College Prof: I Can’t Write Recommendations for People Who Like Guns
An article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education features a professor stating that she doesn’t want to write letters of recommendation for students who are gun enthusiasts.
The column, published anonymously by a woman using the pseudonym Myrtle Lynn Payne, describes her long-lasting phobia of guns and how it poisoned her relationship with a student she calls Sarah. Payne says Sarah was a hard-working student with some potential, but alas, she was also a gun enthusiast.
“I [took] on the first day during a sharing activity we typically do at the beginning of my science lecture courses,” Payne writes. “Sarah shared that the most notable experience of her winter break was a visit to a gun range where she had fired an AK-47. I gave the usual ‘very good, moving on’ response but was thinking, ‘Whoa, that’s disturbing.’”
Later, Payne was disturbed when she overheard Sarah discussing her plans to obtain a concealed-carry permit in the near future.
“I hadn’t known we had such permits in our state but apparently we do,” Payne says, apparently unaware that concealed-carry permits exist in every U.S. state (though Illinois only legalized them in 2013 following the District of Columbia v. Heller decision).
All of this came to a head when Sarah asked Payne to write a recommendation for her to apply to a teacher certification program. Payne initially said yes, but says she began to reconsider after the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, which killed 10 people and wounded several more.
Now, Payne is in a bind, with her desire to support students clashing with her general hatred of guns.
“She seems to be a good kid, Sarah. And I don’t know what she really thinks of gun advocacy and political failures that have cost us all these lives and our sense of safety as educators,” she says. “I don’t know what she does on the weekends. I also don’t know if she understands emotions, or what real rage feels like. It seems to me no person who has truly experienced the full impact of their own emotions would ever go near a gun.”
Payne says she is deciding not just between writing the letter or giving a reasoned ‘no,’ but has also considered ignoring Sarah entirely. She also expresses fear for her physical safety, worrying that if she vocally refuses to write a recommendation for a gun-toting student, she may end up on “some sort of list.”
The article ultimately ends without Payne coming to a final decision.
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