I was really bothered yesterday by the news that the powers that be want to bring guns to campus. Today, I'm really, really bothered by this. Two points and then I'm done.
First, every semester I have to explain to students why they've failed. (Or, as they see it, why I'm failing them.) It could be that they didn't do the work or that they cheated, but I don't think I've had a semester yet where I haven't had to explain to someone very distraught why they failed one of my courses. I started to think about the consequences of this. I've had students tell me that they'll lose scholarships, they won't graduate, they won't be able to go to DC for a high paying internship, that they will be kicked out of the country because they will be kicked out of school, that their parents will do horrible things to them, that they'll never get into law/med school and that that's all they had lived for, etc... I don't always believe these stories, but I'm sure some of them are true. I guess I don't like the idea that the laws and policies will create a situation where students packing pistols get to come to my office and corner me to talk these things over. That's just crazy. Why should anyone have to work under those conditions? I don't see any real solution to this. I don't think that the situation being envisaged is one where I can insist that _my_ students don't carry firearms. I don't think the situation being envisaged is one where I can decide whether others are allowed into my office with a gun. So, what am I supposed to do? I guess I'll buy a vest, hide a pistol under my coat, and hope that I'm a quick enough draw to shoot someone before they shoot me but not so quick that I shoot someone who was reaching for a phone. Wonderful. What an insane thing to have to worry about. I hope the legislature comes up with the extra money for hazard pay.
The other galling feature of this is that the people affected by this policy have had no say in it. It's not as if the students or faculty demanded this. People who spend no time on the university campus have decided that it would be a good idea for students to carry handguns. Now, you can run safety arguments all you like (esp. if you ignore all the facts), but there's something oddly paternalistic about all this. If students and faculty are willing to run the horrible risk of being unarmed if dinosaurs or ninjas attack the campus, that's on us. It's really none of your business whether we decide to run this risk or not. I'm willing to live with the risk of being unarmed if something horrible happens on campus. I'll place my trust in the police and hope that if I duck and cover everything will turn out for the best. You should tolerate my foolishness if that's what you think it is. At any rate, outsiders have decided that it would be best for us to have guns brought to campus. Regardless of whether you think it would be safer to have guns or not, there's another principle in play here. We (i.e., those on campus) should have some say since we're the people at risk. If a critical mass of us decide there will be guns, I'll live with that. (I'll live with that by trying to leave, but I'll live with that). That's not what happened. It's people with no stake in it who decided that we should let college kids keep guns in dorms, carry them to lectures, and bring them into our offices. I've had a hard time being angry about this because I've found the suggestion that weapons should be allowed on campus simply incredible. Now that reality is sinking in, I'm just getting more upset.