“When May I Shoot a Student?”

 

shutterstock_195431228As a professor, I have academic colleagues forwarding the panicked reactions to the bills in various states allowing weapons to be legally carried on campus. One passed around this New York Times op-ed with the sarcastically-calm title by an Idaho professor “When May I Shoot a Student?” If students are allowed to carry guns on campus, then this professor wants to know under what circumstances he can legally shoot them.

The assumption is that allowing students to carry weapons on campus creates a novel, dangerous, and unprecedented situation. With the column’s mud-thick sarcasm getting in the way, I can’t tell whether he understands that the law already affirms the right of people to carry firearms when he walks around town. Does he also worry about when he can shoot an armed person on the street?

His claim is that students are specially upset at him — by virtue of being in his class and earning bad grades — so he’s at special risk there.  I’ve had my share of stressed, upset students over the years, so let’s not dismiss this point. But allowing legal carry on campus doesn’t change the situation. The dangerous ones have always been dangerous and a student with murder in his mind isn’t deterred by a campus rule prohibiting weapons.

So, “when can I shoot a student?” Well, whenever you could shoot anybody else. How often have you needed to shoot people so far, professor?

Then this PowerPoint making the rounds from the University of Houston is getting media attention, especially slide 15:
houstonpp.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeOne of my colleagues posted an article referencing that presentation, with the story being that professors at the University of Houston are being “advised” to save their lives by avoiding sensitive topics in class, dropping curriculum, and meeting with students by appointment only under controlled circumstances. See?! Allowing guns on campus means professors are being told to do these crazy things just to keep from being shot! Therefore the law is a horrible thing.

Except that’s not what’s happening. The presentation is from a UH faculty senate meeting about the new law, and the faculty senate has made a resolution against the law, claiming:

The Faculty of the University of Houston asserts that it cannot carry out its core mission of excellence in education, research and public service where guns are present in educational spaces.

It’s not an external body giving advice to professors. It’s not even the administration. It’s the professors themselves. Read the rest of the presentation. It’s all an anti-gun advocacy session.

Now, I should point out that the existence of this slide is not evidence that the law is a bad thing. In fact, I think this slide was created in order to give the professors a talking point against the law. By encouraging overreaction, they can try to point to it and pretend that it’s a result of the law, rather than of internal coaching. It reminds me of the undignified ways that soccer players will pretend to be gravely injured in order to get a foul against another player.

On the plus side, maybe the whiny, metaphorical use of the silly phrase, “trigger warning” will stop at last (with real triggers to warn against), and we can bring back dueling to let students settle their feelings of offense.

Published in Culture, Education, Guns
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  1. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Just to add one more thing:  Seeing the University of Houston professors saying they might “drop certain topics from [their] curriculum” just makes me happier and happier I’m an astrophysicist, and I don’t have to deal with the silly social issues nonsense they’re teaching in certain other departments.  I’ve seen heated discussions over how to understand or derive physical laws occasionally, but I’ve never had a topic I thought was likely to make people upset.

    The mindset of making students have approved opinions about things is just not a part of my field, thank goodness.  I’d kind of bet that it’s those “other” professors who put in the line about dropping certain topics.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tim H.: …we can bring back dueling to let students settle their feelings of offense.

    Hey, it worked for Canada’s new Prime Minister:

    • #2
  3. Jordan Inactive
    Jordan
    @Jordan

    He shouldn’t worry about it. He’d be dead if he ever needed to use his weapon, fretting about when he’s allowed to defend himself from grave harm.

    Although, having had creepy stalker students, I can fully sympathize with horror at the thought that the student-cretins would be armed in the classroom.

    Since these emotional children burst into tears at the thought of someone not being called by xer preferred pronoun, I wouldn’t want xem possessing the means of deadly force either.

    • #3
  4. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    I think schools should “deputize” a certain percentage of students with firearms training and concealed carry permits. These students could legally carry on campus and would agree to do so on a regular basis.  This would take most of the air out of the anti-guns-on-campus arguments and actually make them look even more stupid than they already are.

    • #4
  5. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    Tim H.: Just to add one more thing: Seeing the University of Houston professors saying they might “drop certain topics from [their] curriculum” just makes me happier and happier I’m an astrophysicist, and I don’t have to deal with the silly social issues nonsense they’re teaching in certain other departments.

    Tim, I sincerely doubt that they will, since the topics taught in liberal arts pretty much align with the political and social leanings of the faculty.

    That said I dispute (mildly) that you “don’t have to deal with the silly social issues nonsense they’re teaching in certain other departments.” In the long term that nonsense has shaped our culture and politics in ways which affect us all quite directly.

    In the short term it can affect even the hard sciences, because in recent years even scientific disputes can become damaging to reputation and career. Watch your back Tim. The politicization of science is not far behind.

