A Minnesota college student was suspended and ordered to undergo "mental health evaluation" for his response to campuswide e-mails from school officials concerning the Virginia Tech massacre.
The college, Hamline University, a private, liberal-arts institution affiliated with the Methodist Church, has a policy on "Freedom of Expression and Inquiry" that guarantees that Hamline students will be "free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly or privately."
With such a strong guarantee on students' "freedom from censorship and control" by the university, student Troy Scheffler's e-mail must have been horrifically bad to warrant such a crackdown. Right?
Wrong. What Scheffler did was make a gun-rights case for concealed-carry permits on campus to help ward off potential Cho Seung-Huis before they strike Hamline. This was no monstrous act; in fact, it was in line with public debate across the nation following Cho's rampage, not to mention an issue of perennial debate in America. Many researchers, most notably John R. Lott Jr., have shown conclusively that gun ownership itself wards off crime while laws banning guns lead to increases in crimes. Criminals are less likely to strike if they have reason to believe their prospective victims could be armed.
Scheffler had written in his April 17 e-mail reply to David Stern, Hamline vice president of student affairs, that "Considering this university also pushes 'diversity' initiatives like VA Tech, maybe its 'leadership' will reconsider [Hamline's] ban on conceal carry law abiding gun owners... Ironically, according to a few VA Tech forums, there are plenty of students complaining that this wouldnt have happened if the school wouldnt have banned their permits a few months ago."
He added, "I just dont understand why leftists dont understand that criminals dont care about laws; that is why they’re criminals... Maybe this school will reconsider its repression of law abiding citizens rights."
Two days later, Hamline President Linda Hanson e-mailed the campus about Virginia Tech. Scheffler replied to that e-mail also, expanding upon his comments to Stern.
In both messages, Scheffler made it clear to all but the most hysterically inclined person that his advocacy of concealed-carry permits was to protect the students from criminals. Scheffler recognized that this protection would be afforded primarily by predators' foreknowledge that any one of the students at Hamline could shoot back, but also – given that the administrators had both brought up the VT massacre – by students being able to stop a killing rampage before it got started.
In short, what Scheffler wrote was no preamble to a blood-lusty explosion of violence. At worst it was crude criticism of the university administration combined with a stark assessment of the true risk of a concealed-carry society like Virginia Tech's: total defenselessness against a Columbine-inspired mass murderer. Regardless, it should have been protected by the university's stated policy guaranteeing free expression.
Nevertheless, on April 23 Scheffler received a hand-delivered letter from Dean of Students Alan Sickbert that informed him his e-mails were "deemed to be threatening and thus an alleged violation of the Hamline University Judicial Code" and that he was placed on "interim suspension" to be lifted only after he agreed to a psychological evaluation by a licensed mental health professional.
Scheffler contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, whose service in the cause of liberty in opposition to the petty tyrants populating American academe is invaluable. The history of the case, including the offending e-mails, are viewable on the FIRE's web site (www.thefire.org). Hamline officials say they moved to suspend after Scheffler failed to meet with university officials over his e-mails (he was given less than one full business day to do so) and that he is also the subject of "critical input from various members of the Hamline community" (which was news to Scheffler, nor has he been told of their identities nor given a chance to defend himself against their allegations, whatever they are – if those people exist at all).
Psychiatric abuse is not something one expects in America, but it happens. For example, in June, the assistant director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, Joey Gardner, was suspended without pay and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after blowing the whistle on DMV Commissioner George Tatum for allegedly seeking help to get his friend a vintage vehicle title for a replica (Tatum later resigned). In 2001, a Temple University student, Michael Marcavage, was involuntarily committed by his university for protesting a campus production of "Corpus Christi," a play that depicts Jesus Christ as a homosexual having carnal relations with his disciples.
In his April 19 e-mail, Scheffler wrote pessimistically, "Im sure this plea of common sense will fall on deaf ears." While the fault wasn't with the ears, as he had predicted, Scheffler's plea did indeed fall on disabled faculties.