Faculty & Staff News

Professors react to campus carry advice to curb curriculum


Margot Backus, an associate professor of English literature, said she worries about potentially dangerous situations that could arise in the classroom. | Justin Tijerina / The Cougar.

The debate over campus carry gained international attention last week after an instructional slide about changing policies to address teacher safety concerns leaked online.

The slide, which was part of a faculty forum on campus carry, detailed possible ways professors could change their teaching policies to address concerns over personal safety.

During the presentation, which was given by Faculty Senate President Jonathan Snow, teachers were advised to “be careful discussing sensitive topics” and “drop certain topics from your curriculum.” The language of the slide prompted national media attention and was met with vocal opposition from several faculty members.

“There were a couple that said they would never change what they teach, but that was (not) exactly the point,” Snow said. “That slide was meant to initiate discussion, not tell them what to teach because that’s not my role.”

Snow said he isn’t worried about removing controversial subjects from his material, but he is concerned about grading.

“When it comes time to talk to students about grades or their future in the program it can be significantly bad news for some people,” Snow said. “When there’s more guns around on campus,  there’s a greater chance that a student in an impulsive moment harms themselves or has an accident.”

Associate professor of English literature Margot Backus opposes the bill and agrees about grading concerns, but said she isn’t changing how she teaches.

“In English, it’s very hard for us to envision how we could change our classes to avoid controversial or sensitive subjects or avoid having anyone be mad,” Backus said “Writing is a very intimate thing and being graded on it feels different than being graded on math or chemistry. It feels closer to the self.”

Backus has been teaching at UH for 25 years and said she receives at least one to two student evaluations every semester accusing her of “shoving her propaganda down (students’) throats.”

She teaches courses focusing on LGBTQ literature as well as Irish studies, both of which involve controversial topics.

“You don’t know what people are expecting, and I absolutely know that how I teach strikes some people as very surprising and maybe upsetting,” Backus said.

Backus said she even promotes students to “push back” when they don’t agree with something.

“I feel like I’m empowering them if they feel free to say ‘I disagree with that,’ and some of my most memorable experiences have been when students pushed back on a subject that they knew more information about than me,” Backus said. “If they feel free to push back, then I feel that means they know that I’m open to getting to the clearest understanding of the subject at hand.”

Faculty Senate subcommittee chair of Core Curriculum and chemistry professor Simon Bott said he worries about students dealing with the stress of finals, and though he doesn’t know the legality of the bill, he doesn’t think that the Texas legislature has “worried too much about legality, ethics, morals or hypocrisy in many of their actions.”

History professor John Moretta said he thinks the law is wrong, but he does not find UH at fault.

“I fault the Texas legislature, those idiots are the ones,” Moretta said. “How stupid can you be? It’s simply inviting a catastrophe.”

UH’s Campus Carry Work Group released a draft on the campus carry policy Wednesday, Mar. 2. listing exclusion zones in the draft.

According to the draft, guns will not be allowed in university housing, spaces used for discussion of grievances and disciplinary hearings, areas containing critical university infrastructure and areas used for day care and school activities, including areas used by minor children.

Backus said she feels disheartened by the draft and asked, “So the professors aren’t key infrastructure for the university?”

The Campus Carry Work Group is hosting an open forum to discuss the draft from 3 to 5 p.m. today in the Student Center South Theater.

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  • So Professors full of themselves are worried that their Socialism will be curbed with guns in the classroom … Hmmm? …. is such a bad thing?

    How stupid are those Profs to think that what they say in class will cause a student to stand-up in the middle of lecture and start popping off shots; while we have Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton spouting Socialism at every stop they make, and does anyone shoot at them?.

    Backus’ course is worthless with no practical application to earning power. And frankly, I don’t believe that any of her students will carry in her classroom.

      • David … you’re jealous.
        … you dream of being a Wordsmith such as I … but all you can utter is … uh.uh, uh, uh, ***TROLL***.

