A Modest Proposal for Campus Safety

David Clemens

Since the NAS report on summer reading, “Beach Books,” U.C. Berkeley has announced its own summer reading recommendations.   The theme is “Education Matters” and, not surprisingly, multicultural “social justice” predominates.  Happily, Benjamin Franklin and The Education of Henry Adams are included.  There is also No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech by Lucinda Roy.  As Chair of the English Department, Roy tutored Seung-Hui Cho in poetry after he was ejected from a course for terrifying classmates.  Post-tutoring, Cho proceeded to murder 32 other human beings before killing himself.  Roy argues that VaTech did not adequately address Cho’s disabilities and alleges multiple institutional failures.  I would argue that VaTech also failed to help students and teachers protect themselves.

My friend the Philosophy professor enjoys alarming his students by telling them “Professor Clemens says that a gun society is a polite society.”  Well, yes.  Gun shows are the most decorous events imaginable because you never know who’s packing.  As Webster’s NRA Dictionary says, “democracy” is two wolves fighting over a lamb; “liberty” is an armed lamb.

Call me perverse but I do enjoy that mine is the only car in the faculty lot with the decals “Wild Alaska,” “NRA  Supports Our Troops,” and “Armed With Pride.”  It's particularly amusing when I park next to the Volvo whose bumper sticker reads “The Goddess Is Alive and Magic Is Afoot.”

Magic and the Goddess notwithstanding, I wish that more responsible teachers were armed.  I have an in-law who teaches at Virginia Tech; he heard the gunfire.  A local student brought an automatic weapon to acting class; one teacher’s office is regularly trespassed at night (hopefully only by amorous custodians).

At one Cow Palace gun show, I bought MACE and a billy club for my division’s office staff.  Diminutive Rosa is alone in the evening; more than once she has had to face deranged, medicated, or otherwise menacing students.  Rosa is a tough cookie, straight outta Compton (wore a bullet-proof vest to high school), but even she gets rattled.  Better if she had training, a concealed carry permit, and a Beretta.  All campus personnel should at least handle guns so that they are not afraid of them.  To the gentle and nonviolent, this no doubt sounds like macho posturing but I grew up shooting, BB gun to 30.06 and .303, Enfield to M-1 carbine, Ruger .22 to S&W .357 magnum.

I always carry a Kershaw Blur, but I’d like to be better equipped to protect my students and colleagues.  Our campus emergency plan tells us to freeze if there is an “active shooter.”  Better it if it read, “keep moving, don’t be a target, shoot back.”  Freeze?  Our victim culture is ideal for the psychopaths who desire helpless victims.

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