Martin, Tenn.—The University of Tennessee at Martin has placed an associate professor of English on administrative leave after he wrote an open letter which alarmed the university and students.
Dr. Charles Bradshaw wrote an open letter under the pen name “Wesley Sniper” that contained descriptions of mass violence on campus. Bradshaw has since written an apology.
(The following statement is from Dr. Keith Carver, UT Martin chancellor, and includes an open letter from Dr. Charles Bradshaw, UT Martin faculty member.)
As many of you are aware, a situation arose this week from an open letter issued by Dr. Charles Bradshaw, UT Martin associate professor of English, under the pen name “Wesley Sniper” that contained descriptions of mass violence on our campus. The letter was originally crafted as an example of satirical writing for one of Dr. Bradshaw’s classes; however, the letter soon became distributed to a much broader audience. Many individuals who saw the letter outside of the class became concerned for the safety of the campus and reported the matter to the police.
After an initial investigation, the UT Martin Department of Public Safety quickly determined that the campus was not in imminent danger. Dr. Bradshaw was placed on paid administrative leave while the matter was fully investigated. The campus reported the situation to the Weakley County District Attorney, who declined to press charges because Dr. Bradshaw engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment.
It is now clear that Dr. Bradshaw intended the letter to be used only as an in-class example of satire. Despite his intent, Dr. Bradshaw recognizes the legitimate safety concerns raised by readers of the letter and offers the following apology.
An Open Letter from Dr. Charles Bradshaw
I would like to apologize for the problems created by a letter many have seen and responded to that I wrote satirizing S.R. 1704, “A Resolution to Allow Students to Concealed Carry on Campus.”
The letter was written as an example of satire to be used in a class examining different types of written argument and to prove its usefulness to current events. I informed the class that an anonymous faculty member had written it, but it was in no way presented as embodying any political views or actual views that I or any real person held. Nor did I suggest or imply that students should hold a particular view of the “Conceal-and-Carry” situation.
I anticipated that laughter, not fear, would be its effect in my class and among my colleagues, and I shared several copies, anonymously, with selected members of my department.
When I found out that campus police were inquiring about the letter, I immediately contacted them to let them know I was the author.
I am sorry, given current events, for any fear or anger this has caused for students or any others who support the university. I have the utmost respect for the people I work with on campus and for state government officials and would never wish to scare or harm them. The university has been an extremely peaceful place for me over the years, and I took that security for granted in constructing this letter. I meant neither violence nor harm to any individual or entity mentioned or implied.
Most of all, I owe UTM’s Student Government Association an explanation. I hold UTM students in the highest regard and reverence their agency in student governance and their freedom to make their own decisions. As a professor, I go to great lengths to empower my students to be independent and responsible thinkers, so it hurts and embarrasses me personally and professionally to think that I have curtailed these values in any way or belittled any student. I applaud the initiative taken by the students who fostered this resolution and sought to responsibly debate in a transparent manner with their colleagues. I am truly sorry if this letter made light of the legislative process or disrespected their bravery in bringing forward such an important consideration. This is the very heart and soul of higher education, and I honor their efforts.
I also want to apologize to the other entities and officials of the university that have been involved in this misunderstanding. They have been thorough and quick to respond to every concern, always with the campus’s safety at the forefront of their minds.
Coming so soon after the terrible events in our nation where so many people were lost to violence and UT Martin lost one of our own heroic alumni, the subject of mass violence was not the best example to use even for satire. While I acknowledge Dr. Bradshaw’s right to engage in satire, I appreciate his apology and sensitivity to the concerns of our university community.