Campus shootings put faculty on edge

'You can't stop thinking about it for 10 minutes before another one happens'

Gun violence on campuses has professors rattled, Beth McMurtrie reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"You can't stop thinking about it for 10 minutes before another one happens," says Wendy Rawlings, an English professor at the University of Alabama (UA) at Tuscaloosa.

Many worry about the possibility of an attack at their own institution, McMurtrie writes. In meetings, faculty may express anxiety through nervous jokes, while on social media the conversation is more direct.

Rawlings says she first modified her behavior five years ago after a UA-Hunstville biology professor shot and killed three of his colleagues.

Now she never sits with her back to the door and tries to teach in rooms with multiple exits.

"This is our place of work," she says. "It feels perverse to me that I have to worry about it."

While professors may not change their behavior toward students, they do say they think more about students' potential reactions when given bad grades. One professor says she would be sure to meet a particular student, who seems angry much of the time, in a public place if he ever wanted to discuss grades. 

That's especially true in Texas, where a law will allow people to carry weapons on campus beginning next year.

"'University' and 'guns' do not belong in the same sentence," says Javier Auyero, a University of Texas at Austin professor and member of an advocacy group working to repeal the law (McMurtrie, Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/12).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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