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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Campus

Bullet Points: “Deadly weapons will never be an acceptable part of university life,” says Faculty Senate president


| Trey Strange/The Cougar

“I’m very proud of our university and the process by which we’ve proceeded to the campus carry policy and dealing with this as a university community. It’s worked out very well even given this rather unfortunate policy,” Snow said. | Trey Strange/The Cougar

As a geology professor, Jonathan Snow isn’t terribly worried about the effects of Texas Senate Bill 11, which allowed for the concealed carry of firearms starting just this month.

But as Faculty Senate president, he has been vocal about his concerns regarding safety for both students and professors.

In the sixth installment of our weekly Bullet Points series, The Cougar interviewed Snow to hear about the concerns of both professors and the faculty senate have over campus carry.

The Cougar: Are you for or against campus carry? Why?

Jonathan Snow: Personally, and in my capacity as president of the senate, against campus carry. We had a resolution about campus carry — multiple resolutions in each legislative session going back many years — rejecting the notion of campus carry, and the reason is the that carrying weapons or using weapons in the context of a university is far outside the university tradition in the United States. And, it’s far outside the original vision of the Founding Fathers when they originally put together universities in the United States. There’s really no originalist argument that you can make about that. People just want to carry their guns and so they want to create something new so that they can carry their guns in the classroom and it’s absolutely against everything the University stands for.

TC: Do you think professors are at risk with guns on campus? Do you feel safe to teach?

JS: I feel safe to teach. The risk to professors is comparatively small. One of my biggest problems with campus carry is not so much the prospect of getting shot, which of course is bad enough. But it’s a very small risk. it’s a very rare thing to have happen. It’s how the discourse between faculty and students and students will be affected by some fraction of them carrying weapons designed to end human life rapidly.

TC: Do you think that the presence of guns will censor what professors teach? Do you think that’s intentional?

JS: I think each professor would probably answer that in their own way. Personally, it’s not going to affect the way I teach, simply because I teach a very dry subject. People really don’t get that excited about volcanoes in a political, sexual or religious context in a way that could get them angry or upset enough to do something dumb.

And that’s what we’re talking about, too. The danger is really, as Police Chief Moore said, that people sometimes do dumb things. And doing dumb things when you have a gun in your holster is a greater danger to everybody than if you don’t have a gun in your holster.

It’s really hard to impute motive, because I don’t really know that people who wrote the legislation. But for them, it could very well be a win-win-win situation. If you get all the liberal coop professors to leave the state, then you you’ve got less liberal coop professors. From a certain point of view, that’s a good thing.

If anything, I think it might be an imposition of a certain worldview by people who aren’t a part of the university community. That might also be a way of thinking about it. They simply feel that this is their inherent right, and why should they have to give it up just to step on a university campus, which they have never done very much?

And I think there’s a certain hostility to higher education in the legislature. We see this because higher education is getting hammered by the legislature in funding. We’re getting another budget cut again this year.

TC: Will you teach next semester?

JS: I’m not teaching next semester but it’s by coincidence. It’s because I’ve been doing so much with the faculty senate that I’ve been given teaching release. I am returning teaching in the Spring. I’m not bolting the University, but like many other faculty, Campus Carry has really made me reassess where my future might lie.

I can’t lie about that. I’m very committed to the University and its mission, but it’s impossible to not think about leaving to other places. I’m certainly not alone.

I think that faculty at UH are learning somewhat to adapt to campus carry, but they still don’t like it. Deadly weapons will never be an acceptable part of university life.

TC: Last year, a University PowerPoint slide was leaked that told professors to not ‘go there.’ How do you feel about the University’s response to this?

JS: Just to be clear, that wasn’t a University PowerPoint — that was my PowerPoint. That wasn’t university policy being discussed; it was a discussion exactly about the relationship between faculty and students in the context of campus carry among faculty. The university administration was not really involved in that discussion.

But the important thing to say about that is that the university administration response to campus carry and their discourse — the faculty on campus carry — has been impeccable. They have, at every turn, been inclusive in responses and involved faculty and students and staff in the planning and decision-making around campus carry.

TC: Are there other methods you think the University could have taken to improve safety measure on campus? Like what?

JS: First off, I dispute the notion that campus carry improves safety. I think that maybe for certain individuals, campus carry improves their feeling of safety. And the whole discussion is about feelings, right? It improves their feeling of safety at the cost of the feeling of safety of everybody else. Some people, then, feel less safe.

In fact, safety is always at the very forefront of people’s thinking at the University.

At the University of Houston, we live at the edge of a couple of struggling communities, and I think the administration is properly cognizant of that. I think that, in fact, if you compare the metric of crime rate between UH and Rice, UH would come off very, very well.

I’m not an expert on campus security — I personally have never felt particularly threatened on campus at night, and I’ve been around here a lot. I spend a lot of time on campus. I hope that’s not naïve.

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