I would normally respond to A1 in the comments section, but I am at a remote site and the wireless server I'm using won't allow me to access that page. So, A1, this is the best I can do in response. To continue the dialogue I probably won't be able to respond to anything else you offer until late tonight or tomorrow (just so you know).
After reading the post, A1 says (in its entirety):
1) You don't know what Wahlberg actually said.
2) You don't know how he said it.
3) You don't know what his relationship was with the professor or classmates.
4) You don't know what his university relationships were.
5) You don't know his medical or psychological history.
6) You don't know how many guns he owned or if he was bringing them on campus.
My point is that there is potentially so much more to this story than is or can be publicly known that to condemn the professor for reporting this to the police with just the facts you have is pretty lame. With the historical context of mass murders at Columbine and Virginia Tech and not having all of the facts, I can't fault the professor for being extra cautious.
I am sure you can imagine circumstances where you would feel it necessary to report this type of incident to campus authorities, but the information that might inspire you to do so could not be made public (psychological history or veiled threats, for example) .
I hope that the professor was doing the right thing here. I don't think you or I have enough information to judge.
Let's first note that I am a professor, I give this type of assignments, and I work at a university that has a history of gun violence at certain times. So I am not commenting on an abstract milieu, but the one in which I live and work. That means that I may be able to glean some more from the information that is provided in the original article than A1 thinks.
First point: while I will admit the information in the article may be incomplete, I am working on the assumption that the information that is presented is accurate. If not, it obviously affects the conclusions. But the burden of proof is thereby on somebody who challenges the accuracy of the article. The ability to raise questions, as I often remind my students, is not the same thing as offering evidence.
So let's take A1's objections/observations one at a time:
1) You don't know what Wahlberg actually said.
Here's what the article attributed to him:
Wahlberg thought that concealed carry was an appropriate topic for class. It is important to note that while Wahlberg is a gun owner and a Second Amendment advocate, he never threatened to harm anyone during his presentation.
After giving the presentation - during which he advocated for students' right to bear arms....
So we glean that Wahlberg did not threaten to harm anyone (which, I would submit, can be interpreted as he did not use threatening language); that he probably told them he was a gun owner; that he probably suggested that students had the right to carry concealed weapons and (even, I suspect) probably advanced the thesis that the Va Tech massacre might have been averted or mitigated by somebody with a concealed weapon. I am assuming, therefore, a pretty radical second amendment defense. So I do have a reasonable grasp of the range of things he might have said.
A1: 2) You don't know how he said it.
By this A1 seems to mean his demeanor; whether he was matter-of-fact, confrontive, or even came across as a wacko. We do know from the post that nothing he said caused any student complaints or concerns to be recorded. We may also legitimately infer that the professor neither (a) curtailed the discussion or the class; not (b) expressed to Wahlberg that his presentation had caused such concern that it would require a call to the university police.
Having supervised similar discussions in many classes, and reading the original story, I can suggest a worst-case scenario: the young man started with a recitation of Constitutional rights and NRA talking points, probably presented as if they were the most logical conclusions in the world, and expressing mystification that anybody could disagree. Some people in the room (possibly including the professor) would have taken strong issue with these views, attempting to rebut them, and probably sharing some personal, anecdotal information about the impact of gun violence, and counter-arguing that we'd face a far more dangerous day-to-day existence with everybody carrying concealed weapons than from the status quo or even if handguns were illegal. The discussion may have become heated; classroom political discussions often do.
A1 can argue that I don't know this, and that's valid--to an extent. But like most teachers (and I'm in my third decade of doing this) you develop a pretty good feel for the patterns of discussion and conflict in the classroom. I've seen this discussion play out dozens of times, both under my control and under the supervision of other professors/teachers with completely different political views. I infer--and I think it's a reasonable inference--that the class process did not markedly differ from this scenario, or the deviation would have been newsworthy. Time will tell if I am correct about that.
updated: here's what another professor who agrees with the instructor for turning Wahlberg in, says (note the part in bold):
But Jerold Duquette, an associate professor of political science at CCSU who sits on the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom, say the Wahlberg case is not so clear-cut.