    As examples I refer to work of two scientists, Sally Baliunas (astrophysicist) and Willie Soon (solar physicist) in their 2003 publication in Climate Research. This paper very nearly destroyed their careers for reason which were transparently political. Some of the so-called Climategate emails also revealed a conscious and concerted effort to get the journal’s editor removed.

    Or consider the disgusting treatment of Dr. Bob Carter, who as a dissenter of global warming was dismissed as emeritus professor  from James Cook University (where he’d previously been chair of the of the Earth Sciences Department.)

    • #5
  6. Lidens Cheng Member
    Lidens Cheng
    @LidensCheng

    This just reminds me of how stupid and mindless liberal indignation are.

    I’m all for duelings.

    • #6
  7. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tim H.: I think this slide was created in order to give the professors a talking point against the law.

    See slide 18, which consists of a list of talking points against the law.

    OK: “Any idiot can get a CHL, it’s just 4 hours of training and a test with a 70% pass and unlimited repeats.”

    Good: “It restricts the access of students to their professors”

    Good: “Most students, faculty and staff feel threatened and resentful, not protected by concealed weapon carriers”

    Excellent: “Most parents don’t want their underage children to attend a gun-enabled campus”

    What a bunch of pathetic whiners!

    • #7
  8. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    When may I shoot the student?  When may you reasonably and justifiably shoot anyone?  If you don’t know the answer to this in any public place, then contact your lawyer.  The answer is likely the same whether you need to use a knife, a hammer, a baseball bat or a heavy hard bound text book that could cause life altering injuries.

    I would be inclined to ask these professors why they believe that it is acceptable for students to have to come and go in public buildings and public spaces, often in cruddy neighborhoods without arms to protect themselves from would-be rapists and muggers just to make them feel nice.

    • #8
  9. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tim H.: “When May I Shoot a Student?”

    I was going to give a flip answer to this, like “Whenever the student is whiny or annoying in any way.” However, I find that many lack a sense of humor when guns are involved so I resisted, sort of.

    • #9
  10. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    If a professor has any question about when he may shoot a student, that professor needs to read this book. It will answer most questions on that subject.

    Seawriter

    • #10
  11. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Another example of the power that corrupts us…  I’ve heard some of this same griping at my campus.  You know what I’d really like -someone to actually advance the practical objections.  The campus is safe and accidental discharges in dorms (that would go through thin walls) are a far larger concern than getting mugged on campus.  University is also on somewhat firmer grounds as landlord in that case, too.

    That would probably suggest a decent compromise -keep your guns in your cars.  But that would make far too much sense.

    • #11
  12. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    “Against stupidity, the gods themselves labor in vain.” – Friedrich Schiller

    • #12
  13. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Bob W:I think schools should “deputize” a certain percentage of students with firearms training and concealed carry permits. These students could legally carry on campus and would agree to do so on a regular basis. This would take most of the air out of the anti-guns-on-campus arguments and actually make them look even more stupid than they already are.

    Actually, that’s an excellent idea.  The University of Houston faculty senate poo-pooed the idea that concealed carry does any good by saying there are too few people carrying concealed (contradiction, anyone?), so let’s fix that by making sure we’ve got reliable students who are carrying.

    Re: poo-pooing—That’s the best I can make out of the logical mess of a line on slide 18:

    Good: “CHL are just 3% of the adult population, and less students. They are not well enough trained to provide any kind of protection. Instead they are a huge accident risk.”

    So concealed carry is a huge danger because there aren’t enough people doing it.

    Well, let’s fix that for you!

    • #13
  14. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Seawriter:If a professor has any question about when he may shoot a student, that professor needs to read this book. It will answer most questions on that subject.

    Seawriter

    Good link.  I was also thinking of Massad Ayoob’s In the Gravest Extreme, which my Dad has.  I think he gave a copy to my sister and me.

    • #14
  15. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    drlorentz:

    Tim H.: “When May I Shoot a Student?”

    I was going to give a flip answer to this, like “Whenever the student is whiny or annoying in any way.” However, I find that many lack a sense of humor when guns are involved so I resisted, sort of.

    Hah!  I was thinking of something similar, like answering, “What, like you haven’t considered it every year on the day before mid-terms?”  Luckily, I’ve got a pretty good bunch this year.

    • #15
  16. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    jmelvin:When may I shoot the student? When may you reasonably and justifiably shoot anyone? If you don’t know the answer to this in any public place, then contact your lawyer. The answer is likely the same whether you need to use a knife, a hammer, a baseball bat or a heavy hard bound text book that could cause life altering injuries.

    Right!  That’s exactly what was going through my mind in reading that Idaho professor’s snide op-ed.

    • #16
  17. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tim H.:Re: poo-pooing—That’s the best I can make out of the logical mess of a line on slide 18:

    Good: “CHL are just 3% of the adult population, and less students.

