They’re Back….

Lock up the silver and hide the children’s eyes–the Indiana General Assembly is back in session.

The motley crew we citizens elect to what the late Harrison Ullmann used to call The World’s Worst Legislature is already hard at work on measures ranging from treatment of wild hogs to mandating the teaching of cursive writing. I’m sure their attention to these world-shattering issues reassures us all.

Most of the trivial, unwise and the just plain wacky proposals will eventually die in committee. I just hope that one bill in particular lands in that graveyard: the proposal to allow students to carry guns on campus.

This is the second time this proposal has surfaced, and it mystifies me. What problem, exactly, is this misguided measure intended to correct? What is the purpose of encouraging an armed student body? Has anyone considered the consequences of adding firearms to venues occupied by large groups of stressed-out college students, many still adolescent and hormonal?

I once was sued in Small Claims Court by a student to whom I had given a grade of B-. When he had exhausted the (extensive) campus appeal process without convincing anyone of the great indignity of that assessment, he brought suit. (In light of the stupidity thus displayed, I am convinced that the B- was a gift–but I digress.) Arm this unhinged young man, or others not unlike him, and he might well have skipped the lawsuit and just blown me away.

I’m one of those who would like to see some reasonable limits placed on access to guns. Like most people who advocate for more control, I have no illusions that we can rid American society of the millions of guns already out there, and frankly I have no great passion to confiscate them. But I get impatient, to say the least, with the utter paranoia of the gun fringe, with the NRA’s ridiculous belief–rebutted by all credible research–that the way to ensure public safety is to arm everyone.

I’ll tell you one thing that will happen if students are allowed to pack heat on campus. There will be a lot fewer professors willing to teach. Maybe that’s the real motive?


  1. Come on, what was the end result of the suit? Undergraduate, or graduate level class?

    That’s a new one on me. It was a parent who was mad at me about his child’s grade, during my brief stint as an instructor. Of course, it wasn’t a B-…

  2. The case was thrown out. To use a legal term, it was nonjusticiable. (Not something a court can decide.)

  3. The level of idiocy of arming college students cannot even be addressed intelligently. It goes hand-in-hand with the foolish idea 2 years ago of lowering the legal drinking age to 18 to prevent underage binge drinking. Just what part does the NRA have in this frightening bill? Will the next step be to provide guns in college bookstores? This is no more stupid than allowing students to be armed on campus. Does this law mean students are permitted to be armed off campus as well? Will colleges provide training in the use and care of guns and areas for target practice? This being Indiana, run by Republicans, run by whoever has the most money – such as the NRA, we will probably be faced with this as reality sooner than putting more money into schools for educational purposes – such as returning cursive writing classes. On this issue, I just E-mailed Senator Leising my full support. I have a letter my grandfather wrote to his parents when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War 1. This is a treasure as well as a bit of history but will be meaningless to my descendants in a few years. As a professor of law, is there any way to legislate common sense, if only for elected officials at all levels?

  4. The idea of lowering the drinking age is a no brainer. We need to teach people responsible alcohol consumption, not demanding prohibition for adults, 18-20. That clearly does not work. Binge drinking and other problems do not happen in other countries where the drinking age is lower and people learn to consume alcohol responsibly.

    Putting the issue in the same category as allowing licensed gun owners to have their guns on campus, is a reach (I don’t know why JoAnn makes it sound like all college students will have guns.) Still I am totally in favor of licensed gun owners being allowed to carry their guns on college campuses. Making those campuses “gun free zones” only remove guns from people willing to comply with the law. College campuses can be a very dangerous place…women are often walking alone at night across campus. Rapes and other attacks are common. When attackers know they’ll be unarmed, it only makes those attacks more likely. FYI, the NRA does not have a lot of money or make a large amount of campaign contributions. Its strength is in organization and the fact its membership is large and they vote as a bloc.

