A contagious confluence, metaphorical hydraulics in chronofluidity, multiple rippling effects.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Modest Proposal for Enabling the Universities in Kansas, and the University of Kansas in Particular, to Recognize and Celebrate the Patriotism and Wisdom of the Kansas Legislature by Embracing the Second Amendment and Showing Leadership in Integrating Firearms and Academia, While Also Pioneering Previously Unexplored Opportunities in the Funding and Relevance of Higher Education Made Possible by the People’s Representatives in Topeka

A Modest Proposal for Enabling the Universities in Kansas, and the University of Kansas in Particular, to Recognize and Celebrate the Patriotism and Wisdom of the Kansas Legislature by Embracing the Second Amendment and Showing Leadership in Integrating Firearms and Academia, While Also Pioneering Previously Unexplored Opportunities in the Funding and Relevance of Higher Education Made Possible by the People’s Representatives in Topeka
On July 1, 2017, the Kansas legislature will require public universities in Kansas to allow the concealed carry of firearms on campus. To be fair, the legislature also allows universities the option of installing metal detectors or other screening methods to assure that no firearms are present, in which case the universities can choose to be “gun-free.” Also to be fair, we must note that the screening option would cost untold millions of dollars with insufficient time to implement it university-wide before the enactment date. Faculty and administrators, who already bemoan the legislature’s ongoing reductions of university funding, argue that they are being bullied and punished by politicians who fail, or don’t care, to understand the nature and importance of higher education.

This piece of legislation has spurred many objections from faculty, staff, and students at these institutions. We’re told that a professor’s academic freedom will be infringed if he or she broaches a controversial topic in front of a classroom of armed students, giving added meaning to the term “trigger warnings.” Conversely, students wonder if an armed professor might prove coercive in matters of grades, sexual advances, or other interactions in which the professor already has an edge in power and authority. Fraternities fear that the introduction of firearms to their alcohol-fueled parties could have unintended consequences, perhaps even spelling the end of the celebrated and time-honored Greek system. Alumni worry about attending such university functions as reunions, sporting and performing arts events, and homecoming.

These fears and concerns are understandable as universities are among the most conservative institutions in the nation. Their pace of change is often termed “glacial.” They’re slow to respond to changes in demographics, technology, the marketplace, and society in general out of the notion that the university should be a repository of knowledge and culture, not a market-driven dynamo feeding a growth economy (which one English professor, citing William Blake, termed “Satanic mills”).

I would argue that, instead of succumbing to these fears (and confirming legislators’ opinions about academics), the university instead act boldly to show leadership on the “guns on campus” issue. If my proposal is implemented, the university has an opportunity to reap many benefits, including these:
  • Earning respect among Kansas legislators, an important first step in turning the current adversarial relationship into one of cooperation and progress
  • Reinforcing the university’s dedication to the Constitution with a real-time, practical civics lesson
  • Reinforcing the university’s commitment to equal opportunity and inclusion
  • Increasing civility on campus among students, faculty, and staff
  • Increasing enrollments and improving student retention rates
  • Creating new revenue streams
  • Preparing students not only academically but practically for the world they’ll enter upon graduation
  • Providing opportunities for public service

I propose that the university embrace the new guns on campus law by issuing firearms to all students, faculty, and staff.

Imagine the ripple of excitement and disbelief that will pass through the statehouse when the university announces this bold new plan. Hunters, hobbyists, and militia members will have to rethink their stereotypes of namby-pamby leftist academics and privileged, self-absorbed college students. Citizens and their elected officials will come to realize that the university is an advocate and defender of not only the First Amendment, but also the Second Amendment (and maybe some of the other amendments, too). Moreover, the university’s commitment to equal opportunity will be underscored as firearms are issued to every student, faculty, and staff member, regardless of “race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information.” (Admittedly, the state legislature may balk at the notion of armed Lesbians or gun-toting African-Americans, but the Second Amendment is the Second Amendment, which should trump any such objections.)

