How Not to Get Murdered on a Concealed Carry Campus in Texas

File this story from Gawker under “I” for insane. In response to faculty concerns that Texans who legally own firearms will be allowed to carry their weapons on campus starting August 1 this year the University of Houston held a “campus carry dialog” where they discussed the dangers of armed students. You see, students on college campuses have a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, and are, for the most part, unpredictable adolescents. Should we be concerned that student altercations might turn deadly? Is there any chance that things like orientation week or graduation could tilt from being bacchanalian embarrassments (like the 486 students arrested after the first week of classes at ASU a few years ago) and into outright tragedies? What about the student outbursts we frequently see in classrooms and office hours?

Don’t worry. UH has got you covered.

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Just avoid doing your job as a professor and you should be safe. Don’t teach difficult topics. Don’t develop curriculum that challenges students preconceived world-views. Back down if a student disagrees with you angrily. Keep contact with students to a minimum. Fucking great plan, UH.

This should really help you meet your mission:

As its primary goal, the University of Houston is dedicated to becoming a nationally recognized institution in the 21st century. The university will anticipate and respond to changing demographics in an increasingly diverse and globally interdependent world. It will use its resources to:

Meet the challenges of educating a dynamic mix of nontraditional and traditional students.

Promote excellence within the context of basic and applied research and scholarship.

Identify and respond to the economic, social and cultural challenges affecting the quality of life in the city of Houston, the state of Texas and the world through its education, research and service.

The response of the University of Houston administration is pathetic, but not surprising. Kowtowing to the monied interests (often time more imagined than real– the fear and paranoia they feel over the potential actions of hypothetical people is a wonder to behold) of their donors, university officials are often too cowardly to stand up for the values and objectives of the institution they have been charged to care for.

Concealed carry on college campuses is a terrible idea. Most of our students are adolescents. They are at times very serious and adult in their thoughts and acts. Other times they are wild and emotional. Beyond everything, they are highly stressed. They feel the pressure of an enormous financial commitment with no idea where they will land in a few years, the social weirdness of finding their place in the world, navigating a massive dating market (with all the perks and pitfalls that come with it), work-life balance, and unreasonable expectations for measuring success. Add in our large number of veterans, mid-life career change students, and the myriad of “late arrivals” and you will start to understand the varied pressures faced by my typical class of students at a large state university.

My major concern isn’t that I’ll get capped for teaching about the deeply embedded racism of US society or for outlining the positive changes brought on by feminism. The chances of that happening are so small as to be inconsequential to me. I’m concerned that the pressures students face combined with easy access to highly lethal weapons is a terrible idea. I’ve been affiliated with universities around this country for the last 15 years of my life as an undergraduate, grad student, TA, professor, fraternity advisor, and administrator. In every capacity I have seen students use violence on one another for the dumbest purposes. I’ve had friends, colleagues, and students harm themselves and others over emotional and psychological issues. Adding firearms to this toxic punchbowl is idiotic. Nothing good will come from it. But a great deal of bad will.

During my last year at Bowling Green a student I was very close to killed himself in his dorm room on campus. He was a member of my fraternity. A student who I had in class multiple times. A young man with a bright future and a seemingly happy present full of friendship and love. He struggled with depression that none of us saw or understood. There are things I look back on from his visits to my office hours every week that I cringe at– moments that in retrospect look like clues but in real-time seemed like normal stresses (friends, scholastics, uncertainty of the future). I’ll always feel like I failed him. Keeping guns off campus would not have saved him. But I have had multiple students, before and after, that attempted suicide and lived. They leapt from buildings. Over-dosed on pills. Were caught trying to hang themselves or in the act of cutting. Guns in these students hands would have almost certainly killed them. The role guns play in the lethality of suicide attempts is far and away my gravest concern.

How many drunken fist-fights will become shootouts? Will fraternity beefs that were once filled with vandalism and threats end in murder? Are we likely to see a rash of accidental deaths? How many students might crack, even just for a moment, under the immense pressure they feel and do something drastic? I don’t know the answer to these questions. But I would argue that even one such death would be too much to pay just so you can feel marginally safer (which you frankly are not) in the extremely unlikely event of a live shooter on campus. I get that you really want to live out your fantasies of being the “Good Guy with a Gun.” I wish you cared half as much about what happens to a sad guy with a gun.

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