In May 2015, the Texas State Legislature approved a law (SB 11) allowing anyone with a concealed handgun permit to carry a loaded firearm into most spaces on state university campuses. On August 1, 2016, that law went into effect, sparking protests by faculty, students, and the surrounding community.
During the last week of August 2016, the Dean of Students in the College at the University of Chicago, John (Jay) Ellison, wrote a welcome letter to incoming freshman disavowing the use of trigger warnings and safe spaces. This, too, was controversial, and many faculty from the college, as well as students and faculty from other universities, strongly criticized Ellison's letter and tone.
In addition to their similar settings, both of these controversial events consider similar issues. These include questions of:
Protection (but from, and for, whom? Are millennials and/or academics too coddled?)
Safety, both emotional and physical (but again, for whom? Should students be protected from guns? By guns? From difficult material? From their fellow students?)
Freedom: of speech, to bear arms, to feel safe
Access, to all of the above
In our next class, we will consider how these twinned controversies reflect each other and wade into the questions they pose along with our guest, Dr. Steven Friesen, Professor of Religious Studies and active member of Gun-Free UT.
Recommended Reading and Listening:
"Why the guns-on-campus debate matters for American higher education" (by our guest, Dr. Friesen)
"Texas students can now bring guns to class. "Cocks Not Glocks" is bringing dildos instead"
John Ellison Welcome Letter and the Faculty Response
On The Media Podcast: Kids These Days (28 min. total; begin at "Free Expression Takes Work" and end at "The Truth About...")
"After Cocks Not Glocks Protest, Pro-Gun Activist Makes Video Depicting Murder of College Student"
Code-Switch Podcast: Content Notice: Here Are a Few Ways Professors Use Trigger Warnings (31 min.)
"The Trapdoor of Trigger Words: What the science of trauma can tell us about an endless campus debate"