Tag: campus carry

Navigating Policy & Perspectives: Campus Carry at UT Austin

Cassandra Jaramillo | Jade Magalhaes | Sandy Marin | Jan Ross Piedad

At the Oct. 5 open carry forum, members of Gun Free UT display a banner that states: "300 UT Faculty Refuse Guns In Our Classrooms."

At the Oct. 5 open carry forum, members of Gun Free UT display a banner that states: “300 UT Faculty Refuse Guns In Our Classrooms.”

To carry or not to carry?

This is the question many Texans are asking after the deadly shooting at a community college in Oregon, a state which allows concealed handguns on campuses.

After Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 11 into law this summer, Texas became one of eight states in the U.S. to allow those with concealed handgun licenses to bring guns into buildings on college campuses. The law does allow, however, some areas to be designated gun-free zones.

SB 11 states that university presidents may “establish reasonable rules, regulations or other provisions” regarding guns in common areas such as dorms, classrooms, and dining halls. Those regulations must then be passed by the school’s governing board.

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Claire Christensen, a government junior and supporter of campus carry at UT Austin, said the legislation will make her feel more comfortable in school.

“As a woman, and as a student, I feel safer if I know that other people can defend me too if they have guns,” she said. “If something was to happen out of the blue, then I could also protect myself if I have a gun on me.”

While administration at the University of Texas flagship makes its decisions, the number of faculty members already refusing to allow guns in their classrooms is steadily increasing.

When Gun-Free UT held a protest against campus carry on Oct. 1, about 163 faculty members already signed a petition refusing to allow guns into classrooms. In less than a week, support has more than doubled to 330 names on the list.

“The number is going up quickly as more faculty learn that there are options to speak out,” Joan Neuberger, a history professor and a leader in the Gun-Free UT community, said in an email.

A person must be at least 21 years old to obtain a concealed handgun license, meaning the majority of university students will not be eligible to carry.

At public events like protests and forums, as well as in published articles, professors have expressed a similar message: a small number of students granted more freedom by the law is not worth the larger impact campus carry may have on the university.

Professors who teach controversial subject matter said they are worried students will be afraid to speak out in class, while others expressed concern with discussing grades if students are permitted to bring guns into offices.

Jason Baldridge, an associate professor of computational linguistics at UT, said that campus carry could affect potential recruitment of future faculty and students, as the legislation goes into effect next fall.

“This is an amazing university with tons of top faculty from all over the world that do great stuff. But having campus carry is going to make it harder to recruit faculty members. It’ll be harder to recruit top graduate students,” Baldridge said. “That is not for the better of the university. And it’s also not for the better of the state of Texas.”

Baldridge started teaching at UT in 2005 but took off two-and-half years to cofound the startup People Pattern, an audience insight software company. A few months after he agreed to return to the university as a part-time professor, the campus carry legislation passed in the state. Baldridge said his wife expressed concerns with him teaching in front of students who may be carrying guns.

In fact, Baldridge said he was personally looking at “other options” as UT administrators decide on specific regulations regarding campus carry legislation.

He said he isn’t alone.

“There are going to be people looking at their options elsewhere,” Baldridge said.

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