In the gun blogging business, some headlines jump right out at you. Like newsweek.com‘s post Will Guns on Campus Lead to Grade Inflation? The simple, indeed inescapable answer to that question is “no.” If you need more, “no it won’t.” And yet there it is: an article that cries out for fisking. (There’s a execrable pun there but I’ll demure.) “Texas college professors may soon face a dilemma between upholding professional ethics and protecting their lives,” Jessica Smartt Gullion [above] opines. And so it begins . . .
The Texas Legislature appears poised to approve a bill that would allow college students to carry firearms to class. Once the law, called “campus carry,” is passed, public universities in Texas will not be allowed to ban guns on their campuses, although private schools could enact their own prohibitions . . .
With this proposed law, a question coming up for many academics is whether they would be forced to give A grades to undeserving students, just so they can avoid being shot.
This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. [ED: Yes. Yes it is.] In my five years as a college professor, I have had experiences with a number of emotionally distressed students who resort to intimidation when they receive a lesser grade than what they feel they deserve.
You may want to note that Ms. Gullion is an assistant professor of sociology at the co-ed Texas Woman’s University. You can’t make this stuff up. Well, not like Professor Gullion makes up the intimidation of which she speaks. Or did she? Here’s her account of a threat which made her thank God (should she believe in one) that TWU’s campus is a gun-free zone.
One evening in a graduate course, after I handed back students’ papers, a young woman stood up and pointed at me. “This is unacceptable!” she screamed as her body shook in rage.
She moved toward the front of the class, waving her paper in my face, and screamed again, “Unacceptable!” After a heated exchange, she left the room and stood outside the door sobbing.
All this was over receiving a B on a completely low-stakes assignment.
What followed was even more startling. The following week, the student brought along a muscle-bound man to class. He watched me through the doorway window for the entire three hours of the class, with his arms folded across his chest.
And if this wasn’t enough, the young woman’s classmates avoided me on campus because, they said, they were afraid of getting caught in the crossfire should she decide to shoot me.
After that, every time she turned in a paper I cringed and prayed that it was good so that I wouldn’t have to give her anything less than an A.
Even if we accept this story as fact, Assistant Professor Gullion was not threatened with a firearm. The gun-related threat is presented as hearesay evidence. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I call bullshit. And even if it isn’t bullshit, there’s no indication that Assistant Professor Gullion or her students took any administrative or police action against the agitated student. Kinda like the James Holmes thing. But I digress . . .
Learning from this experience, I now give papers back only at the end of the class or just “forget” to bring them with me. I was lucky that the student didn’t have a gun in my classroom. Other professors have not been so lucky.
Last year, a student at Purdue shot his instructor in front of a classroom of students. In another incident, in 2009, a student at Northern Virginia Community College tried to shoot his math professor on campus. And in 2000 a graduate student at the University of Arkansas shot his English professor.
In each of these states, carrying handguns on campus was illegal at the time of the shooting, although a bill was introduced in Arkansas earlier this year to allow students to carry guns.
Is it me or did Assistant Professor Gullion undercut her own argument there in one fell swoop? As these educators were shot in gun-free zones, doesn’t that prove that gun-free zones are ineffective? Yup. As the sociologist herself acknowledges.
We know that some students will carry guns whether it is legal or not. One study found that close to 5 percent of undergraduates had a gun on campus and that almost 2 percent had been threatened with a firearm while at school. [Note: All of the study’s authors are affiliated with the notoriously anti-gun Harvard School of Public Health.]
We could talk about the possibility that allowing legal gun owners to carry legally on campus may have deterred these attacks, but why bother? The only rhetorical defense of her position left is that more professors would be shot if concealed or open carry was legal on campus. Needless to say, she goes there.
Allowing students to carry weapons to class strips off a layer of safety. Students are often emotional and can be volatile when it comes to their GPAs. Who would want to give a student a low grade and then get shot for it?
A suicidal sociologist? JK. Anyway, by her own admission, the “layer of safety” of which she speaks is an illusion. In the same way that the perceived threat of death by low grading is statistically insignificant and, therefore, equally fantastic. Which is why Assistant Professor Gullion’s anecdotal evidence of personal experience with grade intimidation sound so ridiculous.
An international student once cried in my office and begged me to change his F to an A, as without it his country would no longer pay for him to be in the U.S. I didn’t. He harassed me by posting threatening messages on Facebook.
So the question is, Will we soon see a new sort of grade inflation, with students earning a 4.0 GPA with their firepower rather than brainpower? And if so, what sort of future citizenry will we be building on our campuses?
Again, the answer is no, rendering the last question irrelevant, misleading and, well, delusional. As an examination of those universities that allow campus carry would indicate. Perhaps the Assistant Professor would like to research that? No, I thought not.