“This is a situation where both sides can come up with a reasonable explanation,” Duquette said.
“[Wahlberg] certainly has a reason to complain, since he didn’t do anything directly threatening. But I wouldn’t say the administration has a reason to sanction or punish the professor or the police.... I don’t know if I would have done anything differently in the situation.”
Here's another account of what happened in the class that suggests my inferences are on point:
After the oral presentation was over, professor Paula Anderson of Communication 140, promptly filed a complaint with the CCSU Police against student Wahlberg claiming he made students “scared and uncomfortable.” Professor Anderson deemed Wahlberg a “perceived risk” and felt it was her duty to “protect” her class.
What did the young man say in his oral assignment that was so threatening? Shockingly, Wahlberg had the temerity to discuss concealed carry laws, guns on campus in the hands of law abiding students, and the problems with the concept of a “gun free zone.” He was gauche enough to have posited that if students and/or professors had legal guns on their persons in 2007 the death toll in the Virginia Tech shooting spree could have been much lower.
I don't suggest that the instructor should be censured; I do suggest that her course of action was not appropriate.
A1: 3) You don't know what his relationship was with the professor or classmates.
I know his classmates did not complain or approach the professor (from the news account); I know that the professor approved the subject and did not terminate the class; I know the professor alleged (according to the story) that the misgivings causing the police report came from the dialogue in the class rather than any previous history.
A1: 4) You don't know what his university relationships were.
I'm not completely sure what you mean by university relationships, but I can tell you with above 95% certainty that the professor didn't either. Unless students are my majors, or unless they come into my office to discuss those type of issues, the professor won't know about it.
A1: 5) You don't know his medical or psychological history.
No, I don't--for sure. But again there reasonable inferences to be drawn. The professor neither knew nor would have access to that information (say "hi" to FERPA) because the student would have been over 18. The university police would have had access to such information, and would have felt the necessity to check such out. They neither cited him for violations of school policy nor restricted him in any way nor made a referral to counseling nor attempted to confiscate any of his weapons. This allows me to draw the reasonable inference that the police found no evidence of significant medical or psychological history.
A1: 6) You don't know how many guns he owned or if he was bringing them on campus.
How many guns he owns is completely immaterial to the story. There is no limit to the number of legally acquired weapons an individual may own. You may not like it, but he could be a gun collector with 500 weapons and it's not germane.
Was he bringing them on campus? I refer you to my previous comment: the police did nothing. They did not cite him for a violation or attempt to confiscate anything. Moreover, A1, it is not automatically illegal in many places to have a weapon on campus. Many universities allow students to have registered weapons on campus in rifle or pistol clubs, to be checked out for use on a range. In some states the university does not have the ability to prevent somebody from keeping a weapon in his/her automobile. In some states there is no specific prohibition from carrying a concealed weapon around campus as long as the individual has a concealed carry permit.
Granted: this story takes place in Connecticut, so I suspect with a reasonable chance at accuracy, that both state law and campus policy prohibit the carry of concealed or unconcealed weapons on campus. The fact that the police questioned him about the location of his weapons supports this. [I tried the school's website and could not find a policy, however, and I admit I did not have time to look up the applicable state law.)
Updated: here's the best account I can find about Wahlberg's encounter with the police:
That night, police called Wahlberg, a 23-year-old senior, and asked him to come to the station. When he arrived, they they read off a list of firearms that were registered in his name and asked where he kept them. Guns are strictly prohibited on the CCSU campus and residence halls, but Wahlberg says he lives 20 miles off-campus and keeps his gun collection locked up in a safe. No further action was taken by police or administrators.
So Wahlberg didn't have weapons on campus and had not brought them there.
A1: My point is that there is potentially so much more to this story than is or can be publicly known that to condemn the professor for reporting this to the police with just the facts you have is pretty lame.
Ah, what you've done here is subtly re-position the burden of proof. As I have demonstrated, there is a lot more information available in this story than you suggest, and that information that blatantly contradicts my inferences and experiences was likely to have been newsworthy enough to be included.
