Four helpful tips on how not to get murdered while teaching college

As I have a number of friends and loved ones who teach college here in Michigan, where our elected officials are always looking for new ways to remove barriers to gun ownership and increase the number of places where deadly weapons can be legally carried, I thought I’d pass along the following incredibly helpful tips from the University of Houston, where they’ll be allowing people to carry weapons on campus starting August 1. I figure, given the way things are going in Michigan, they may come in handy before too long.

The following image, shared on social media by University of Houston PhD student Jeffrey R. Villines, was taken at an event intended to help faculty at his institution strategize ways to survive come August, when they’d begin lecturing in front of armed students.

texasnomurder

It seems to me to somewhat antithetical to the whole notion of college, where, up until somewhat recently, it was expected that young people would be confronted by new and challenging ideas, but it’s hard for me to fault educators who just want to make it back home alive to their families each day. The truly disgusting thing, at least to me, isn’t that faculty are being told to spend less time with their students, and shy away from topics that could upset men with guns, but that they’ve been put in this situation by their elected officials, who continue to push their pro-gun agenda in spite of the problems we’re seeing in America. [These elected officials, by the way, chose not to open their offices to guns.]

Thankfully, here in Michigan, we’re still a few years behind Texas when it comes to stuff like this, but we’re moving in the same direction. [If I’m remembering correctly, Michigan Representative Jef Irwin, when I interviewed him last, said that roughly one-third of all the legislation moving through the Michigan House had to do with increasing “gun rights.”] While we’ve yet to pass legislation here in Michigan that would allow the carrying of guns on campus, I suspect, given the rate we’re going, it’s just be a matter of time… Right now, to give you a sense of how quickly we’re sliding down the slippery slope, members of the Michigan House are debating legislation that would allow all gun owners to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

As for the list above, I’m surprised that they don’t mention the wearing of body armor, or the use of camouflage, which both seem like legitimate solutions. Or what about positioning your grad assistants with sniper rifles along the periphery of the lecture hall? Or how about starting each class by simply stating, “I am wearing a suicide vest filled with plastic explosives. If I should be shot by any of you during the course of today’s lecture, and let go of this small trigger in my my hand, you will all be instantly killed.”

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38 Comments

  1. EOS
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    These helpful tips are more likely the result of today’s college students and their inability to handle any discussion of an issue that they disagree with and deem to be a microaggression. On many campuses there are safe spaces where students can go so that they don’t have to be confronted by new and challenging ideas. The first 5 minutes of lecture are consumed by trigger warnings concerning the upcoming topics. Any student who chooses to avoid a topic that makes them uncomfortable is given a “safer” alternative assignment. Faculty who don’t comply are subjected to mass protests. Today’s college campus is consumer driven and administrators bend over backwards to appease their sensitive clients and their helicopter parents. Faculty can get fired for using the wrong pronoun, asking someone of the opposite sex to use a different bathroom, or advocating a politically incorrect stance on a number of issues.

  2. Jcp2
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Is there an alternative to elected officials fulfilling the desires of the citizens in the confines of a public institution?

  3. Kit
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    If “carry everywhere” is such a goo idea why don’t they allow visitors to the Texas Capitol to carry weapons?

  4. Eel
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    The solution is actually very easy. Just let your Graduate Assistants teach. They’re cheap and expendable.

  5. David McNeal
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Office hours are a pain in the rear anyways.

  6. Joe Montgomery
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Just follow these simple… bullet points.

  7. Dan Blakeney
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    16 to 20 years ago (maybe even a tad more) I was visiting an old professor of mine and I told him what good gig teaching in college looked like to me – now that I appraised the job as an adult and not a kid. He agreed wholeheartedly and then admitted the only downside was his fear a student would bring a gun to school and shoot him over a bad grade…

  8. HM
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    My husband just retired from 43 years at UM. He said he wouldn’t be able to find it in himself to teach under these conditions.

