An armed campus is a safer campus

To the Daily:

After reading news articles about Thursday’s fatal shootings on the campus of Northern Illinois University, I feel compelled to write my no-doubt politically incorrect thoughts.

The shootings Thursday at NIU are one of many on college campuses over the past several years. Some, like the shootings last year at Virginia Tech, ended with a suicide by the shooter after dozens of students and faculty were killed. Others, like the shooting of three people at Appalachian School of Law in 2002, ended not with the shooter being “tackled or cornered” by other students (as most news media described the story), but by several people who had handguns in their vehicles. In this case, these people ran to get their guns and then held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived on the scene, without another shot being fired.

One common theme in all of this – and one that applies to many of the tragic shootings at colleges, in shopping malls and elsewhere around the country – is that they happen in “gun-free” zones. Such gun-free zones, lauded by liberal anti-gun-rights folks, are open invitations to those who ignore the law, take out their hostilities and kill others without being challenged.

Fortunately, no such episodes have happened here at the University in the last 25 years ago. I hope it never happens. Nonetheless, I don’t expect this spate of luck to last forever. The state of Michigan has allowed its age-eligible citizens to obtain concealed handgun permits, based on rather stringent training certifications and background checks through both state and federal databases. Michigan is one of many “shall issue” states concerning concealed weapons permits, requiring the state to issue these permits to those who meet the criteria. Moreover, little needs to be done in the way of violating state law to have such permits rescinded, and the permit holder is subjected to severe criminal charges.

Now, for the explicitly politically incorrect statement: I am not at all happy – or should I say comfortable or secure – knowing that legal concealed carry weapon permit holders are not allowed to carry concealed weapons for their own self-defense on our campus. Over the years there have been too many vicious attacks on defenseless students merely walking though campus. Sooner or later we may have to face a tragedy during which no one who could otherwise defend themselves or others around them will be able to do so.

Marshal Shlafer
Medical School professor

Combating latent racism on campus

To the Daily:

Several few weeks ago someone posted on Craigslist a blatantly racist rant about how black people are “invading Scorekeepers,” the poster’s favorite bar. Among other offensive dribble not fit to be repeated, this person insinuated that interracial relationships are repulsive and that black people should “just stay at Necto, Touchdowns, Ypsilanti, Zaimbabwe, etc” because they are unwelcome at Scorekeepers.

This statement was very upsetting to read, let alone to learn that it came from one of the University’s own. This incident, however, uncovers a more potent, prevalent issue on this campus: latent racism. Whatever the cause, the University community has an obligation to do something about it. The easy answer is to say that personal prejudices, as long as they don’t directly affect anyone, aren’t harmful and cannot be eliminated. That, however, is not the University way, nor should it be a part of the University experience. Instead, we must use this as an opportunity to learn and move forward.

Today, there are many efforts being made to get people talking across racial and social lines. Examples of these efforts include the Program on Intergroup Relations and initiatives like the Diversity Blueprints. But we, as students and citizens, need to play an even bigger role in fostering diversity on our campus.

There has never been a better time to start tackling this issue than during Black History Month. Until we start talking, collaborating and empathizing, we will not be able to cut through the problem of latent racism.

The Michigan Student Assembly Minority Affairs Commission will be holding an event called “The State of Black America” tomorrow at the Michigan Union’s U-Club at 7 p.m. This event will be have a panel of speakers discussing the place of black youth in society with respect to academic, social and cultural factors. Though this event is one small step in eradicating latent racism, we should leave no stone unturned.

Let’s prove that the University community always works to uphold the kind of diversity on which we pride ourselves.

Michigan Student Assembly members

This letter was signed by Mohammad Dar, Nate Fink, Stella Binkevich, Sabrina Shingwani, Alex Serwer, Liz Hadeed, Lauren Inouye, Paula Klein, Jordan Salins, Jason Raymond, Sarah Mynhier, Max Nowak, Alex Jiga and Gibran Baydoun

Alternative Spring Break is more than just a week of activism

To the Daily:

In Theresa Kennelly’s column Thursday (Teach for the Time Being?, 02/14/2008), the characterization of Alternative Spring Break as a “Band-aid” was misinformed and inaccurate. ASB does not purport itself to be a movement of college students trying to fix national issues in a week or less.

Instead, ASB is a movement of a different kind, not of “half-hearted students trying to boost their résumés” as Kennelly wrote, but of passionate, involved students engaging in a service-learning initiative. During this experience, they learn about issues like poverty, immigration, the environment and domestic violence in a way they never could in a traditional classroom setting. ASB extends beyond a one-week road trip in late February; participants research and reflect on their issues and service sites in the months leading up to Spring Break, as well as during and after the trip.

For many students, ASB sparks deep-rooted passion for social justice, which they carry with them and act on throughout their college career and beyond. Had Kennelly not dismissed the program so quickly, she would have discovered that ASB promotes service learning that acts as a catalyst to action, not a quick fix.

Amanda Hooper

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