Campus carry has affected many people, but there is one group on campus who has the largest stake in the new legislation: professors. They carry the burden of maintaining a learning environment, and promoting their voices should be a priority of the working group.
Professors have been interested in the issue of campus carry since the bill’s inception in the Senate. Plan II adjunct professor Alfred McAlister was invited to testify before the state Senate, where he presented evidence combating the misbelief that more guns means less crime.
McAlister has another more striking point of view on campus carry. One day in 1966 he watched two friends, one pregnant, walk to class, expecting to meet them a few minutes later in the Union. Instead, the next time McAlister saw them they were lying lifeless on the ground, victims of the UT tower shooter.
“When I heard there was a shooter I ran onto Guad and I saw bodies and I couldn’t do anything,” McAlister said. “I was an Eagle Scout, I’m trained to respond, but it was too late.”
Even so, McAlister said he did not wish he was armed, especially since armed civilians had accidentally shot at officers approaching the Tower.
Almost 50 years later, the line of what is permissible in the name of self-defense is still fuzzy, even among law enforcement. Asking professors who do not have law enforcement training to deal with the possibility of weapons in their classroom is out of line.
While not all professors are opposed to campus carry, the many who are have made their sentiments known. They have signed petitions, staged protests and come out to public forums to advocate for gun-free classrooms.
University representative Gary Susswein said even before even campus carry passed, both Chancellor William McRaven and President Greg Fenves raised concerns that SB 11 might impede recruitment of potential faculty. Their fears came to fruition just last week when professor emeritus Daniel Hamermesh withdrew from his teaching position next fall, citing concerns about campus carry in a letter to Fenves.
“If you feel unsafe and have the ability to take your talent and your resources elsewhere, I think you should act on that,” said business freshman Kendall Talbot, a student in Hamermesh’s class.
Taking “talent and resources elsewhere” is not a phrase that bodes well for an internationally recognized university like UT. If we greatly expand the reach of guns on campus, we are at odds with regions where gun control is stricter, thus discouraging educators from these regions to consider coming to UT.
“I have heard people on the faculty very informally say they’re not so happy to be on the faculty here anymore,” McAlister said. “I feel quite sure that there will be people who are deterred from coming here once they learn about this.”
While UT must enforce the law when it comes to campus carry, the University should ensure that classrooms remain spaces where our professors are comfortable. Doing so will benefit both the school and its students.
Hallas is a Plan II and human development freshman from Allen. You can follow her on Twitter @LauraHallas.