- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A science professor penned an anonymous column Monday seeking advice on whether she should write a letter of recommendation for a pro-gun student.

The professor, writing for The Chronicle for Higher Education under the pseudonym Myrtle Lynn Payne, explained that she initially told the student, “Sarah,” that she would write the recommendation, but was forced to reconsider the decision after the Umpqua Community College shooting in October that left 10 people dead, Mediaite reported.

“For a long time, Sarah didn’t follow up about the recommendation. Recently, however — with at least 14 more people dead and 17 more injured in college campus shootings — she emailed me again, updating me on her plans and repeating her request,” the professor wrote. “I lay all of this out here now because I don’t know what to do about the recommendation.”

The professor said she grew up in a pro-gun family until her mother “instituted gun control in our household,” because of her father’s manic-depressive episodes.

“It’s so complicated. On one side are all of my ideas about supporting students, honoring their individuality and their journeys, creating a safe space for them (and myself), not taking things out of context, not overinterpreting,” she wrote. “On the other side are my memories of growing up in a situation where guns, people, and bullets had to be rigorously kept apart, lest they find each other in a tragic moment of instability.

“She seems to be a good kid, Sarah,” the professor continued. “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. 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.

“So what do I do? Do I write her a recommendation because I originally said yes? Do I say no and explain myself? Do I ignore her email?” she asked. “How can I say that I don’t want to support students who are gun enthusiasts, without getting put on some sort of list? … I wish the way forward was more black and white to me — that I knew what to do in this situation. But I don’t.”

Commenters on the professor’s post appeared to agree that she is obligated to fulfill Sarah’s request since she already agreed to it. Others said Sarah’s personal hobbies are “irrelevant” and should have no impact on the professor’s ability to recommend her. A few commenters praised the professor for asking the question instead of denying Sarah’s request without consideration.

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