As UT Develops its Campus Carry Policy, Some Students and Faculty Organize in Opposition
The University of Texas at Austin continues to discuss the issue of allowing concealed firearms throughout the campus as per the campus carry law, which was passed in the 2015 legislative session and signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
A 19-member working group established by University officials, the Campus Carry Policy Working Group, has held two public forums on the issue so far. And, according to the group’s chair Steve Goode nearly 2,800 comments have been submitted through their online survey.
The Working Group consists of faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni, and its mission, Goode says in a press release, will be multi-pronged.
“In addition to making recommendations about potential gun-free zones, we plan to make recommendations aimed at ensuring that any handguns that are carried on campus will be carried as safely as possible.”
Goode says the group has made efforts to gather feedback from as many involved interests as it can, from the Texas Exes Board to program directors at off-campus research facilities.
UT system Chancellor William McRaven says that the goal overall in developing a policy for implementing campus carry when it takes effect in Aug. 2016 is to make campuses safe, without increasing security to a level that resembles a military base.
“We want the campus environment to be welcoming. We want to make sure that we are adhering to the law, which we will absolutely do, not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law,” McRaven told KERA's Think. “But at the same time, we don’t want to create an environment where there’s a lot of anxiety when students or faculty or parents come on to a campus. We want the campus to be welcoming and we intend to make sure that happens.
Meanwhile, many UT Austin faculty have been voicing their collective opposition to the implementation of the state campus carry law. Faculty members have spoken against allowing firearms in classrooms at public forums, and hundreds of faculty members have signed various petitions and statements saying they won’t allow guns in their classrooms and are against the implementation of the law on UT's campus.
Last week, Economics Professor Daniel Hamermesh announced that he will not return to teach in the upcoming school year because of the law.
“This makes UT look like a bunch of crazies," he said. "This makes the choice of coming to the university less attractive, and that’s going to hurt the university and hurt public higher education in Texas.”
Hamermesh, who was planning to retire within the next few years, also said that he'd be afraid of being shot by an angry student if guns are allowed in offices and classrooms.
More than 50 members of UT’s psychology department signed a statement against the law.
A student-led group planning a Campus Dildo Carry protest for the first day of class in 2016 has received attention from national media. Protestors say they want to break UT obscenity rules to make a point about the campus carry law. UT spokesperson Gary Susswein says the university doesn’t plan to stop their demonstration.
“In terms of people expressing their right to free expression as they’re talking about doing, that’s protected political speech,” Susswein says.
More than 8,000 people have signed up for the Dildo Carry event on its Facebook page.
The law is set to take effect on Aug. 1, 2016, the 50th anniversary of the mass shooting from the UT Austin tower that resulted in the deaths of 16 people.