    That’s not even grammatical: “and less students.” It’s embarrassing. Aren’t there any English professors in the Faculty Senate?

    • #17
  18. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Jordan:Although, having had creepy stalker students, I can fully sympathize with horror at the thought that the student-cretins would be armed in the classroom.

    I understand that, too.  I had one former student (and my employee at the campus planetarium) whom I found out from others was making some vague threats against my life online.  I read what he’d written and got the strong impression he had some screws loose in a worrisome way.  I talked with one of his other professors and found that we’d separately gotten the same feeling about him.  The student was most upset about his student loans coming due, and he’d been drifting from one major to another without much progress towards graduation for several years (6? 8?).  So he had a serious problem, and he was inventing conspiracies:  the Math Department (his third major) had a grudge against him and wouldn’t let him graduate, I had stolen his research to make money, etc.  He had an incoherent, populist fervor to his politics that could make him rail against anything or anybody with equal conviction, with no consistency of taking sides, except that everybody was against him.

    The threat against me was vague, but I knew him enough to be worried, and for a few weeks, I scanned the corners of buildings and the river levee sharply every time I got out of my car and walked into the office, thinking he might have a rifle on me.  (continued…)

    • #18
  19. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Cont’d…

    I kept my office door locked, most of the time, and I planned out how to fight him off if he tried to come through it.  I was taking it seriously.

    I took the problem to the administration and showed them his posts online, and they called him in to talk to him and kept my name out of it.  In the end, I don’t know if his loan problem was solved in any way, but he eventually left campus—I don’t know if he graduated or just dropped out—and I didn’t have to bother with him again.

    Oddly enough, he sent me a LinkedIn request recently.

    • #19
  20. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Final comment on the creepy stalker student issue:  I understand—I really understand—not wanting a guy like that armed around you.  But our campus was a gun-free zone (then and now), and that was no protection at all.  All he had to do was bring the gun and keep it out of sight.

    The scary ones have always been able to do that.  The law in Texas now will simply allow the law-abiding to do it, too.

    • #20
  21. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Tim H.:The scary ones have always been able to do that. The law in Texas now will simply allow the law-abiding to do it, too.

    Exactly. I had to deal with a stalker student myself ten years ago, so I understand.

    • #21
  22. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tim H.: He had an incoherent, populist fervor to his politics that could make him rail against anything or anybody with equal conviction, with no consistency of taking sides, except that everybody was against him.

    Hmm… this sounds vaguely familiar. He’s not running for president, is he?

    • #22
  23. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    drlorentz:

    Tim H.: He had an incoherent, populist fervor to his politics that could make him rail against anything or anybody with equal conviction, with no consistency of taking sides, except that everybody was against him.

    Hmm… this sounds vaguely familiar. He’s not running for president, is he?

    You know, as I started to write that, the description rang a bell…  ;)

    • #23
  24. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Mike LaRoche:

    Tim H.:The scary ones have always been able to do that. The law in Texas now will simply allow the law-abiding to do it, too.

    Exactly. I had to deal with a stalker student myself ten years ago, so I understand.

    What do you teach?  Any story of this worth sharing?

    • #24
  25. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Limestone Cowboy:

    As examples I refer to work of two scientists, Sally Baliunas (astrophysicist) and Willie Soon (solar physicist) in their 2003 publication in Climate Research.

    Yes, I saw the internet mob turn its ire on Soon in our professional astrophysics discussion page.  There were several who felt perfectly justified calling for his firing and ostracism.  Luckily, I work on quasars, which is almost as apolitical a topic as you can get.  The only iffy things are debating Federal funding for the telescopes, and the professional feminists who want to sink their nails into every issue in hiring and promotion.  Surprisingly, the Federal funding issue is less contentious than the latter.

    • #25
  26. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tim H.: the professional feminists who want to sink their nails into every issue in hiring and promotion.

    Sexist! ;)

    • #26
  27. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Drlorentz—Caught that one, didn’t you? ;)

    • #27
  28. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    Tim H.: The only iffy things are debating Federal funding for the telescopes, and the professional feminists who want to sink their nails into every issue in hiring and promotion.

    Coming soon to a university near you… feminist quasar studies. Smashing the patriarchy one quasar at a time.

    • #28
  29. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    NYT:

    I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip…

    Can we just please say magazine? Please?

    Yes, it’s pedantic, but it’s so telling. We would not take someone seriously who published an article in the Times that talked about filling up his car’s battery with gas.

    • #29
  30. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    I think it is in p0or taste to use a photo of a person with their finger on the trigger carelessly and inattentively pointing a gun.

    If the goal of the article is to reinforce that armed students are unsafe gun wielding maniacs (not what I take away from it, but your results may vary) the picture helps reinforce the image.

    • #30
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