  9. Fleeta Chew Siegel
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I’ll bring this up at our next Board meeting at Kingston University in London…. Meanwhile, the government wants us to start snooping on individuals and ‘guessing’ if there are extremists. My reply, ‘Sorry, not my job’. Now I can add, ‘Sorry, I don’t want to get hurt.’

  10. Lynne
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    You know. This kind of thing is very frustrating to me because I know what can be lost. I know that some of my best educational experiences have come when a teacher has challenged me, sometimes to the point where I have been really angry. It was after the anger passed that I was able to fully consider things and sometimes I changed my point of view. If teachers are afraid to challenge students in that way though, it would be real shame.

  11. Taco Farts
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile in Canada
    https://twitter.com/pw3n/status/702638135088263168

  12. Kat
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    What about surrounding yourself in mirrors, so that your armed students are never quite sure where it’s really you’d they shooting at, or a reflection?

  13. Mr. X
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Kat, is this what you had in mind?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RdPVtcDeEI

    [credit: The Lady From Shanghai]

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    EOS– you are living in a conservative media dystopian fantasy land. I’m not sure why it thrills you so to imaging the youth of America are senseless and coddled. EVERY ONE of these many sentences is inaccurate.
    –“On many campuses there are safe spaces where students can go so that they don’t have to be confronted by new and challenging ideas.
    –The first 5 minutes of lecture are consumed by trigger warnings concerning the upcoming topics.”
    –Any student who chooses to avoid a topic that makes them uncomfortable is given a “safer” alternative assignment.
    –Faculty who don’t comply are subjected to mass protests.
    –Today’s college campus is consumer driven and administrators bend over backwards to appease their sensitive clients and their helicopter parents.
    –Faculty can get fired for using the wrong pronoun, asking someone of the opposite sex to use a different bathroom, or advocating a politically incorrect stance on a number of issues.”

    http://ncac.org/press-release/trigger-warnings-whats-the-truth

  15. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I am having hard time understanding Jean’s strongly worded objection. Do you think EOS is exaggerating the prevalence of certain trends? The link Jean posted describes and supports one of the trends on campus that EOS brought up, I think.

  16. Peter Larson
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I have spent most of my life on college campuses.

    While I find the current trends of soft speech suppression on college campuses troubling, I’m not sure that any of EOS claims are true at all.

    Here they are:

    – These helpful tips are more likely the result of today’s college students and their inability to handle any discussion of an issue that they disagree with and deem to be a microaggression.

    I agree that students these days are pretty weak willed… but I find it odd to be lectured about an inability to debate ideas from a right winger.

    – On many campuses there are safe spaces where students can go so that they don’t have to be confronted by new and challenging ideas.

    I think that campuses should be unsafe places for ideas. Where is the safe space at the University of Michigan? I want to go there and stir up some shit.

    -The first 5 minutes of lecture are consumed by trigger warnings concerning the upcoming topics.

    Maybe this happens in some peoples’ classrooms, but I know of no one who does this. The first 5 minutes of a class are usually spent waiting on people to show up or collecting assignments.

    – Any student who chooses to avoid a topic that makes them uncomfortable is given a “safer” alternative assignment. Faculty who don’t comply are subjected to mass protests.

    Has this happened more than once? All students in 99% of classes are given the same assignments. As for mass protests, where are all these protests? Campuses are pretty boring places. I’d like to go to a campus where mass protests are common. There might be some fire there.

    – Today’s college campus is consumer driven and administrators bend over backwards to appease their sensitive clients and their helicopter parents.

    This is somewhat true, but Republicans are to blame here. Conservatives have pushed the corporate model of education as part of a wider agenda to privatize public services. While I find the fiscal independence of universities to be the root of their comparatively higher quality compared with other countries, it is true that it is having disturbing impacts on undergraduate education. Not sure why EOS would care about this. It would seem to be right up her alley. The fully public model should be more troubling to her.

    -Faculty can get fired for using the wrong pronoun, asking someone of the opposite sex to use a different bathroom, or advocating a politically incorrect stance on a number of issues.

    I have never been fired for any of these, though, to be fair, I have never asked anyone to use the bathroom.