Furthermore, I propose that the university lobby the legislature to take the law one step further. Instead of allowing the concealed carry of firearms, it should promote the open carry of firearms on campus. Our elected representatives surely will be impressed that the university wants to take a good idea and make it even better.

I know the immediate objection will be the cost of such an initiative. What will it cost to arm more than 30,000 persons at the University of Kansas? Not as much as one might think. A Mossberg 715P semiautomatic pistol, for example, can be had for as low as $250 retail. A major university, such as KU, should be able to get substantial discounts from vendors in much the same way as computer and software contracts are negotiated. To further offset costs, a modest tuition or activity fee for students could be added. Faculty and staff might pay an annual fee (tax deductible) similar to the process for obtaining parking permits. Moreover, after the startup expense, the weapons can be cycled down as students graduate, faculty retire, etc., again much in the way that computers are amortized over a three or four year period and “cascaded” (as the IT department terms it) before being replaced.

Some may object that an armed campus will inevitably result in injuries and even deaths when emotions run high in the classroom or some other campus venue. Perhaps a student will take offense at an insensitive remark, or someone is beaten out of the last parking spot right at class time. Perhaps a student government debate becomes heated, or a freshman is snubbed by a fraternity during pledge week. Perhaps a required textbook is out of stock at the campus bookstore, or the pressures of final exams become too much to bear. Perhaps a faculty member is denied tenure, or a staff member becomes frustrated with the university’s purchasing office. A college campus is a potential fireworks factory with its diverse population, its cliques and factions, its bureaucracies and sometimes inscrutable regulations.

I would argue, however, that when everyone is armed, cool heads will prevail. The knowledge that a colleague or student is “packing heat” will temper people’s behavior, creating a level of civility never before experienced. This thesis was proved true on the international level during the Cold War with the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD). How many provocations did the United States and Soviet Union endure from one another because both sides knew that rash actions could lead to thermonuclear war? Similarly, when everyone on campus is known to be armed, the university can proclaim itself a MAD campus—Mutually Assured Decency.

Earlier I explained how the costs of this proposal could be mitigated or even rendered budgetarily neutral by way of bulk purchasing contracts and minimal user fees. In any case, no matter how the firearms acquisition is funded and expenses recouped, my proposal will also create new and sustainable revenue streams for the university, which has continued to see reduced state funding in recent years. To the extent that colleges can develop other funding sources, the legislature will be able to avoid tax increases and perhaps even reduce taxes further, which will improve prospects of reelection. Consider the following opportunities for new revenue.
  •  Naming rights to buildings, programs, professorial chairs, etc. Such a plan should receive no objections, as the university already has ample precedents. For example, Coca-Cola is the official soft drink of the university. The new business school building will bear the name of Capitol Federal. There is a Koch Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the same School of Business. The athletics department draws revenue from sponsorships by sporting goods and apparel companies. Many universities sell naming rights to their sports arenas. For example, Fresno State University sold naming rights to Save Mart Supermarkets for $40 million over twenty years. What would Smith & Wesson pay to put its brand on Allen Fieldhouse? Say it a few times—“Smith & Wesson’s Allen Fieldhouse.” If opposing basketball teams didn’t know it already, when they come to play Kansas they’ll be in for a real “shootout.” Or how about the Sig Sauer 2nd Amendment School of Law? (Nice alliteration, too, which is always catchy when marketing a program.) Remington might fund a gallery of Western American art at the Spencer Museum. The possibilities are many, and an iconic building such as Allen Fieldhouse might create a bidding war windfall, with naming rights renewable every few years or even annually.
  •  Bookstore sales. Arming the campus will create a demand for ammunition and accessories. The campus bookstore will be able to negotiate attractive wholesale arrangements with manufacturers and distributors to stock clips, holsters, magazines, sights and scopes, grips, cleaning kits, safes, trigger guards, and more. Some accessories could lend themselves to university licensing. Imagine the popularity with both students and alumni of the official Jayhawk™ Holster or an engraved Rock Chalk™ Gun Stock. Gun-related Jayhawk apparel will likely be on everyone’s Christmas wish lists. And of course, licensing revenue goes to fund scholarships.
  •  Additional tuition revenue. It’s a longstanding practice that the university require certain courses and competencies for students to graduate. A command of written English requires the completion of English 101 and two other English courses. Competency in mathematics is addressed by a math requirement. Similarly, on a campus where all students are armed, the university should require Guns 101—training in the care and use of firearms—which would generate an additional three hours of tuition from every student (approximately $3,375,510 per year). The addition of this required course should not be an added burden since the university recently dropped its Western Civilization requirement.
  • Special events. Americans spend billions of dollars annually at movie theaters ($10.4 billion in the U.S. and Canada in 2014), where they enjoy fictional gunfights, explosions, and crashes. Because Americans are fascinated by firepower, a gun-friendly campus might approach the weapons industry to hold demonstrations or other events for which the public would be willing to pay. Instead of special effects, they would be able to witness the real thing. For example, it’s likely that thousands of people would pay good money for a seat in Memorial Stadium to watch trained professionals fire a rocket launcher into a tank, or be entertained and educated by reenactments of historical battles or other armed conflicts (staged with blanks, of course). There might be a place for intercollegiate athletics, where fans could cheer for their Jayhawks in a skeet shooting tournament or other marksmanship competition. KU could be an innovator in these areas, in keeping with its strategic plan.

