Tracy McGaugh at Feminist Law Professors points us to an excellent article analyzing threatening, violent, and/or murderous behavior by students. The article is co-written by three scholars from different disciplines: Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist, Sandra Thomas, a nursing professor, and Carol Parker, a law professor. The title of the article is “Anger and Violence on Campus: Recommendations for Legal Educators,” but their analysis and recommendations seem to me to apply to all college and university faculty and programs, and perhaps to high school faculty as well. Read it, and consider passing it along to your department Chair or college Dean.
Historiann passes this along to you, gentle reader, because she’s been feeling more than a little vulnerable since the dreadful events at Virginia Tech last year. My university is the V-Tech of Colorado, and Colorado is a state where almost anyone can obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun. And when the state legistlature passed the concealed-carry law in 2003, it specifically excluded college campuses from the list of places one could not bring in a concealed weapon–K-12 schools, and quite conveniently, the Colorado State Capitol building are all on that list, but in universities we’re expected to shift for ourselves. (In fact, the Capitol building just recently and permanently re-installed metal detectors because a disturbed man with a gun entered and threatened the Governor’s life before being gunned down himself last July 16.)
The only place where I take issue with Smith, Thomas, and Parker is in their conclusion, where they lay the blame on “aggressive role models in television, movies, videogames, and other popular media.” They cite a persuasive recent longitudinal study, so I see that exposure to violent media is certainly one factor, but where is the discussion of gender and violence? All school and university killers in the past several years have one thing in common: they were all boys or men who had access to guns. Most (but not all) tend to be younger rather than older, and the overwhelming majority of them have been white. “Anger and Violence on Campus” cites a few examples of women law students who displayed inappropriate behavior to law professors, but it was only verbal aggression cited in the cases involving women students. So, aggression and violence on campus is overwhelmingly a problem with angry young men who feel entitled to use guns against people they perceive to have wronged them. Historiann herself has written about the highly gendered aspects of gun ownership in colonial America, so I am amazed that the connection between American masculinity and guns today hasn’t receieved more attention. (Is the connection between men and guns so naturalized that we don’t question it? Why doesn’t this alarm us more?)
The bottom line in this paper is that faculty members are largely on their own when it comes to dealing with crazed students. Start packing heat, if that’s your style–and if you live in a concealed-carry permit state, then it’s all nice ‘n legal. (Just be sure to disarm before you go pick up little Emma and Cody at school.) If administrators at your school don’t take advice from Smith
and Wesson, Thomas, and Parker, this article will at least arm you with a little more knowledge about identifying disturbed students. Have you had any experience with dangerous and/or armed students? How did you deal with them, and how did your university respond? Do you think that professors in feminist studies might be more vulnerable to threats and violence from students because our perspectives may especially threaten disturbed young men?
UPDATE: As Knitting Clio points out in the comments below, sadly there was a fatal shooting with a female perp at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge yesterday morning, which I learned about after publishing this post. However, I don’t think that one female perp is a meaningful trend when every other example of fatal violence at schools (junior high through universities) has featured male shooters, especially given the longue duree of the connection between guns and masculinity in this country. How awful for the faculty and students at Louisiana Tech–yet another school whose sense of safety and fellowship in academic pursuit is shattered.