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Texas Academics Told to Avoid ‘Sensitive Topics’ to Prevent Angering Armed Students

"If students packing seems like a bad idea to you, imagine how you’d feel if you were a professor," writes Van Buren. (Photo: Ibro Palic/flickr/cc)

Here’s another swanky benefit of our out-of-control gun culture: university professors should be aware that their students might shoot them.

The Texas state legislature voted last year to allow students to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dorms, just about anywhere on campus, a practice with roots to when Socrates taught Aristotle.

If students packing seems like a bad idea to you, imagine how you’d feel if you were a professor. There’s nothing quite like the free exchange of ideas when everyone is armed in math class.

There's something in the air...

How about armed Texans in classes that teach Arabic, or Islamic Studies, or Hebrew, or evolution? Some good times ahead. The academic chilling effect seems pretty obvious. One wonders how many brilliant teachers will move to campuses in less-armed states, and how many researchers will avoid Texas for creating an academic environment incompatible with academics. It is possible that overall Texas will become even dumber.

Public universities in Texas are grappling with how to implement the measure, which gives some flexibility to the institution. For example, the University of Texas at Austin will not allow guns in dorms but will allow them in classrooms, because somehow that makes sense. Libraries and cafeterias,maybe.

Sporting events? Suck on hot lead, visiting team!

If having armed students seems like it would pretty significantly alter the college classroom, you need look no further than the University of Houston. The university’s faculty senate held a meeting recently with a Powerpoint presentation aimed at assisting faculty in adapting to the new gun-toting normal. Here’s a slide:

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The slide stops just short of advising profs to wear kevlar to class, or to lecture from behind bullet proof glass or, in the language of Texans, simply pack bigger guns. Like the faculty parking that sets them aside from the kids, maybe teachers could be issued fully automatic weapons, while the kids were limited to semi-auto only, assuming that does not violate the only Amendment in the Bill of Rights Texans seem to be aware of. Grad students could get special firearms training to better prepare them for a life in academia. The concept of defending one’s thesis in front of a faculty committee takes on a whole new meaning.

Wacky comparison: The military does not allow open-carry on most bases outside of war zones, and during training does not allow guns in barracks and classrooms (outside of weapons training.) Even in war zones, every soldier has received extensive training in his/her weapons, and is punished swiftly for safety violations. In some ways, you could say Afghanistan may be safer than Houston. Yi hah!

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

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