FIRE’s Vice President Robert Shibley is quoted today in a FoxNews.com article about John Wahlberg, a Central Connecticut State University senior whose professor called the police after he advocated for the concealed carry of firearms on campus in a class presentation. Robert points out the serious concerns this raises for those who value free speech on campus. As Robert explains:
"If all he did was discuss reasons for allowing guns on campus, it seems a bit much to call the police and grill him about it," Shibley said. "If you go after students for just discussing an idea, that goes against everything a university is supposed to stand for."
Robert also discusses similar firearms advocacy controversies FIRE has confronted recently. Specifically, Robert references the 2008 case of Hamline University student Troy Scheffler, who was suspended after encouraging an administrator to allow the carrying of firearms on campus to prevent another Virginia Tech-type shooting, and FIRE’s case at Colorado College, where a parody newsletter that included a mention of the range of a sniper rifle resulted in the punishment of the parody’s authors.
After explaining some of our more ridiculous cases involving speech about guns (and don’t forget about the "Empty Holster Protest" at Tarrant County College!), Robert cautioned that he was not advocating that faculty and administrators ignore their responsibility to protect their students for danger:
"It is, of course, important that administrators identify real threats to students," Shibley said. "But they need to use logic to discern whether a threat is real."
Central Connecticut State University should certainly take this opportunity to investigate its own policies on how to determine whether speech constitutes a real threat, or whether it’s merely advocacy of a view that may be unpopular with some professors and students. Whether or not you believe allowing concealed weapons on campus is a good idea, it’s obvious that reasoned debate about this issue must be allowed to take place at colleges and universities without the police being called to interrogate one side or the other.
Also of note, this is the second time in two days that FIRE has been featured in front page stories on FoxNews.com. Yesterday, our ongoing case at Wright State University, where a Christian group was banned from campus, received some well-deserved attention from Fox News. This exciting surge in media attention is a great boon to FIRE, amplifying our message and helping to secure a just resolution to these abuses of students’ rights on campus.