Campus concealed carry: University of Texas hears faculty concerns

The University of Texas System's regents debated at its meeting Thursday if faculty can ban handguns from their offices. 

Eric Gay/AP/File
Students walked through the University of Texas at Austin campus in Austin in September 2012. Campus administrators debated at its reagents' meeting Thursday if faculty can ban concealed handguns from their offices.

As Texas prepares to become the ninth state to allow licensed holders to carry guns on campus, at least one question looms large for the University of Texas System's regents: Can faculty ban guns from their offices?  

Unable to settle this question Thursday, as well as the additional question of whether holders should be prohibited from keeping a bullet in the chamber of a semi-automatic weapon, the regents postponed any action until they meet again in July.  

The board's hesitation hints at its anxiety about upholding the right to bear arms even while ensuring that the new regulations don't promote campus violence.  

Although Hayden Henry, a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, is in favor of the right of licensed holders to carry concealed guns on campus, he sees Prof. Lisa Moore's point, "that universities are a sacred place of learning" and that professors "should not have to worry about how to manage a population that might be armed," the Daily Texan, university's student newspaper, reported.  

"I see a professor's office as his or her personal space, similar to how I see my dorm as my residence and, therefore, my space," said Mr. Henry. "I believe [guns] should be allowed in dorms, but [professors] should have the ability to designate their office as a gun-free zone."  

The back-and-forth at the regent's meeting and on campuses across the Lone Star state come after the governor signed "campus carry" into law in June 2015, requiring that the state's 14 public universities allow concealed carry license holders to bring handguns into campus buildings and classrooms starting in August. Texas will join Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin. 

The Texas law permits private colleges and universities, which include Baylor, Rice, Southern Methodist, and Texas Christian, to allow campus carry, but none do, according to the Associated Press.  

Each public university can draft policies about campus carry before it becomes effective this summer.  They can, for instance, establish gun-free zones on campus as long as they are "reasonable," according to the Dallas Morning News. Universities have weighed whether they should allow handguns in the classroom, in dorms, in faculty offices, laboratories, gyms, and sporting events, according to The Dallas Morning News's "Campus Carry Tracker," updated May 9. According to the survey, no universities will prevent licensed holders from carrying guns in classrooms, while none will allow guns at ticketed sporting events. However, the University of Texas at Austin, the university system's flagship institution, proposed granting professors the right to ban handguns from their offices.  

Gregory Fenves, the university's president, proposed the ban amid growing concern among faculty about armed students. Fritz Steiner, the university's longtime dean of architecture, said the law played a major role in his motivation to depart to the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. And Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia, and a UT alumnus, said he withdrew his candidacy to return to his alma mater because he was concerned about the new law. But not all professors on all campuses feel this way.  

Charles Haywood, a professor at Purdue University in Indiana, argued in an opinion article for the student newspaper that faculty with concealed carry licenses should be allowed to do so, reversing the university's current policy. He wrote the article shortly after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  

"A compromise gun safety solution is probably the best revised policy. I propose that the University change the policy to permit faculty and staff, but not students, who hold concealed carry permits, to exercise their rights on campus. If the experience of the Purdue community with such a new policy is the same as every other community in the country that has adopted concealed carry, the new policy could later be extended to licensed students by general agreement." 


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