Indeed, Professor “Payne” wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that her student “Sarah” had visited a gun range over Christmas break – and that Sarah hoped to get a concealed-carry permit in the future. Because of this, Payne no longer wants to write the recommendation, in spite of the fact that Sarah “had a great energy and was a class leader.”
In her own words:
On the first day during a sharing activity we typically do at the beginning of my science lecture courses, Sarah shared that the most notable experience of her winter break was a visit to a gun range. I gave the usual "very good, moving on" response but was thinking, "Whoa, that’s disturbing."
When Sarah was a student in another one of my courses, I overheard her confiding that she was looking forward to getting her concealed-carry permit...
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?... I mean, she’s applying to a teacher-credential program, for God’s sake.
Sorry for the bait-and-switch – but it’s also kind of not a bait-and-switch.
If you were horrified by the fictional example but not the real one, there is something seriously wrong with your sense of "fairness."
But I'm going to go ahead and assume that you are a rational human being. You find both stories outrageous, because political/personal beliefs on which the professor and her student differ don’t matter.
It doesn’t matter what the student does in her free time. It doesn’t matter what her religion is or for whom she’s voting in this election or how she chooses to protect herself.
A professor’s job is not to make value judgments.
A professor’s job isn’t to sabotage students with different political opinions.
And a professor's job certainly isn't to physically threaten or intimidate students, despite what the Chronicle of Education had to say about Melissa Glick.
Students shouldn’t feel obligated to agree with their professors on each and every issue in order to have a great professional relationship. Students shouldn't have to hide their extracurriculars, beliefs or identity in case their professors disagree with them.
It is beyond absurd that this letter was written.
And not because this naive, hysterical professor seems to think she has never written a letter of recommendation for a gun owner before.
But because it suggests that this trend of "progressive" (or, as some more accurately label them, "regressive") students attempting to silence professors, politicians and classmates who disagree with them... is creeping into other areas of academia.
To use a bottom-of-the-barrel example:
Proceeds to demand that Sommers "keep her hate speech off this campus."
I certainly don't agree with everything Sommers has to say -- but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enthralled by her books. In fact, I have written multiple blog posts in response to her work.
Just because people don't agree with each and every one of your ideas, doesn't mean you can't listen respectfully, learn from them, and challenge their ideas.
And if you are the "adult" in a situation -- especially in a classroom or teaching situation -- I certainly expect you to be able to deal with such situations like an adult.
Professor Payne was unable to do that. Instead of acting like an adult, a professor or a professional... she's being a passive aggressive jerk about it. And, sure, from her letter, it sounds like she might have some sort of mental health issue:
I also don’t know if [Sarah] 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.
(No offense, Professor, but if your emotions are so "impactful" and beyond your control that you would use a gun to harm yourself or others in a fit of rage... you are the person who shouldn't be around guns or students. Not Sarah.)
But still. One of the expectations of her job is that she provide a certain amount of mentorship. Another is that she write letters of recommendation for students who have done great work in her class -- especially after agreeing to write it months and months ago.
Unless your policy is to hand out surveys at the beginning of each semester and tell students you will only write recs for though who vote "correctly" -- but that sounds like the most un-American thing ever.