France, I never even noticed Charlie Hebdo. But I think it’s safe to say that Charlie Hebdo was unknown to many other Americans before the tragedy earlier this month. 

Americans’ lack of knowledge was clear when the public outcry, “Je suis Charlie,” seemed to morph into what sounded like “Je suis Charlie?” followed by “Wait, who exactly is Charlie?” The media seemed equally confused. Reports, broadcasts and tweets documented a mixture of assertions about freedom of speech and voices of anger about a lack of sensitivity toward French Muslims. 

Weeks after the event, I’m still struggling to come to a resting point on the issue.  My understanding has reached a frustrating dead end and I feel conflicted and powerless. 

The only solution, I believe, is to shift the debate to an arena where I have some influence. Here at UT, we can all learn from the events at Charlie Hebdo to start building our own brand of satire. We’re in a perfect microcosm for debating free speech, cultural issues and the merits of irreverence, and we have the luxury (and liability) of instant feedback from the campus community. Let’s start the experiment! 

We already have our very own humor publication, the Texas Travesty. These Onion-ites in training have the capability of pushing our buttons for a higher purpose and I think we should let them push a little harder.  

The Travesty is primarily an entertainment and humor paper. Chris Gilman, the Travesty’s editor-in-chief, says the publication is open to covering controversial issues in a tasteful manner. But would our student body be open to this?  

A recent discussion about satire and Charlie Hebdo with my fellow journalism students showed just how divided and sensitive we are. Some were offended by the magazine’s apparent mocking of religion in general, not just Islam. 

“I’ve seen the cartoons of the pope,” said Teresa Mioli, a Latin American studies master’s student and journalist. “That like makes me mad as a Catholic.”

Others vented frustration at how uptight everyone seems lately.  

“People will keep getting offended,” said journalism master’s student Andrea Nedorostova. “That’s something you cannot change.”  

But, Nedorostova says, the blow of pointed commentary can be softened with humor that can appeal to everyone.  

“If they make it really funny and let’s say 90 percent of people laugh at it, I think that’s a success,” she says, especially when international students and people of various ethnicities and backgrounds all get the joke.  

The portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad offended the Travesty’s own illustrator and graphic designer, Hazel O’Neil, who says she doesn’t accept the excuse that Charlie Hebdo is an equal opportunity offender.   

These interactions have taught me that students value cultural sensitivity just as much as the ability to have a thick skin. So how do we translate these values into our own campus legacy of satire?  

For starters it should exist. The Travesty does a good job of lightly poking fun at issues, and has rightly avoided attacking “low-hanging fruit,” Gilman said. But they could shape themselves into a respected voice for dissent, or at least irreverence, on major issues that affect the campus community. 

The Travesty already has the will and intelligence to do this. Gilman has said that UT’s Student Government is ripe for satire. He wants to poke fun at how its insular nature may lead to a lack of perspective from student leaders. 

“It’s pretty much predetermined who’s going to run and who’s going to win [in Student Government],” Gilman says.  

We also need to utilize the hundreds of experts on campus to help make our brand of satire intelligent. These experts can push our satirists to be as informed as possible before taking a crack at an issue. We can harness this knowledge to make our satire legacy less about provoking and more about starting a discussion.  

And the discussion certainly wouldn’t be one-sided, with the Travesty holding all the cards. Social media provides readers the opportunity to give instant feedback. This would either help build a thick skin for Travesty writers, or help refine their message. The Travesty’s increasing presence over the past two years is evidence that it’s prepared to engage with the campus community, but its meager record of complaints, says Gilman, may mean it’s not challenging readers enough. 

Lately, it feels like we’re in an era of apathy. Perhaps our devices are satiating our emotional needs, but that can’t last forever. Now is the perfect time to shake things up and grab students’ attention. Satire is the perfect medium to bring difficult issues to the fore without boring students or scaring them away. 

Most of us will never fully relate to the French experience after Charlie Hebdo. All we can do is create our own legacy of satire at UT to know what it’s like to balance free speech with the sensitivities of marginalized groups. We can’t be afraid to offend, but let’s let our offenses serve the highest purpose possible. 

Covington is a journalism graduate student from Laguna Niguel, California.

Clockwise from top left: Horacio Villarreal and Ugeo Williams, Connie Tao and Ryan Upchurch, Maddie Fogel and Ryan Shingledecker, Alison Stoos and Chris Gilman. 

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Homeless individuals on campus, Student Activity Center couches, police call boxes, a bear pond and protection of “ginger” communities were just a few of the topics covered Monday at the Student Government executive alliance debate, hosted by the Dean of Students office and moderated by the Election Supervisory Board.  

The alliances include Chris Gilman and Alison Stoos; Ryan Shingledecker and Maddie Fogel; Connie Tao and Ryan Upchurch; and Horacio Villarreal and Ugeo Williams. The candidates for university-wide representatives also spoke about how they hoped to improve campus.

Gilman, radio-television-film junior, and English senior Stoos said the homeless population was the pressing issue on campus, suggesting to house them using the Student Government initiative of extended hours at the Perry-Castañeda Library. The alliance also said they would like to make changes to the turtle pond.

“The turtle pond on campus, why?” Gilman said. “What we want to do is make it a bear pond, put bears there and have on-sight security guards tranquilizing them all-day so they’re just sleeping. You can take pictures, put them on your iPhone, put them on Instagram.”

Shingledecker, an international relations and global studies senior, and English junior Fogel said their “voice box” initiative to hear suggestions and complaints from students will make Student Government more approachable for students to express concerns and solve tangible issues replacing the furniture on the second floor of the SAC.

