Two Stories from Oklahoma That Seem to Illustrate Skewed Priorities

The first of these stories, “Gun Activists Lobbhy for Weapons on Campus,” appeared in the Norman Transcript [http://www.normantranscript.com/news/article_52a58aa0-4b3d-11e4-89de-0f889f7b5efd.html].

Gun-rights activists are pushing for legislation that will allow guns to be brought onto the state’s 25 public college and university campuses. Don Spencer, Vice President of the state’s Second Amendment Association, is promoting the legislation in these terms: “’Anywhere you can carry your Bible, which is your First Amendment right, you should be able to carry your gun, which is your Second Amendment right.”

But the university presidents seem largely united in their opposition to such legislation. Glen D. Johnson, the Chancellor of Higher Education for the state, has stated: “;We strongly believe that there is no scenario where allowing the carrying of weapons on college and university campuses does anything other than create a more dangerous environment for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”

The author of the articles points out that in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, both the proponents and the opponents of guns on campus have used that event as a centerpiece to their arguments. Thus far, seven states have passed legislation allowing guns on campus: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin. In none of those states has a shooting spree resulting in multiple deaths occurred on a college or university campus—neither before nor after the passage of the legislation.

The author of the article also points out that 205,000 Oklahomans have received handgun licenses, including about 60,000 in 2014. The average age of those holding such licenses is 50.

Recent surveys have shown that a large majority of student on attending public colleges and universities in Oklahoma oppose any legislation allowing guns on their campuses. Likewise, the faculty senates at several of the largest institutions have issued public statements opposing such legislation.

Nonetheless, Catherine Mortensen, a spokesperson for the NRA, recently stated: “’This will be a priority for us. We believe this legislation is vital in protecting students and faculty on campus. When these incidents occur, the NRA believes it’s vital that we have instant responders.’”

David Boren, the president of the university of Oklahoma, has countered by pointing out that at the university “several systems are in place to deal with emergency situations, including a trained SWAT team comprised of officers from the university police department and Norman police.”

Indeed, as I pointed out in one of my recent posts, the distribution of surplus military equipment and weapons to campus police departments is causing concerns that those departments are over-armed, rather than inadequately equipped to meet emergencies.

The second article, “Cutting Journal Access Harms Students,” was published as an op-ed in the Oklahoma Daily [http://www.oudaily.com/opinion/editorials/cutting-journal-access-harms-students/article_d9d1af8a-4cc4-11e4-abb9-0017a43b2370.html]. In response to budget constraints, the University of Oklahoma is cutting subscriptions to 188 journals. The review of journal subscriptions took into account the cost and usage of the journals to which the university libraries subscribe. The case for the discontinuation of subscriptions to the 188 journals was not, however, based on their not used but, instead, on their being used less frequently than other journals—or costing more in proportion to their use than other journals.

The budget constraints that have been used to justify this reduction in the resources available to the university’s students and faculty are due both to continued reductions in higher-ed funding in the state and to misplaced spending priorities by campus administrators.

The authors of the article point out that “state funding for Oklahoma institutions of higher learning has fallen by an average of 8.4 percent each year since 2008 even as enrollment and costs have increased.” Perhaps the state legislature should focus as much on meaningful discussions of what constitutes adequate funding of public higher education as on whether gun owners ought to be able to carry their weapons onto campuses.

But, the campus administration has also been guilty of some skewed priorities. While the subscriptions to 188 academic journals are being justified as an unfortunate consequence of budget constraints, considerable monies have been allocated to “placing a giant [university] seal on the South Oval,” a project that the authors of the op-ed describe, rightly, as “an aesthetically pleasing but unnecessary campus addition.”

In both of these instances, legislators and campus administrators would better serve the students attending the state’s public colleges and universities by actually listening to those students.

 

2 thoughts on “Two Stories from Oklahoma That Seem to Illustrate Skewed Priorities

  1. Pingback: Speech, Civility, and Guns | The Academe Blog

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