Opinion: Forcing guns on Georgia’s campuses violates state constitution

Students, faculty, staff and local residents hold a protest against campus carry legislation at the University of Georgia Arch on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in Athens. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Michelle Haberland is a professor of history at Georgia Southern University. She is a member of the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action. In this piece, she argues politicians should not decide whether guns belong in Georgia classrooms and goes back in state history to fortify her case.

Haberland applauds the lawsuit filed this week by six veteran Georgia professors seeking an injunction to stop campus carry. Enacted in July, the campus carry law allows licensed permit holders to carry concealed guns on certain areas of public college campuses. Contending the law is dangerous and unconstitutional, the professors maintain in their suit that campus carry usurps the University System of Georgia’s constitutional authority over its campuses.

In this piece, Haberland agrees.

By Dr. Michelle Haberland

I am proud to be a professor at Georgia Southern University. I take my responsibilities to my students and the campus community seriously, and I am honored that my students come to my classroom ready to learn every day.

I believe one of my most important responsibilities as a professor is to foster honest dialogue, and encourage my students to air disagreements. That’s why I was so alarmed when Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation last year that forces public colleges and universities to allow guns on campuses, including in my classroom. When I heard the news, a flurry of questions raced through my mind.

How am I supposed to encourage students to explore their differences when one or more of them might be armed? When a student comes up to me after class to talk about low test scores or less-than-stellar essay grades, how am I supposed to know the conversation won’t turn violent? Should I pursue the path of professors in other states that force colleges to allow guns on campuses, changing my lesson plans to avoid hot-button topics?

As I pondered these questions, I wondered if the politicians who backed this dangerous policy had considered any of them. I was reminded that guns have no place on college campuses and particularly in classrooms, and that legislators simply didn’t listen to the voices of the students, faculty, administrators and campus law enforcement who repeatedly spoke out against the bill.

Thankfully, this week a group of professors from Georgia took a stand, filing a lawsuit to stop this dangerous policy. They are arguing, rightly, that our state’s constitution gives the authority to make decisions that directly impact the educational process – like whether to allow guns on college campuses and in classrooms – to the university system, not politicians.

As a history professor, one of the things I’ve kept in mind throughout this debate is the origin of  “university self-governance” in Georgia. University self-governance is the idea that politicians and political ideology should not interfere with campus communities.

As the lawsuit lays out, in the 1940s, then-Gov. Eugene Talmadge attacked our state’s public universities, announcing he intended to fire anyone in the university system who supported “racial equality.” When the Board of Regents, which manages the university system, refused to comply with the governor’s demand to fire University of Georgia professor Walter Cocking, whom the governor accused of proposing an integrated demonstration school, the governor began replacing members of the board with people who agreed with him politically.

The governor went on to fire several other faculty and administrators, including Georgia Teachers College (later Georgia Southern University) President Marvin Pittman, and even removed books from the University of Georgia library that advocated for racial equality. During this attack on university self-governance, a number of public colleges and universities in Georgia lost their accreditation. And, the fight only ended when the governor lost his reelection campaign. As a result, our state’s constitution was amended to forbid politicians from intervening in the management of colleges and universities.

In forcing colleges and universities to allow guns on campus, the Georgia Legislature and Gov. Deal have violated this critical safeguard built into our state’s constitution.

They have compromised the education of our students, since guns in classrooms will inhibit what students are comfortable saying and how professors are comfortable teaching. In fact, the professors who filed this lawsuit noted that under this policy they will be more inclined to hold online classes and less inclined to hold in-person office hours, concerned that students can now come to class or to meetings armed.

Most importantly, Gov. Deal and state policymakers have put our safety at risk.

I am thankful to the brave professors who have taken a stand against this short-sighted policy, and I hope the courts will side with them, not politicians.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
Starik
Starik

No mention of the several armed robberies recently at Ga. Tech. Kids may not need guns in the classroom, but walking around at night? Walking home to off campus housing? 

redweather
redweather

@Starik There's another thing that doesn't get much mention.  If my son or daughter decided to carry a concealed weapon while on campus, I would counsel them to keep that out of sight in the event of an active shooter situation. If you've got a gun in your hand the police will probably assume you are the person they're looking for.  The same might happen in just about any situation involving firearms. You can't count on the police to ask a lot  of questions first.

Starik
Starik

@redweather @Starik  Active shooters get the publicity, but they're really too rare to worry about. Walking the streets in and around GT and GSU at night is really dangerous. 

gerrylkw
gerrylkw

I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Haverland about campus carry. Governor Deal made a huge mistake bowing down to the gun rights folk such as NRA. I wrote to him about this but received no response.

lkmonty
lkmonty

Excellent! I've stopped taking evening classes. So glad sensible people are fighting this.

pamj14
pamj14

I didn't even read the article NO ONE is being forced! Sick of the this paper, I don't pay to read it.

lkmonty
lkmonty

You are being very narrow minded. Yes, this law FORCES students and teachers to set themselves up as targets for any sick mind sitting in a classroom.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Guns are not allowed in state buildings including the Capitol. Why schools?

RufusATL
RufusATL

Since guns make the classroom so much safer, then let's push to have them allowed in the legislative chambers among those who pass these laws.  As it stands now, you couldn't even squeeze a BB gun into those hallowed halls.  If it's good for the goose...,..