        • Ha! You say that as if you’re some sort of literary genius. Meanwhile you toss out arbitrary contractions that mirror what a computer program would assign variable names to. But that’s not surprising. You are after all a conservative drone, but it’s hard to blame someone who was indoctrinated to backwards ideas to the point where someone as bad as Trump can seem like a good idea for President of the United States of America.

          My sympathetic adagio to you, Trumpbot Beta Version 0.0.7

          • Organite!! Oh you?

            Look … anyone that can put two sentences together is considered a Wordsmith … compared to David.

            And Trumpbot has went live V 1.1.4. Come on Organite … keep up with the times.

            • Dang. I must be looking at old patch notes…
              Oh well, I admit I haven’t followed the development process as closely lately. It was getting out of hand last July, now I can only imagine its code work is utter chaos.

                • Why thank you, but don’t blame David for not having the wherewithal to have something to say to everything you spout off on these boards. While a part of me also thinks you’re a disingenuous troll, I at least have fun with it. You’re the Moriarty to my Holmes, The Joker to my Batman, the Burr to my Hamilton.

                  • Organite … your the Tattoo to my Mr Roarke. The Mr Snerdly to my Rush Limbaugh.

                    And I do blame David … like you said, we have fun with it. They can’t crack a smile and laugh to save their lives.

                    Sweet dreams.

    • Please. You tote Socialism around as if anyone who has a free thought outside out what religion or the NRA (which is practically a cult) decides is right for you is considered socialism.

      Let’s look at this for what it really is: Unjust expansion of rights not granted by the 2nd amendment at the expense of free and safe exercise of the 1st amendment.

      And the reason Bernie is so popular and gaining immense traction even being a relatively unknown dude is because, whether you care to admit it or not, this country likes socialism to an extent. Look at it this way, the last socialist president we had was so popular we invented term limits.

      • Organite!! Did I tell you I have a piece of Berlin Wall sitting on my desk … I have a framed picture of my Uncle standing on top of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate, with a tiny piece of Berlin Wall inside the frame.

        My Uncle went on and on about his experiences in East Berlin, and how the people in East Germany were limited by their government, their Socialist government. He served in war, and I’ve had my war as well.

        Come on Organite …. think! Am I limiting your rights to free speech? Am I limiting duh, du, duh, du David’s or GFUH’s … no.

        I firmly believe that if we did not have the 2nd Amendment, we would be a much different country with limited freedoms if not a full out cousin of the Soviet Union.

        Have you examined your Bernie lately? He didn’t receive a paycheck until he was 40. He talks of Santa Claus everywhere he goes, saying that the rich will be squeezed more for all his FREE program.

        Now lets look at where Santa Claus states like California since Simpson-Mazzoli, New York, Illinois, NJ, etc. States that are actually bleeding population because they can’t squeeze no more. The people that can are getting out and moving to neighboring states or to Texas, FL, AZ, or some other non- income tax state.

        I can tell you now, Sanders will not be the SocDem nominee, the Super Delegates won’t allow it. He won in Michigan, but Clinton walked away with the majority of the delegates. So now that puts Michigan in play for the GOP in November. Sanders voters are not gonna vote Clinton, besides Trump’s will take 20% or more of the SocDem vote anyway. Trump wins in all categories.

        Organite, I’m trying to teach you to look at the argument from all sides, not just the side like Backus will tell you. What Sanders says is not possible. We have always lived in a country with people working in their self-interest, where based on your merit and personal drive, you can choose to prosper or not. You have that choice … to work your tail off, or have the government take care of you, but the government will not make you prosperous. They might keep you starving, but that’s about it.

        Now if Sanders said that College and University endowments should be used for tuition assistance. Heck a Conservative could support that, because Big Education has never really been attacked, and they make a bundle off of us.


        And you’re right … FDR was a failed president … until WWII.

