Texas universities prepare for legal guns on campuses
WASHINGTON — It was the kind of rhetoric that seemed out of place at an institution of higher learning. ‘‘Be careful discussing sensitive topics.’’ ‘‘Drop certain topics from your curriculum.’’ ‘‘DO NOT confront a student.’’
But such advice was not part of the debates about issues of race, class, and sexuality. At the University of Houston, educators were being warned about triggers — by peers struggling with how to teach when a Texas law takes effect Aug. 1 to allow students who are licensed to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Dispensed in a PowerPoint, eye-raising bullet points advised faculty not to ‘‘make provocative statements’’ or ‘‘cute signs’’ about the campus-carry law, and to ‘‘only meet ‘that student’ in controlled circumstances.’’ They advised faculty not to ask students about their ‘‘CHL’’ — concealed handgun licensing status — and not to ‘‘go there’’ if they ‘‘sense anger.’’
The bottom line: ‘‘It’s in your interest and the university’s interest to be very guarded and careful about this issue.’’
The advice came as part of a discussion at the 42,000-student state university organized by the president of the central campus’s faculty senate, Jonathan Snow.
‘‘It’s a terrible state of affairs,’’ Snow, a professor of isotope geochemistry, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. ‘‘It’s an invasion of gun culture into campus life. We are worried that we have to change the way we teach to accommodate this minority of potentially dangerous students.’’
Snow is one of many educators in Texas critical of SB 11, passed last year. In a time when mass shootings are becoming commonplace, the legislation inspired one University of Texas professor to quit his job.
‘‘With a huge group of students my perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has substantially enhanced by the concealed-carry law,’’ economics professor emeritus Daniel Hamermesh wrote to the university’s president last year. ‘‘Out of self-protection, I have chosen to spend part of next fall at the University of Sydney, where, among other things, this risk seems lower.’’
Legislators, however, sought to protect the Second Amendment rights of college students.
‘‘I just feel that the time has come for us to protect the men and women of Texas who are carrying concealed on our campuses,’’ Republican state Representative Allen Fletcher, the bill’s House sponsor, said.
The slide show, which the University of Houston told the Chronicle of Higher Education it had not endorsed, came as a working group on the campus-carry law debates how it should be implemented this summer.
‘‘While the university president may not generally prohibit license holders from carrying concealed weapons on the campus, the law gives public universities some discretion to regulate campus carry including designating certain areas on campus where concealed handguns are prohibited,’’ a statement posted by the university’s police department reads.
Among the questions in a survey posted by the department: ‘‘Should the University provide handgun storage space for individuals who reside on campus?’’
‘‘Once again, what was once the stuff of the Onion is now Texas Reality, 2016,’’ Sharon Grigsby wrote for the Dallas Morning News opinion blog in a piece called ‘‘Response at University of Houston is exactly why we feared campus carry in Texas.’’