“Student don’t feel valued,” Fogel said. “We go to a big school and feel that we’re not all known and that doesn’t love us back. That’s why only 7,000 people vote. You can’t just vote for someone flippantly as a joke.”

Tao, a radio-television-film, finance and business honors junior, and finance junior Upchurch said their campaign efforts to reach students in a creative and entertaining way is what students want out of Student Government. The alliance said they want to continue reaching out to disadvantaged students, including those with red hair.

“I want to engage a greater portion of the UT population,” Tao said. “Student Government needs to interact with those marginalized or forgotten. SG is so far removed from the whole of the student body and we are here to bring them together. For all the students that didn’t go to class today because of the wind, for all the ones that hooked up on ShingoFogel’s couches, who want their voice to be heard. This one’s for you.”

History senior Villarreal and Williams, a sociology and education senior, emphasized their campaign platform point to improve student services and safety around campus. The alliance spent much of the debate defending against rebuttals of the other candidates. The alliances said they want to improve incoming students’ campus mentors, increase the number of police call boxes and make students more aware of their use.

“Student services is a huge thing that we pay our money to fund,” Williams said. “We want to reach out to as many communities on campus as we can. We know we won’t be able to touch everyone but we want to.”

Elections will be held Wednesday and Thursday. Students can vote on utexasvote.org.

Alison Stoos and Chris Gilman

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Chris Gilman and Alison Stoos are running in hopes of bringing a lazy river to campus to ease transportation from class to class and bringing alcohol onto campus.

Gilman is a radio-television-film junior and Stoos is an English and theater and dance senior.

Gilman said the student body doesn’t need to know anything about the two other than that they love UT.

“We’re walking at a normal pace for SG executive alliance because we want the student body to relax, open up wide to our ideas and enjoy a long year of unmitigated pleasure with their student government,” Gilman said.

The alliance’s platform is simple — pizza balls.

“Christians have a crucifix, we have a pizza ball,” Gilman said.

Stoos said the alliance would like to raise funds for the Greatest Industry Relics and Their Hits club, an organization which honors deceased ‘90s R&B singers and rappers, and is against anti-livestock abuse.

“Our stances and platforms are guaranteed to stay clear and very black and white,” Stoos said. “We won’t change our opinions to a confusing 40 or 50 shades of grey — we know what we believe.”

Published on February 15, 2013 as "Meet the candidates". 

UT Radio-Television-Film freshman Chris Gilman was choosen to feature his short film”The Boy Also Rises” for the Third Annual Texas Union Film Festival starting Thursday. The story reflects on the hardships of love in a dark comedic way.

Photo Credit: Shila Farahani | Daily Texan Staff

Over winter break, freshman radio-television-film sophomore Chris Gilman and his friend Will Kempner, a student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, wrote, planned and produced their own short film at their friends’ aunt’s house, a dentist office and a nature preserve in New Jersey.

“We produced our film just for fun, just to see what it would take,” Gilman said. “But then I saw the event page [for the Third Annual Texas Union Film Festival] and couldn’t say no.”

The Student Events Center Film Committee presents its Third Annual Texas Union Film Festival today in the Student Activity Center auditorium. The festival will screen short films selected by the film committee from UT student submissions.

“We’re used to showing blockbusters, but we wanted to do something different with this festival,” said Kirsten Martinez, chair of the film committee. “We wanted to give students the opportunity to show their own films.”

The film festival has doubled in its applicants since its initiation in the spring of 2010. This year 20 films will be shown, with the runtime expected to last three hours this evening. The film committee expects 100 people to attend the free show.

“We were really able to get the word out this year,” Martinez said. “We just hope the filmmakers get a lot out of it and are able to get some critique and feedback.”

Marc Bachman, director of the film committee, said the festival is all about The Union reaching out to the filmmakers. Although he has never produced a film himself, he said this is a way for the community to appreciate good student films.

“This is an accessible on-campus festival,” Bachman said. “Yes, there’s South By Southwest but that’s so highly organized and difficult to break into. This is something that validates what the filmmakers are doing.”

Gilman said, like Bachman suggested, he chose to enter this festival to validate his filmmaking. Gilman’s film, “The Boy Also Rises,” runs at approximately 13 minutes in length. The film tells the story of a struggling couple on the verge of divorce with a quiet son. But while the romance is losing its magic and the couple strives to redeem their love, their son is newly “possessed” by magic.

“[His parents] think he’s doing some sort of witchcraft, but it’s all really innocent,” Gilman said. “We wanted to make a dark family comedy that’s meant to be funny and scary at the same time.”

This is not Gilman’s first film. He has made several other short films, however this is the most extensive film he has worked on. Although not normally one to compete, Gilman has said he would enter this film into other festivals around the country after a more unique score is added.

“We basically write the movies we want to see for ourselves,” Gilman said. “I always loved movies as a kid.”

The festival will be judged by Michael Gill, an Austin screenwriter, Katy Daiger, an Austin Film Society community education manager, Erin Hallagan, an Austin Film Festival film programmer and Anne Lewis, a film professor at UT. The judges will be looking for a film that exudes quality and is acted well, according to Martinez. Although there will only be one grand champion, there will also be an award for audience favorite.

“We have a lot of entries because we want everyone to have this opportunity,” Martinez said. “Some have more dramatic story lines and some are more artistic. There’s something there for everyone.”

The film committee wanted students to produce films they would not only enjoy making but would also be entertaining for a student audience. Martinez said she was happily surprised to see the Facebook event has been tagged in status updates all week, something she hasn’t seen in years past showing her the film festival will continue to remain relevant.

“It’s great for these students to be able to take a step away from a movie theatre,” Martinez said. “It’s special to see what these filmmakers are capable of.”

Printed on Thursday, March 1, 2012 as: Union hosts local film festival