A PowerPoint Slide Advises Professors to Alter Teaching to Pacify Armed Students

February 24, 2016

A presentation at a faculty forum at the University of Houston that circulated Tuesday on Twitter has raised pressing questions about how professors will adapt to Texas’ controversial new campus-carry law.

A PowerPoint slide in the presentation, arranged by the president of the central campus’s Faculty Senate, Jonathan Snow, provides suggestions for faculty members to alter their behavior, among other things, when the law takes effect for all four-year public colleges in the state, on August 1.

Opponents of the law, which will allow people with concealed-handgun permits to carry their weapons into public-university buildings, seized on the image as proof that many professors will feel they need to change their curricula or tiptoe around emotionally volatile students for fear of attack.

In a statement, the university said the slide and presentation were not endorsed by the university. Houston has created a 15-member working group that is crafting an official policy, which is expected to be released in the next week.

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“I worry about being places where large groups gather. I'm leery of leaving my office.”

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Explore hundreds of other reader submissions.

 Texas’ public colleges, whose leaders largely opposed the legislation while it was being considered, have been discussing how they will adapt to the law, while all of the state’s private colleges have so far opted out of it. The University of Texas at Austin’s working group, for example, recommended that guns be banned in dormitories but allowed in classrooms.

The impending presence of guns in classrooms is what prompted Mr. Snow, the Faculty Senate president, to put together a presentation seeking to prepare colleagues for the law’s effects. More than 250 professors, he said, attended one of the three forums where he showed his PowerPoint presentation.

"It’s a terrible state of affairs," Mr. Snow, a professor of isotope geochemistry, said in an interview with The Chronicle. "It’s an invasion of gun culture into campus life. We are worried that we have to change the way we teach to accommodate this minority of potentially dangerous students."

Mr. Snow’s presentation, available here in full, covered the finer points of the campus-carry law — including information about what professors can and cannot say about guns in their classrooms, a timeline of the state’s law governing concealed carry on campuses, and different approaches to firearms for faculty members to take in their course syllabi.

"Ask for a show of hands who would prefer that people leave their guns home," reads a slide advertised as a "more aggressive" classroom approach. "Ask that licensees understand and abide by the will of their peers."

The legislation could also have a negative effect on the relationship between professor and student, Mr. Snow said. "One of the most important things for a professor is to be able to engage with a student," he said. Campus carry "distances the faculty from the students."

That strain may extend beyond the classroom, he said, adding that he has advised professors to consider changing their office-hours policy. Instead of the traditional open-door policies some prefer, he has suggested they meet either by appointment only or in a public place.

But supporters of the legislation say that forbidding guns in classrooms doesn’t do much to prevent a shooting when students’ bags are left unchecked. In a statement on Tuesday, the group Students for Concealed Carry pushed back against Mr. Snow’s presentation. "Why should professors be more concerned about the licensed, carefully vetted students who’ll be carrying guns legally," the group wrote, "than about the unlicensed, unvetted students who may already be carrying guns illegally?"

But Mr. Snow said heightened faculty fears were inevitable as long as the law is on the books. "We are horrified that we have to change how we teach," he said. "No one in higher ed wants this."