- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2017

A tenured professor at Wichita State University has chosen to retire in protest of the school’s new weapons policy allowing students to carry concealed guns on campus.

Communications professor Deborah Ballard-Reisch has submitted a letter to WSU president John Bardo saying she plans to retire July 1, the day Kansas’ campus concealed carry law goes into effect, The Wichita Eagle reported Tuesday.

“While I have found the support to engage in work that I believe has enriched students and communities, I find the climate in Kansas to be more and more regressive, repressive, and in opposition to the values of higher education including critical thinking, evidence based reasoning, global citizenship, and social responsibility,” Ms. Ballard-Reisch wrote. “I see this most clearly in the concealed carry policy that goes into effect July 1, which can’t help but dampen open, frank conversation, so necessary for promoting intellectual growth and an informed citizenry.

“Worse, this ill-advised policy puts the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff at risk,” she said. “Clear, open, critical discussion cannot take place in an environment of threat and fear. Knowing that people will now be free to conceal and carry guns in classrooms without training and without licenses can’t help but dampen the free exploration of ideas.”

Kansas became a constitutional carry state in 2015, which means citizens can carry guns openly or concealed without a government-issued permit. A 2013 law allowing state universities and colleges to prohibit concealed handguns on campus is set to expire June 30. WSU has updated its weapons policy in accordance with the law in order to allow for the carrying of concealed handguns beginning July 1. The open carry of firearms and possession of other weapons is still prohibited on campus.

Cale Ostby, president of the WSU chapter of Students for Concealed Carry, told The Eagle she finds Ms. Ballard-Reisch’s protest “really unfortunate.”

“I imagine she probably hasn’t had many conversations with anyone who is planning on carrying or knows much of the argument about why we’re in support of it,” the student said. “We have the constitutional right, if you’re over the age of 21, to carry everywhere else that we go. So we feel we should also be reserved the right to carry discreetly on campus as well.”

Ms. Ballard-Reisch argued that the presence of guns on campus will threaten the safety of students who “already feel marginalized and threatened” by the current political climate.

“As someone who has experienced gun violence personally, I do not feel safe with guns in the classroom,” she wrote.

Ms. Ballard-Reisch told The Eagle that she and her adult son were held at gunpoint during a 2014 home invasion.

“I cannot guarantee my students that they will get the best from me,” she wrote. “I cannot tell them that they are safe to claim their voices, their truths, when someone next to them, who might have a different view, may also have a gun.”

She said the school’s new gun policy “is indication of a political context that threatens the health of all Kansans.”

“This is no longer a context I can support. This is no longer a context in which I can work. I regret that I have to make this decision,” her letter concluded.

This isn’t the first time a Kansas professor has resigned to protest Kansas’ campus carry law. Jacob Dorman, a now-former associate professor of history and American studies at University of Kansas, had his resignation letter published in May by the The Topeka Capital-Journal.

“Kansas can have great universities, or it can have concealed carry in classrooms, but it cannot have both,” Mr. Dorman wrote. “Let us not let the NRA destroy the future of the state of Kansas with a specious argument about the Second Amendment.”

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