    As far as the “worst legislature,” the late Harrison Ullmann was wrong. Our legislature is no worse or better than any other state legislature. These types of bills get introduced in every state legislature. We need to get over this inferiority complex…that people in Indiana are somehow worse than people in other states.

  5. Sheila, I once caught a student of mine at IUPUI plagiarizing a paper she submitted in my class. (She had copied about 99% of the paper word for word from a Lou Cannon article written for the Washington Post that I had read.) I threw out the paper and gave her a chance to write one over for half credit so as to preserve a chance of passing the course. The student seemed okay with that.

    A few days later, I got a call from an IUPUI Dean. Apparently the student had been to her to complain. She said I was unfair to the student iin throwing out the paper. She said that I hadn’t put in my syllabus that they were not supposed to plagiarize their papers. I couldn’t believe it. The Dean got really upset because I was questioning whether she was actually a Dean…I couldn’t imagine anyone in an academic institution taking that position. I talked to the chair, of the poli sci dept who told me to ignore the Dean, that she did not have any authority over the department or me.

  6. RE: Guns. I hope you all saw the screaming nut case from World Nut Daily who was ranting at on CNN recently. Totally NUTS. THAT is who the Right Wing Gun Lobby excites. The real issue for those behind the curtain is just selling more guns and ammo to the nuts. They LOVE to keep them wound up because the more wound up they are the more they buy. All about MONEY.
    One (of Many) possible solutions: Do what some countries, states and counties do with booze. ONLY sell it at the Government store. Even it is only the Ammo that is done that way. NO Ammo goes out the door w/o a complete ID. We can never fully recover all the guns from these nuts. But we can make it a bit more difficult to get the Ammo. And yes, I know that they can reload. The smart ones will do that. They dumbest will blow themselves up trying. Win Win.

  7. Paul–I don’t know when this incident occurred, but the policy on plagiarism ever since I’ve been here (15 years) is that a student caught doing so should be failed. It’s true that we all put that rule in our syllabi, but students are aware of it, and to the best of my knowledge, that policy is pretty rigidly applied. I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d been chastised for allowing the student to rewrite the paper, but I find it hard to believe that you were taken to task for being unfair to her.

  8. Just a quick note on mandating teaching cursive writing. There are studies that show teaching cursive writing to elementary school age kids fosters certain types of brain development. I concede it is possible, perhaps even likely, that the sponsor(s) of this legislation are not aware of this research. Still, there are good reasons to develop the brain in kids. It could help them avoid becoming legislators with wacky ideas.

  9. Re; guns on campus. I agree that the drawbacks seem to outweigh any benefits by a large margin. Still, maybe you should address the stressing of students as a member of the faculty? ROFL.

    Re: Cursive writing. So, would returning to making one’s mark trump a signature (no matter how artsy or illegible)? I agree there are non-handwriting benefits to learning cursive writing. But, how many legislators really want developed brains in potential constituents? Not many, I’d warrant.

  10. Got a cite for the study re: brain development and cursive, Bill? I did some quick and dirty Internet searches about a month ago, and all I could find was possible cognitive effects of handwriting generally — it did not distinguish between print and cursive.

  11. Has anyone in life ever suffered more slings and arrows than Paul? God love him, he’s sure had it tough.

  12. Yes, let’s arm the college students and have them go out drinking. A drunk college student with a gun. What could possibly go wrong?

  13. I shudder at the thought of cell phones with cameras when I was a drunk college student; let alone ready access to firearms.

  14. I am not in favor of college students carrying weapons. As a staff member, I am more concerned about being hit by a good samaritan than an active shooter. According to the NRA, we already have the answer to a bad guy with a gun – a campus police department full of good guys with guns.

  15. How about a drunk student with a firearm at a frat party who is angry with one of his brothers who “stole” his girlfriend, or the girlfriend who arrives with another man and they all come armed? Gives a reason not to be within two miles of the campus on a weekend. Guns, sex and alcohol make quite a combination.

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