ATLANTA, Ga.—A while back, a student at Georgia Tech, where I teach, showed me a series of anonymized “threats” that students in a notoriously difficult class of mine had posted in an online discussion forum. I’d just returned grades, and nobody was happy. “Does he have kids?” one asked. “I’m going to steal them and blackmail him,” answered another.” “Had kids,” added a third.
They’re the kind of comments you wouldn’t think twice about—just typical college students communing over a tough professor. Unless, that is, you also knew that those students might be permitted to carry concealed firearms on campus. Then their words might take on a different tenor, even if just hypothetically.
Eight states already allow gun possession on college campuses. Texas was the latest to adopt a campus-carry law, which will take effect August 1. And legislation allowing licensed gun holders over 21 to carry concealed handguns on college campuses set to reach the Georgia Senate floor as early as this week might make my state the ninth. (Of the remaining states, 19 currently ban concealed carry on campuses, and 23 leave the decision up to individual campuses.)
Texas’s law has incited a spate of recent distress among educators. Fritz Steiner, UT Austin’s dean of architecture, cited the law as a catalyst for seeking another position—he is leaving UT to become the dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. The University of Virginia media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, who is a UT Austin alumnus, withdrew his candidacy as a finalist for dean of that school’s Moody College of Communication due to his concerns about the new gun law. And faculty everywhere spurned a University of Houston Faculty Senate presentation on teaching after the law’s enactment. The tips it offers to faculty in the campus-carry era include “Drop certain topics from your curriculum” and “limit student access off-hours.”