Professors Told to Avoid Teaching Sensitive Subjects to Students with Guns. Wait, What?


February 26, 2016 by gregrabidoux2013

guns on campus apple

Race. Politics. Ethnicity. Gender Relations. Sexism. Campus Assaults. Exams. Grades.

Even “The Donald.”

All sensitive subjects and all are apparently taboo, off-limits for professors at the University of Houston to bring up in their classrooms.


Well, now that students can carry guns to their classes it seems faculty members are admittedly and openly nervous about um, triggering any intense feelings that could ostensibly lead to gunfire. Okay, “The Donald” I get but the other topics, really, isn’t stirring emotions and fostering questioning one’s beliefs and convictions at least in part, what learning is all about?

No, many say at The University of Houston. Emphatically, No.

In fact, faculty and even some administrators are advising colleagues to simply try and avoid doing or saying anything that could spark the type of feelings or reactions that could lead to armed violence.

You mean like giving a student a bad grade, however deserved it may be?

guns on campus girl

What do you mean I got a “C” in Psychology? Why don’t you check it again?

Well, a number of universities and faculty members across our country are applauding this type of admonishment as a means to avoid anything that could create the kind of in-class controversy that could end in bloodshed.

On the one hand, this type of presumptive thinking and fear at the UH is preposterous, right?

Just because students can and admittedly will mosey on into their class packing pistols doesn’t necessarily mean any bad will come of it supporters argue. Besides, the main point here they assert is that if some lone gunman (or, woman, I suppose) or would-be terrorist with bad intentions shows up then any number of students, even a gun-toting faculty member can quickly and lethally “take them out.”

And, of course, by “out” we don’t mean to the campus quadrangle to get a stern scolding.

guns on campus sign

This sign certainly would make me think twice if I had bad intentions.

On the other hand (the one not inches away from the trigger), what could possibly go wrong when you mix young adults with racing hormones, less than fully developed frontal lobes, drugs, alcohol and the pressure of getting good grades with lethal firearms and then force them all to sit together in a confined room? Which, if it’s anything like those I’ve taught in over the years is incredibly cold when it’s hot outside, incredibly hot when it’s cold outside and never seems to have enough oxygen. (I know, I know, I gotta upgrade my teaching facilities, but I digress).

In my 15 or so years of teaching college and graduate students I have seen students verbally insult one another, get into altercations either in or just outside of the classroom, get moved to tears either over the discussion in class or by comments made to them by a classmate and have had several make threats to other students, once over who would sit nearest the window (see, dang thermostat issues again!).

And that doesn’t include the various bomb threats, fire alarms, and lock-downs due to weapon notices received nor two shootings I knew of at fraternity parties gone bad.

ok frat girls

CDC studies suggest that at any give moment at least 25-30% of all students aged 18-25 on campuses across the US are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both or are “stressed to the point of depression.”

Now, I have been fortunate in that I have had very few if at all instances in my own classroom that I describe above. But all the above and more certainly occurred at various campuses and classrooms over the years (Well, the thermostat issue was in one of my classes but that was resolved by some creative seating arrangements. Thankfully).

My point?

Stuff happens. And it doesn’t all happen and get all resolved at the high school level before these students descend on campuses of higher education. But you and I and everyone else knew that. How could you not with the number of campus assaults and shooting we endure annually and tragically between grades K-16.

And, because so much stuff happens, will mixing in lethal firearms be good or bad for campuses across the country?

ok frat joe college

Stuff does indeed happen.

Similarly, though not exactly, these are the type of questions we as a nation ask when states pass laws allowing firearms in places where alcohol is legally served, like bars and restaurants with bars.

SLUG:  GUNSINBARS DATE: 07/01/2010 CREDIT:  Dayna Smith/ftwp  CAPTION: Members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League gathered to celebrate the new guns in bars law that went into effect July 1st at Champs in Reston.  Chris Karanski, left,  of Round Hill with his open-carry pistol across from  Anthony Dahm, Vienna.  StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on  Thu Jul  1 22:33:12 2010

Okay, just one more scotch and soda. I gotta pick up my kid from college later today.

But, institutions of higher learning somehow were historically thought to be different. More innocent. More pure. More civil. Less like anywhere else with people who so often act like they never quite graduated from adolescence.

It’s been my experience though, that campuses are a microcosm of society, just with much bigger ratios of 18-25 year olds playing beer pong than in mainstream society. I think.


Lawmakers tout the need to do something to thwart would-be gunmen and armed terrorists attacking our schools. And who could argue with needing to do more? And arming our students and allowing them to be gunmen and gunwomen as a deterrent continues to gain support.

As for me? Well, I teach politics, public policy and law. Geez, no room for possible controversy and hard feelings there, right?

