University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh, who has published a lot of intriguing research on the labor market value of inter alia attractiveness, recently resigned from a contract to meet a large economics class. He did so in protest of a Texas law allowing the concealed carry of weapons on campus. At least 170 faculty members have signed a letter protesting the implementation of the law. Some fear that the possible presence of guns will inhibit spirited discussion in class. In a recent television interview, Professor Hamermesh specifically feared a grade dispute getting out of hand. In elaboration, he mentioned that disputatious students had become more confrontational in recent years.
There's more at work here than the presence or absence of guns, people. Yes, there are sub-prime party schools, and the "toxic campus brew" there is not likely to be more civilized with more legal weapons. But Texas is not a sub-prime party school. Consider, though, that some of my graduate school classmates, still on the payrolls of economics departments at universities you might have heard of -- in a good way -- have groused to me about "entitled little snots" over the past few years. Perhaps a learning environment in which students are less inclined to engage in aggressive grade-grubbing or noisy and disrespectful "discussions" (the usual student term for "I want to make the case for an evaluation I didn't earn") in the first place will be a learning environment in which conducting negotiations at the point of a gun Will. Not. Happen.