HotDawg
HotDawg

Just our of curiosity, who is "forcing" anyone to have guns on campus?

I'd hope logically, this is a choice. Not anyone being "forced".

A big difference between being "forced" and allowing choice.

Keep trying to kill the U.S. Constitution, liberals. You are the Nazis and fascists.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Just like all the violent campus protests, across America, Democrats and all Liberals use as their freedom of speech, but want to refuse opposing views their freedom of speech.

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

Gee, weren't we scolded that respecting Second Amendment rights would lead to bloodshed, mass faculty resignations and a plunge in student admission numbers?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If you want me to read your op-ed you could start by getting rid of the blatantly dishonest headline.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @DawgDadII


Dawg is 100% right here. The legislature is not "forcing" guns on campus.It's entirely conceivable that Campus Carry will not change or could even reduce the carrying population.


Of course it's deceptive.This entire debate,going back a couple of years, has been deceptive.That's the only possible stratagem that the media has to deprive law abiding citizens of their constitutional rights. People won't knowingly give up those rights,so they have to be stolen or abridged through fear.(shootouts on campus! mayhem! drunken tailgaters!)


See the above comment by Alt? We never get an answer to that question here.We won't this time either,because a truthful answer would reveal the lie that has been at the foundation of this debate.

redweather
redweather

@Astropig  These professors are challenging the Legislature's ability to "usurp[] the University System of Georgia’s constitutional authority over its campuses." So I'm not sure the ruling in Texas is exactly on point. We'll just have to wait and see. My guess is that this lawsuit probably won't succeed, however.  That said, the Bill signed into law by Deal is so full of gaping holes you may as well call it Swiss cheese.

redweather
redweather

Article 8, Section 4, Par. (b) of Georgia’s Constitution states that “The government, control, and management of the University System of Georgia and all of the institutions in said system shall be vested in the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.”

I get that. But does this mean the Legislature can't enact any laws specifically applicable to colleges and universities? It will be interesting to hear the State Law Department's argument on that.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather


Their logic would allow "concerned" professors to nullify any enumerated right that they found inconvenient just by filing a lawsuit.Uh-oh. I think you could comfortably assume that every campus would become..I don't want to think about it.Every campus would become Berkeley.


Their grounds for this frivolous suit are that they are "concerned" about what might happen to someone,somewhere, on one of "their" campuses by a legally licensed gun owner.


Now think about that a second-how does disarming law abiding student citizens provide "equal protection" under the laws (14th amendment) when criminals observe no laws? Not allowing a law abiding citizen to defend themselves when necessary would seem to violate that principle. 

David Clark
David Clark

“our state’s constitution was amended to forbid politicians from intervening in the management of colleges and universities.”

Fine, defund the BoR’s, Georgia State Colleges and Universities from the State budget then. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.

This “lawsuit” is more grandstanding than substantive. It will be quickly and summarily dismissed due to lack of standing.

Greg Myers
Greg Myers

"How am I supposed to encourage students to explore their differences when one or more of them might be armed? When a student comes up to me after class to talk about low test scores or less-than-stellar essay grades, how am I supposed to know the conversation won’t turn violent?" The answer to those question is of course to handle the situations the same way it is done now assuming it is done well already. Only someone who is using inappropriate techniques would worry about situations turning violent, something could happen with or without a firearm.

Bob Doty
Bob Doty

According to a study last year by crime research.org, there are approx. 12 million Americans with a conceal carry permit. That is about 5% of the total population of the US. I got my first one in 1980, and have renewed it every five years since. We are all around you. I am the guy with the grocery cart at Kroger that just walked by you. I am in the booth right behind you at our local restaurant in Lawrenceville. And I am the guy pumping gas in my car in front of you. Feel better now? Educate yourself. https://crimeresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Concealed-Carry-Permit-Holders-Across-the-United-States.pdf

RufusATL
RufusATL

Myers, might we all know where you teach, since your response seems rooted in experience.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

{{{yawn}}}


Yet another anti-gun commentary in the AJC.  I'm shocked, SHOCKED I tell you.

I really wish Maureen would post relevant links to the individuals who submit these commentaries.  I always like to read up on the person to gain a perspective to their viewpoint.  http://class.georgiasouthern.edu/history/home/faculty/haberland/


So, this Haberland is a member of "Moms Demand Action", a virulent anti-gun group who is spreading propaganda and disinformation about our citizens Second Amendment rights.  You know, the Constitution of the United States.  As a history professor, maybe Haberland should read up on it. 

Astropig
Astropig

@Lee_CPA2


Moms Demand Action is (yet another) George Soros front group. He tells everybody that the Nazi's killed his family,yet he hates America. Go figure.

Bob Doty
Bob Doty

So he says how can my students be safe if another classmate is armed. That statement clearly shows the Prof has allotted a higher value of life to the unarmed student over the armed student. He has unilaterally decided student #2 will not be able to even attempt to save his own life.

Felicia Simpson Kyle
Felicia Simpson Kyle

Thank you for this article. My daughter is a student at GSU, and now I know she will NOT be taking history classes from this professor - (parent and wife of a college professor at a different college)