Of course there’s more to a university than the generation of revenue. The university exists to prepare its young people to enter society as responsible citizens, future leaders, and standard bearers for the American Dream and American Exceptionalism. Besides giving students a laboratory experience in the Second Amendment (and some of the other amendments, too), my proposed Rockchalk Armed and Graduating to Excel (RAGE) initiative will give students the incentives they need to graduate and become responsible citizens and workers.

For example, one of the perennial dilemmas faced by colleges is the question of how to increase retention rates, to see that students make adequate yearly progress toward a degree. With the RAGE program, students who make continuous progress toward a degree would be rewarded with an annual weapons upgrade. A student who meets or exceeds the designated GPA will be rewarded with the Guns for Progress Achievement—the GPA GPA award. GPA GPA students will be able to choose between a stylish weapons upgrade (e.g., a pearl handled revolver) or a performance upgrade (e.g., a semiautomatic weapon).

As students prepare to graduate and enter the workforce, they need opportunities to build their resumes, an important component of which is community service. One such opportunity could be provided with the formation of a KU Student Militia, in keeping with the Second Amendment’s prescription of a “well-regulated Militia.” Although the campus could never be safer than it will be under the new MAD doctrine, it will still be important, as with all safety measures, to have redundancy. The KU Student Militia would serve for an appointed time (perhaps one semester or one academic year) to patrol Jayhawk Boulevard and other campus thoroughfares, buildings, sporting and cultural events, and generally be a recognizable presence on campus. They would be issued distinctive jackets and headgear and would have clearly defined authority in monitoring and nurturing an orderly peaceful campus climate in which education and research can thrive.

Tenure-track faculty also have a service component which, though not as important as research (i.e., publishing) and teaching, is nevertheless requisite for tenure and advancement. To complement the KU Student Militia, the university could form the KU Tenure-Track Faculty Militia, whose role would be to patrol such events as faculty meetings, classrooms, academic symposia, etc. With the KU Tenure-Track Faculty Militia, faculty would be assured that someone “has their backs,” and tenure-track faculty would be recognized and rewarded for their collegial service and their dedication to academic freedom.

This modest proposal may seem extreme at first glance, but our universities are populated with thoughtful people who consider all sides of an argument, value facts and reason, and aren’t susceptible to appeals to fear or prejudice. The Kansas legislature, being similarly composed, has with careful deliberation given us this new law. Now the university can carry that torch to new distances, even, dare I say it, ad astra, to the stars.