        • You are deluded if you believe that success can still be obtained in this country based on your personal drive alone. There are still people who are at a natural/economical disadvantage that can do nothing about that because they were born outside of the first class and even the middle class for that matter. There are people who were born into racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and a myriad of natural disadvantages that don’t have an equal chance at success as someone who was not subject to that. There are people who were born into poverty who don’t have the chance to make anything of themselves because they’re parents can’t afford a decent house, then the school system can’t afford to educate them, and then worst of all they can’t afford the ever more impossible burden that is a college education that is becoming more and more necessary to get any sort of workable wage much less a decent career.
          You talk about populations running to other states because they don’t have an income tax, but you know what an even larger problem is? Corporations that are too greedy help the country with their fair share and would rather take their businesses overseas to employ cheap/illegal child labor in unregulated environments destroying the world. All in the name of their bottom line and their executive bonuses at the end of the year. It’s free trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPP that perpetuate those kinds of criminal activities and their done with no oversight and no accountability. Those trade agreements are what “squeeze” money out of our economy and help no one else but the billionaires who have already made it impossible for anyone else to rise up to that level because of policies and agendas that they help set in motion. That’s why Bernie Sander’s main message ahead of everything else is to get money out of politics. As soon as candidates aren’t paid for and corrupted by greedy billionaires you will finally see true change in this country. Peoples’ votes don’t even matter right now. That’s how insignificant the common civilian is in the current political and economic environment of the United States right now. That’s why people feel disenfranchised. Because they are. You can’t get anywhere trying to do things by “The American Dream” anymore because all of the things that used to be so accessible to the people have been stripped away through economic unjust. Am I saying Bernie will win, no, but there is a reason he has a huge following among the younger audiences who are beginning to come into voting age. There’s a reason people aren’t just discounting the things he says as ludicrous. There’s a reason people like his ideas. They’re more than fair, and they give everyone an opportunity to make a mark and do something with their life instead of living their life in the shadows of poverty and debt like so many of us have been relegated to in the past.

          *muthafuggin mic drop*

          *pick mic back up*
          But yea, on the subject on campus carry, when you go around posting comments that perhaps the thought of a student potentially having a gun limiting a teacher’s curriculum because they should be scared as a good thing isn’t necessarily helping your case. You like to talk about the piece of the Berlin Wall in your office as if that is some sort of universal symbol that socialism will silence people, but people with guns do a lot better job of silencing people than any political ideology left or right, and considering the rising tide of people who want to better themselves with social ideas, I don’t think the people pointing guns will be the communists this time…

          • Organite … that’s life. I actually heard the drums in the background as you were slamming.

            There are plenty of examples of people out there who have lifted themselves out of the drudgery you just slammed. And quite simply as in nature … only the strong survive.

            We have two views … you look at a downtrodden person as someone who can’t wipe their own tale.
            I see the same person, and I see a person who has the potential to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make something of themselves.

            You coddle … I wake them up and kick them in the tail. At some point they have to fish for themselves … they have to wipe their tails.
            Unless you want to do it for them.

            *muthafuggin mic drop*

            • I would agree with you if society were set up in a way where a person could pick themselves up at their worst and climb to the top. But they can’t. America is the country where the impoverished are preyed upon by those with more with empty promises that they can help them get back on their feet again. I used to think your way, but I think of how much I had to struggle tooth and nail just to get an education, something everyone deserves, and I would never wish that on anyone else. Not even you, dear Bobocefus Jones.

              • Organite .. by admitting “they can’t.” You see them as a permanent underclass … a group of people that the SocDems need to be promising Santa Claus to all the time.

                And I never hear anyone giving them confidence that they can pick themselves up and make something of themselves.
                Do you? What happened to “Yes We Can?”

                We see the NPS signs “don’t feed the animals,” because they get in a habit and fall dependent and don’t take care of themselves. Equate that to the fattest and richest poor we have, and now have more of than ever in our history, and you have a big problem.

                I believe America is a country where the impoverished game the system. Now if Texas did what Maine did and stipulated that if you receive welfare you have the time to volunteer 20 hours every week … they’d see a drop of half of the people they feed.

                Hey I’m gonna be out of town tomorrow. Back Saturday.

    • –says the man who’s hasn’t the academic credentials to teach anything in a university classroom, but thinks making tasteless remarks in a college newspaper comments section about scholars distinguished in their fields of expertise, makes him some kind of authority on the topic at hand. Now there’s a special brand of delusion.

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