Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vulnerability in the classroom

As a college professor with an office across campus from the sheriff's substation that is supposed to protect us, I have been thinking about the Virginia Tech shootings. (Not the worst in US history, by the way.)

Mostly I have been thinking of Professor Librescu, who acted like a grown-up. Maybe it's the Israeli connection: many Israelis whom I have met are take-charge people who know that you don't wait for help to arrive--you do it yourself. Perhaps after what he had lived through, he knew evil coming when he saw it.

This Virginia Tech student, meanwhile, speaks for anyone who who has outgrown their nanny:

First, I never want to have my safety fully in the hands of anyone else, including the police.

Forensic psychologist Helen Smith (correction: Reynolds is her married name) has some thoughts on why "the experts" always want you to give up:

Have you noticed that most of the tips you get in recent years for how to survive a violent crime involve an accompanying psychological maneuver of first trying to make you feel impotent?

Professor Librescu obviously did not lean that way.

I never had to protect my students from a mad gunman. (But today I put a Band-aid on a student's finger.) But I run the scenarios in my head, and I have been doing that since 1999.



Blogger Hadar said...

A beautiful obituary, Chas.

9:58 PM  
Blogger gl. said...

they'd better name a building or something after librescu. i was listening to opb on my way to a meeting today: they were interviewing the creative writing teacher at vatech who wrote the nytimes commentary -- and who had this student in one of her classes, though she didn't know it when she wrote the commentary.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Carol Maltby said...

"I am qualified and capable of carrying a concealed handgun" -- Bradford B. Wiles, VA Tech student, quoted by Chas.

With all due respect, I never want to have my safety fully in the hands of anyone else, including the police, Bradford Wiles, and you, Chas.

You may all be equally certified, skilled, mature, responsible, and stable. But in all fairness, I'd have to make the same leap of faith for trusting any of you with a concealed handgun in a situation where it might be used.

I'm sure each of you would stand by your self-assessment of fitness to use it there in the moment. Each of you undoubtedly have outside assessments of you that you could point to as less subjective assessments of your abilities.

But for the same reasons that none of us would put whole-hearted trust in the police, I can't extend that whole-hearted, blind trust to anyone else just because they'd plead that they are especially worthy of packing concealed weapons.

I grew up with guns as a kid, and used to occasionally shoot my dad's .22. Weapons don't inherently scare me, I'm not a pacifist, and on occasion I feel the need to have a sheathed knife on my belt. I wouldn't hesitate to use whatever resources I had available in dangerous circumstances, in order to
do whatever level of action was warranted.

But I choose not to carry a gun, because I don't feel I can best live by the Rede with ready access to a gun. Had I been in one of those classrooms I would not have had a gun with me. Carrying that "What if?" burden that mandated thinking I ought to have a gun with with me "just in case" in the 99.999% of situations where it was inappropriate
would have damaged my soul long before that.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

OK, Carol, and your response to Dr. Reynolds is ...?

I cannot imagine that having a concealed-carry permit is any more "soul-damaging" than any other position of great responsibility where things could go wrong in a flash -- driving a school bus, for instance.

12:12 PM  
Blogger K2.0 said...

I think it is absolutely the height of hubris for anyone, anyone at all, to say or imply what they would or wouldn't have done, should or shouldn't do, in that kind of situation. You can't imagine it until you're in it. All the macho fantasizing in the world bears not the slightest shade of reality to being faced with a madman with a gun. I imagine, in that kind of situation, you don't -- can't -- think at all. Your body reacts on instinct. Jumnp out the window, blockade the door -- instict. And all this talk of concealed carry permits is demented and sick. Two wrongs don't make a right. A miltarized campus flies in the face of evrything higher education is supposed to be about. People ought to be ashamed!

7:06 PM  
Blogger gl. said...

chas, i can't tell if you're linking to dr. helen because you really believe what she has to say or not. but i think her belief that "*there is no other alternative* than to extend the civil right to concealed carry to the potential innocent staff and students who may encounter the wrath of such a person" is absurd.

really? NO other alternative? even without the libaility involved, lots of college students are stressed, depressed, and erratic -- i don't think the default response should be to assume they're criminals. if the vatech massacre simply leads to looser gun control laws, then i think we're missing the point.

(and i'm not convinced, in a situation like that, that we would have had fewer deaths. someone may have shot cho sooner, but i suspect there may have been casualties from 'friendly' fire before that happened.)

7:09 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Gretchin, K2.0:

Have you ever talked to someone with a concealed-carry permit about their training and their thinking?

Or are you just imagining that you know what kind of people that they are and how they think?

How about a little real-life, non-Web experience, such as face-to-face conversation with someone who has taken that step?

8:00 PM  
Blogger gl. said...

just to be clear, you're in favor of guns on campus, right?

please tell us more about the training & thinking of a concealed-carry permit owner. i have no especial love for the police, but do concealed gun owners go through the same emergency/crisis response training as police? to me, it's like the difference between someone trained in first aid and and an EMT.

and i still maintain "no other alternatives" seems shortsighted.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Gretchin, I merely linked to a Virginia Tech students who wished to be able to be able to use concealed-carry permit on campus. Did you read what he had to say?

To me, both he and Helen Smith are talking about the same thing: do we take some responsibility for our own self-defense, or do we wait passively and see who arrives first, the killer or the cops.

8:28 AM  
Blogger gl. said...

i did read what he had to say. does csu-pueblo have a similar policy?

2:28 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

CSU-Pueblo does not permit students to have firearms on campus.

6:00 PM  

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