The First Bloomberg Professor Is No Surprise

Daniel Webster is a professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University. He is also the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Anyone who follows “gun violence” (sic) or “gun safety” research should have run across his research. It would not be an exaggeration to say his research is slanted against most of what my readers believe in.

Thus, it is not much of a shock to see he has been named the very first Bloomberg Professor of American Health. This is an endowed professorship funded by one of Michael Bloomberg’s charities called the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. For those that aren’t up on academia, an endowed professorship is considered an honor, it carries great prestige, and it comes with money in terms of salary, extra research monies, and often a dedicated assistant.

The following comment from his benefactor more or less sums up what to expect in the way of “research” from Webster.

“No other developed country in the world has even close to the rate of gun deaths we have in the U.S., and we can’t accept that,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City. “This new position will support the great work Dr. Webster is leading on gun violence and help build evidence for smart policies that can prevent more needless deaths.”

Johns Hopkins University’s school of public health is also named after Mayor Bloomberg.

 You can read the full press release here.

After reading this and being aware of Webster’s work, all I can think of is the title of the famous short story by Stephen Vincent Benet – The Devil and Daniel Webster. Unlike farmer Jebez Stone in the story, in this case it is Webster himself who has sold his soul or so it would seem.

O, The Things College Professors Worry About

Inside Higher Ed is an online news source that deals with higher education. In addition to the job postings and university news items, they often publish essays and blogs from college professors about the trials and tribulations of life in academia. Yesterday they published an essay by Dr. Nate Kreuter entitled, “On Guns in My Classroom.”

What makes Dr. Kreuter’s essay particularly relevant to me is that he is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Carolina University. This is the same university at which I earned my master’s degree and at which I teach as an adjunct instructor in the College of Business.

Campus

As you can see from the photo above, WCU is nestled in a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains in a rather idyllic setting. While a bit isolated, it still can see its share of crime. There have been rapes on campus and there have been assaults. Indeed, in my university email this morning I received a notice from the University Police of a burglary of an occupied dorm room. Under North Carolina law that constitutes first-degree burglary which formerly was a capital crime.

So what is causing Dr. Kreuter to lose sleep? Is it about his effectiveness as a teacher and whether his students are actually learning? Is it about whether or not he will get tenure in a few years? Is it the fear that he won’t be able to protect his students if a mass shooter wants to perpetuate another Virginia Tech type massacre?

No. What is causing Dr. Kreuter to lose sleep and to write an angst filled essay is the mere thought that the North Carolina General Assembly might approve legislation allowing concealed carry on campus for students, staff, and faculty. Nevermind that the General Assembly has never had such a bill come before them and nevermind that it is still a felony under North Carolina law to merely even possess a firearm on campus unless you are law enforcement.

Then, among many other things, I wondered what I would do if the state allows guns on university campuses.

The idle fantasy of quitting one’s job is normal and healthy and sometimes even savory. That’s what I’ll do, I thought. If the state lets students carry guns onto campus I’ll just quit. It’s that simple. I’ll just quit. The hell with it. I’m not living that way. I could quit and feel principled and self-righteous.

Nobody depends on me. I don’t even have a dog. I could just quit. The Boarder (his cat) would be fine, and any number of ex-girlfriends have made clear that while I am no longer welcome, they would be happy to have him back in their lives at any time. He is the more charming of our pair, and he and I both know it. I could pawn him off, sell what little I own, and live on nothing. I could drift.

I have no delusions. It won’t matter if I quit. A hundred applicants will line up for my job. And there is nothing easier for a politician to ignore or dismiss than the principled stand of a nobody constituent. But I will quit.

I find his whole essay ludicrous and filled full of naive delusions. What makes it even worse is that Dr. Kreuter is a gun owner and writes in this essay about going grouse hunting.

I’ve talked to some of my students at WCU about firearms and concealed carry. I don’t include it in my lectures but if someone brings it up after class I don’t shy away from the discussion. The students who brought up the topic were responsible and mature. It wasn’t like they were going to shoot me or anyone else if I gave them a bad grade.

Dr. Kreuter needs to grow up and realize that the real world can be a dangerous place. Moreover, that danger doesn’t come from a properly licensed student or faculty member who has undergone training and a background check. Unfortunately, even at Western, I fear that Dr. Kreuter has many colleauges that feel as he does and not as I do.