But the most important point here is that the burden of proof in this instance needs to rest with the professor. If I make allegations based on a classroom discussion wherein no students have complained that cause a student to be investigated by the university police, I have a responsibility to, well, act responsibly. I don't believe that the professor's conduct in this instance does not rise to that level, based on the information available.
A1: I am sure you can imagine circumstances where you would feel it necessary to report this type of incident to campus authorities, but the information that might inspire you to do so could not be made public (psychological history or veiled threats, for example) .
A1, I have called security on disruptive students and have informed campus police when I have had specific information about a student with a weapon in the dormitories or a student making threats--and I've done so in an environment where the stakes are real. So you don't have to go the imagination route here. I have also worked in and around law enforcement situations on military bases where this issue comes up more often than you would suspect. I don't speak here as somebody just commenting on a story: I speak as somebody with significant experience and expertise in similar situations.
What I know from the article is that the instructor did not terminate the discussion, approach the student, approach other students, or file an immediate complaint. She consulted her dean and her department chair. In that situation, with current paranoia over institutional liability, there is absolutely no chance that an administrator would advise anything else. Not because it was a rational course of action, but because it covered their ass.
The student's rights played no part in any of those decisions. Wahlberg now has an official record with the university police of having had at least threatening behavior alleged against him. That will now show up in background checks for the rest of his life, despite the fact that the police do not appear to have found any validity to the complaint.
Update: nor does Wahlberg now feel comfortable in returning to the class, even though he has been cleared:
"I don’t think that Professor Anderson was justified in calling the CCSU police over a clearly nonthreatening matter. Although the topic of discussion may have made a few individuals uncomfortable, there was no need to label me as a threat," Wahlberg said in response. "The actions of Professor Anderson made me so uncomfortable, that I didn't attend several classes. The only appropriate action taken by the Professor was to excuse my absences."
The instructor has sent a pretty significant message about the limits of debate at that university.
Here's an analogous situation (admittedly one without weapons involved) that actually occurred where I work approximately ten years ago: I had a colleague, a young African-American professor, who is a very dynamic instructor. He was doing a unit on lynching in the late 1800s-early 1900s. In order to put the situation in context he did a dramatic reading of a KKK newspaper justifying lynching as social control for blacks, who were too savage to respond to normal laws.
If you are a teacher, you know that when you read something like that in class, you have to sell it. You read it with vigor and try to use your voice to capture the sense of the writer. I can assure you my colleague is an expert at this.
An instructor in another department, walking past the door to the classroom as this went on, heard the reading, and was outraged that someone would be spewing racist filth at a black university. Without inquiring about the context (or even discovering that the reader was an African-American himself), she went to her department chair and dean to file a complaint of racist behavior and violating speech norms (has to be norms because we don't have a speech code).
Instead of getting all the facts, both the dean and the department chair helped her fill out the complaint and forwarded it, with endorsements, to our dean and our department chair, demanding action be taken against the instructor.
Even when the true situation became known to the complaintant, she asserted that my colleague should be prohibited from using the document in a class (or, at least, should not be reading it allowed) because her right not to be offended trumped both his free speech rights and his instructional judgments.
While my colleague was eventually cleared, I can make a strong case for the fact that it later hurt his promotion chances and was a proximate cause of his later leaving the university to take a position elsewhere. He is today one of the top four or five nationally known scholars in his field, and the acknowledged expert on lynching.
But students at my university do not get to experience him teaching any more.
A1, your take and mine represent the divide in our culture. I have seen you in various posts impute horrendous motives to people with whom you politically disagree based on far less evidence than this story provides. Yet here, you seem to be following Dick Cheney's 1% doctrine: if there's even a 1% chance that somebody might, someday snap, then we're justified in curtailing their rights to protect everybody else.
I don't believe that. I am clearly willing to tolerate a somewhat higher level of risk in exchange for individual rights than you are.
But--particularly with your history of bashing your political opponents with broad stereotypical strokes based on little or no situational evidence--I find your criticisms of my interpretation here to be ... more amusing than valid.