  17. Peter Larson
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    In general, I support the right of citizens to be able to own firearms within certain legal limits, but weapons have no business on a college campus, or any public space for that matter.

  18. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Given your stated views on “communities” I am pretty sure you can find “safe places” at UM on your own, Peter.

  19. Peter Larson
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Wherever I am and no one else is, is a safe space.

  20. Peter Larson
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I am definitely going to include trigger warnings in future classes.

    “Over the course of this lecture, you might find me to be an asshole. Be prepared. I don’t like myself either.”

  21. EOS
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Well Jean,

    For starters, back in my day college students were independent, self-supported adults and not referred to as the youth of America. They left their homes shortly after high school graduation and never looked back as opposed to the large number of 30 year olds still living in their parents basements today.

    If you want to dispute the facts that I write, it may be beneficial to write arguments that show why they are false assumptions. I’m with Frosted Flakes on this one – repeating what I wrote verbatim and then posting a link that confirms nearly every statement is an unusual tactic and not likely to persuade anyone.

  22. Thom Elliott
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    When EOS went to a 5th or 6th tier cow college for some reason it must have been in the 40s or so, none of the qualities of college students he has listed has existed in my lifetime.

  23. Thom Elliott
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Oh, and just about all of the philosophy professors I know just won’t teach to armed students, the gun nut students will just have to intimidate people elsewhere. I know the (Freudian) gun worshipers on the far Right think more guns will solve any and all problems, but there is absolutely no evidence having a gun will make you any safer or be of any help on college campuses. Only future Elliott Rodgers and other Republican school/spree shooters will be emboldened.

  24. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The Markmaynard.com community is so-so lucky to be graced with reports and insights from young distinguished professors of philosophy from elite urban universities. Thank you.

  25. Thom Elliott
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Being part of the broader critical theory community I am in contact with theorists and philosophy professors all over the US and Europe (not just those locally). You know, actual intellectuals. I’m not sure what I said that provoked the dull sarcasm from reactionary enemy of the people Frosted Flakes, but I’m sure he feels righteous for spouting a little anti-intellectual sputum.

  26. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Not sure what provoked the sarcasm? Don’t look too deep. It is not personal nor should it be.

  27. Eel
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    “Over the course of this lecture, you might find me to be an asshole. Be prepared. I don’t like myself either.” -Peter Larson

    How about starting each class with a simple “Please shoot me”, Peter?

  28. Peter Larson
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    “For starters, back in my day college students were independent, self-supported adults and not referred to as the youth of America. They left their homes shortly after high school graduation and never looked back as opposed to the large number of 30 year olds still living in their parents basements today.”

    This is such bullshit. Before Pell Grants, etc, parents paid for University. If they couldn’t, you just didn’t get to go to school, and were probably living with your folks anyway, unless you had some cushy union job that got you out of the house.

  29. Peter Larson
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Eel,

    I would like to get shot. It would save me from having to do it myself.

  30. EOS
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The military was the cushy union job that got me out of the house at 17. Never looked back. Started at U of M three years later and paid for tuition with the GI Bill. Worked to support myself and graduated with about $1500 total in outstanding loans. I never considered myself to be a youth while I was attending college. And I didn’t hang out with any liberals. They must have all been home whining about how their parents wouldn’t pay for college and how no politicians were promising free tuition.

  31. Demetrius
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Well, as long as everyone is off now off topic, I’ll throw this in …

    Allthe “olds” who spout off about how college students back in *their* day were responsible, paid for their own college courses, and didn’t graduate with massive debt conveniently forget to say (or recognize) that state governments used to provide massive subsidies to public colleges. The goal was to make college more affordable for poor and working-class kids, and it worked – keeping tuition and other costs very reasonable.

    Over the past 40 years, we’ve had a massive public disinvestment in education (especially college education). Since then, the cost of tuition has massively outpaced inflation – putting college out of reach for many students, and leaving many more to graduate with giant, life-crippling piles of debt.

    In light of this, it is interesting to note that one of Bernie Sanders main campaign messages is that we should make college tuition- and debt-free, as Germany Finland, Norway, Sweden – and Chile – have already done, or are doing.