Maybe that’s why for the last couple of years now I teach on-line. Full-time.

Do I miss the in-classroom experience?

Well, at least I know what hot-buttons to avoid pushing on myself.


splendora palin

Ace your exam? You betcha. Just don’t forget to lock and load first.










72 thoughts on “Professors Told to Avoid Teaching Sensitive Subjects to Students with Guns. Wait, What?

  1. CDN Aaron B says:

    As a Canadian I can comfortably say – I don’t get it.

    This need to embrace a second amendment right just doesn’t make sense.

    This was written during a time where America had numerous external threats as it was establishing itself as a nation. Every corner of the country had conflict. The US Army was established only within a decade of this amendment and the history to that point required a strong civilian contingent to bear arms when conflict arose.

    It isn’t like that anymore. There isn’t an external threat that requires civilians to bear arms and pick up the fight if it is brought to America. The US has one of the strongest and mature military forces in the world. The law enforcement agencies are one of the largest employers in the US. These groups don’t need civilian help, not like they did in the eighteenth century.

    In the modern day I haven’t seen any positive outcomes associated to citizens exercising their second amendment rights. The only stories are of two categories:

    Tragedy resulting in people arming themselves and killing innocents
    Tragedy resulting in innocent people being killed by enforcement agencies because they could be armed.

    The components of the amendment don’t even sound like they are referring to the modern US:

    Enabling the people to organize a militia system. – this seems counter-intuitive to national security and feels as though it encourages terrorist regimes.

    Participating in law enforcement – this is no longer required. I think most law enforcement agencies would agree that civilian participation is discouraged.

    Deterring tyrannical government – again there is a US army for this purpose. Civilian participation is no longer needed, unless it refers to the need of internal deterring. If that’s the case, like bullet one it seems to encourage internal terrorism.

    Repelling invasion – see above.

    Suppressing insurrection – Carl Bogus suggested this referred to slave insurrections (Bogus, 1998). If ever an indication that a revision is required it can be seen here.

    A dated doctrine that does not apply to the modern US that only results in loss of life and internal impacts to national security.

    So l don’t get it. Not at all.


    Bogus, Carl T.; Professor, Roger Williams University School of Law (Winter 1998). “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment”. U.C. Davis Law Review. 31: 309–408

  2. Justin W says:

    Interesting topic.

    I think the notion that professors or students would suppress their thoughts simply because a student in the classroom (or the professor, I suppose) has a handgun is not realistic. We have all seen guns — carried by police officers, security guards, or members of the military. And in a non-threatening environment (such as at an airport), I don’t think the presence of a weapon held by a person authorized to carry it is sufficient to change the social norm of free expression.

    Now, the key here — to me — is the term “non-threatening environment.”

    Yes, some subjects elicit strong opinions. And strong opinions often elicit high emotions. But I believe these high emotions are enough to suppress intellectual discourse. I’m sure we’ve all been in rooms where people are arguing passionately about a subject; and what usually happens in these situations — from my experience — is that people will mute themselves and sometimes physically move away from the conversation in order to mentally (and physically) separate themselves from the turmoil. Further escalation into violence, which is certainly possible but very unlikely, would also suppress free expression (of course). But if violence is occurring, I don’t think it would matter whether it was a fist fight or a gun fight, people would likely not be sharing their opinions at that time … they would be fleeing or restraining the offenders.

    So, I’ve said that I don’t think the presence of a handgun would inhibit discussions. But, I do think that some students may not feel comfortable being in a room with a person with a handgun, particularly if it is unholstered. So, the presense of a handgun, while not inhibiting the ability to have a free and open intellectual discussion, could, I think, limit the number of people participating in said discussion, which could change the tenor of the discussion.

    But this is a different issue.

  3. SJPE says:

    A couple of things I would add to the stress of constantly being evaluated with grades etc, free flowing alcohol and drugs are that college age is right there in the age range for first episode psychosis. I’m not on board with stressed out, semi independent kids separated from their support system experiencing severe depression, anxiety or psychosis with ready access to a firearm. The prognosis for 1st episode psychosis with intense early intervention is surprisingly good. It isn’t so great if that individual has access to a firearm and is too dead to receive treatment.

    Given all the issues regarding sexual assault and consent on campus, I think firearms are an issue on that count also. How many young ladies will fight back, or report, if they know the aggressor has a weapon?

    Another minor point is that the argument of guns on campus as a defense is seriously flawed. When I was a kid watching Hercules & Xena (yeah back when TV was cool, don’t judge) I always wondered how Herc could walk into the middle of any brawl & immediately identify the bad guy. How does an untrained kid with a gun make the other kids on campus safer?

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