A Texas University has suggested staff consider adjusting their discussions to avoid violent classroom outbursts in light of a new state law allowing guns to be carried almost everywhere on campus.
During a forum, professors at the University of Houston were advised to avoid sensitive subjects or remove certain topics from their curriculum after the “campus carry” law takes hold on August 1.
The law gives concealed carry permit holders the right to bring their guns into public university classrooms.
Suggestions made by the UH Faculty Senate included “be careful discussing sensitive topics,” “drop certain topics from your curriculum,” “not ‘go there’ if you sense anger,” and “limit student access off hours.”
Twitter user Jeff posted a photo of a slide showing the suggestions, captioning it: “Slide from recent campus carry dialogue at UH, in response to faculty concerns about dangers from armed students.”
The photo quickly spread through social media, as many expressed shock that a place of education apparently suggested limiting the sharing of ideas.
Versions of slides the UH Faculty Senate prepared for a forum to discuss the “campus carry” law. (UH.edu)
“University of Houston: Don’t discuss ‘sensitive topics’ because angry students might shoot you,” one person wrote.
“Good to know it’s not censoring curriculum. Oh, wait,” another person commented.
Slide from recent campus carry dialogue at UH, in response to faculty concerns about dangers from armed students: pic.twitter.com/610RyhDZlf— Jeff (@JeffintheBowtie) February 22, 2016
A different version of the PowerPoint presentation also included the suggestion to “go to appointment-only office hours” and to “only meet ‘that student’ in controlled circumstances.”
The new law does not apply to private universities in Texas, which reportedly all plan to ban guns.
Administrations at public universities can hash out how to apply the new law and create some gun-free zones on campuses, but a recent attorney general opinion said they cannot include classrooms.
The UH Faculty Senate recently passed a resolution against the new law, writing: "The diverse academic communities and free academic discourse are especially threatened by the presence of deadly weapons in teaching, research and living spaces."
“Faculty are a particular source of unwelcome news to students (and sometimes staff or other faculty) who often react emotionally and rashly,” the resolution also said.
A Campus Carry Work Group comprised of members of the administration, faculty and student body are tasked with developing the campus carry policy for UH.
“There is a law explicitly banning the establishment of ‘illegal exclusion zones,’ with fines of up to $10K/day,” one slide from the forum warned. “It can get worse if the Legislature or Board finds our rules too restrictive.”
But many educators across the state have argued that academic freedom and open discourse would be limited by allowing guns in classrooms.
UH PhD student Jeff, who posted the original photo of the slide, wrote on Twitter: “Step 1 of 3: Terrorism involves the silencing of discourse through fear of violence.
“Step 2 of 3: Open carry is advertised as a means of resisting or preventing terrorism.
“Step 3 of 3: Teachers advised that any problems with Open Carry can be resolved by silencing discourse.”
Founded in 1927, the University of Houston has a population of 40,914 undergraduate and graduate students, according to its website. About 6,000 students live on campus in residence halls, apartments and townhouses.
Eight states—Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin—have provisions allowing concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.