  32. Jean Henry
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Sanders unfunded campaign promise would make public universities free, not all universities. Even if he did manage to secure funding for the program, that funding would be at the mercy of congress’ budget negotiations and tax policy every year. Universities cant function well with that kind of insecurity. Students of means, who become alumni with means will go to private schools. It would create a stark division in funding between private and public higher education, much as we have now in k-12 schools. It’s a terrible plan. High quality public schools like U-M would very likely need to become private (it’s already half way there) in order to maintain quality. I don’t know what EMU’s fate would be. We are not Europe.

  33. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know when EOS went to college. If it was pre pell grant, or not, but it is not like now is the golden age of college affordability for the non rich. Relative to 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years(….) now is the worst time to be non rich and wanting to go to college in an affordable way. I did not interpret EOS as merely saying the problem is “today’s young adults are soft”. It is complicated, but there is something behind Jean’s calling college student’s “youth”, no?

  34. jcp2
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Government guaranteed loans with no potential for discharge through bankruptcy has allowed colleges, both public and private, to raise their tuition. Make student loans like any other loans, and the cost of college will come back down. Otherwise, it’s Fannie Mae all over again. Worse actually, because at least those loans could be dissolved.

  35. EOS
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius –

    Government funded grants and loans for college education have risen faster than inflation too. This has resulted in larger proportions of people getting at least some college education. The Universities have increased their tuition to keep pace with the rise in Federal dollars for student loans. States provide larger amounts of subsidies than they did in years past for public universities, but they are unable to keep up the pace with the tuition and student aid, so the percentage paid by the state has decreased.

    College faculty want more students attending so that they can increase the numbers of professors. Most Universities have some degree of self-governing faculties and this has led to lowering academic standards so that more students can enroll and subsequently more faculty positions are available. However, the huge increase in government subsidies has attracted huge numbers of administrators who are now grabbing the lion’s share of tuition dollars. They hire large numbers of adjunct professors to teach at ridiculously low wages.

    There is a huge glut of PhD’s because the increase in University size has led to churning out a large number of grad students with no market for their skills. Once tenured, Professors churn out one PhD a year (or some similar number) but they hang on to their jobs for nearly a half century and there are few openings. Everyone wants a PhD so that they can teach at a University, but something like 5% actually obtain a tenured track position somewhere. This oversupply leads to plenty of persons willing to be adjuncts.

    So where does this lead us today? Tuition remains higher than the average person can afford. Families get second mortgages on their homes and take loans out of their retirement funds so that their offspring get through college. But the standards are so low that an undergrad degree has little value towards future employment. Hence 30 year olds in their parents basement working menial jobs while attempting to pay off student loans.

    And if Bernie is successful and everyone goes to college, it will only get worse.

  36. wobblie
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    “However, the huge increase in government subsidies has attracted huge numbers of administrators who are now grabbing the lion’s share of tuition dollars.” This is because educational institutions began being run like businesses. And just like in for profit business there is the need for ever expanding need of supervisors and managers.

  37. Peter Larson
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    College is too expensive. We have to think of ways to make it affordable and accessible.

    But “free college” is anything but. People will pay in the end. Aside from the unsettling issues of subsidizing families who could otherwise pay, “free college” would be disastrous for American public Universities and colleges. Tying University funding to Congress and State governments is a recipe for disaster.

    Anyone who lives in Michigan should know this, not to mention the Southern States.

    EOS thinks that “you” in my previous statement meant EOS. It did not.

  38. Jean Henry
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    It is interesting how the same data can be seen to say opposite things by different people. IT would appear that trigger warnings, safe spaces etc are a bit of a therapeutic fad these days, but not in wide spread use on college campuses– or ubiquitous as EOS implied. I am sorry if it confuses my point that trigger warnings and safe spaces exist at all.

    Young people live at home after college in order to discharge their debt will working. How is that irresponsible in anyone’s book? Rents in A2 are $1000 a month for shared spaces. The fiscal reality is so different from when we were all young, there is no point of comparison.

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