Category Archives: faculty comments


DRAFT, 10/15/15

By Edwin Dorn

Senate Bill 11, the new Texas law that allows holders of concealed handgun licenses to bring their weapons into university buildings, is a very bad idea.  What could our legislators have been thinking when they voted for it?

They must have fantasized that someone who has spent a Sunday afternoon in a concealed handgun class will be able to out-shoot a homicidal maniac who walks into a classroom, guns blazing.  I can think of at least one thing that would be worse than having a crazed shooter in my classroom: getting caught in crossfire between a crazed shooter and a pistol-packing neophyte.

My worry is based on an honest assessment of my own abilities.  Having spent much of my youth on a farm, I learned to shoot a gun before I learned to ride a bicycle.  While in the Army, I became proficient with a .45 pistol, and I’ve fired many rounds from .38 revolvers and 9mm semi-automatics.  Those experiences have led me to speculate that I might be able to neutralize a shooter if he were standing motionless less than 30 feet from me and if there were no distractions – no students running for cover and screaming in panic, for example.  If those ideal conditions did not apply, the likelihood of collateral damage would be high.  Also, when the cops showed up, the likelihood of their shooting me would be high, even if I shouted “Hey, I’m the good guy!”

The law allows university presidents to create a limited number of gun-free zones on their campuses.  UT-Austin President Greg Fenves has appointed a committee, chaired by law school professor Steven Goode, to recommend where those areas should be.  Here’s my guess: guns will be prohibited in mental health clinics and in laboratories where volatile chemicals are used.  However, guns are not likely to be excluded from ordinary classrooms where students are discussing, say, whether confederate leader Jefferson Davis should have been hanged for treason.

Still, the law is the law.  Rather than defy it, I have decided to use it as a case study in how (and how not) to make public policy.  At the beginning of every semester, I will invite my students to discuss the following announcement: Continue reading GUNS AND PHALLUSES

The American Political Science Association speaks out on Campus Carry

The American Political Science Association, the professional association for political scientists, has issued the following statement:

The American Political Science Association is deeply concerned about the impact of Texas’s new Campus Carry law on freedom of expression in Texas universities. The law, which was passed earlier this year and takes effect in 2016, allows licensed handgun carriers to bring concealed handguns into buildings on Texas campuses. The APSA is concerned that the Campus Carry law and similar laws in other states introduce serious safety threats on college campuses with a resulting harmful effect on professors and students.

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Sociology Department on Campus Carry

We, the undersigned faculty of the Department of Sociology, wish to express our objection to the campus-carry legislation set to take effect in August of next year.  We believe that the policy is inconsistent with the core mission of the university – the free and unfettered exchange of ideas – and that it is not supportable by empirical social-scientific evidence.  Our faculty includes several nationally-recognized authorities in criminology and criminal justice who have been active in national public policy for many years.  None of them believes that the campus–carry policy will make our campus safer, or that it is sound public policy informed by empirical research.  Most members of the American Society of Criminology – the national professional organization of criminologists – would agree that more guns at UT does not mean more safety (see the roster of members on the ASC website).

One of our members recently encountered a large sign on the entrance to an Austin-area medical clinic.  It read as follows:  “Pursuant to section 30.06 penal code (trespass by holder of license to carry a concealed handgun), A person licensed under subchapter H, chapter 411, government code (concealed handgun law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”  It seems to us that the reasons it would be unwise to carry weapons into a medical clinic apply with equal force to a college campus, where there are thousands of young people with still-developing minds.  College campuses, in fact, are among the safer environments to be found in the United States.  There are occasional, well-publicized murders or mass murders on campuses, but as hazards, they are statistically rare events.  It makes little sense to jeopardize what are among the most respected institutions in our society (indeed, in the world).  Implementing this legislation would not result in an immediate rash of shootings on campus.  For one thing, there are already guns on campus.  But by encouraging more, perhaps many more, firearms on campus, the legislation will create a risk that is unnecessary and at odds with our efforts as educators.

The issue of guns on campus is particularly important to sociologists because so many of the issues we discuss in the classroom – poverty, crime, race/ethnicity, the family, gender — can arouse strong emotions and sometimes even conflict.  Adding firearms to this mix could be dangerous and could discourage open discussion by students and faculty, the very heart of our enterprise. Continue reading Sociology Department on Campus Carry

Forty-three Historians have signed this statement against Campus Carry

Historians study changes in society and human behavior over time, including changes in the law and justifications for those changes. Thus, we, the undersigned faculty members of the Department of History at UT-Austin, feel it is important for us to comment on the implementation of the law allowing Concealed Handgun License holders to bring guns into our classrooms, offices, dormitories and other buildings. In our view, there is no reasonable justification for permitting concealed guns to be taken into campus buildings. Studies that link the drop in crime rates to the rise of gun ownership have been shown to be deeply flawed and to prove that the presence of guns do not make us safer. Our colleagues at Texas A&M have convincingly shown that CHLs have no impact on crime rates. Gun advocates argue that we should trust responsible gun owners to handle their guns safely in our classrooms, but they ignore the fact that the possible presence of guns will undermine our ability to teach. Students and faculty alike have told us that they will not be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room.  The Texas Legislature has imposed this law on our university community against the majority’s very explicit opposition to it. For all these reasons, we strenuously object to this law and to the presence of concealed guns in campus buildings. Continue reading Forty-three Historians have signed this statement against Campus Carry

Galileo and Campus Carry: An open letter to UT Deans and Department Chairs

Dear Chairs and Deans,

It is heartening to know that many of you responded to my last letter by having your departments write collective statements against the implementation of SB11. I know of at least 5 departments and centers that will release such statements sometime this week, following in the footsteps of the Psychology Department.  Thank you.

In this, my third and last letter on this subject, I want to bring up a point that has been entirely overlooked: our utter failure as a center of learning to counter the propaganda that passes as knowledge. Through our silence, we have collectively allowed laws like SB 11 to find support with students, alumni, donors, parents, and the public at large. We fear intimidation. It is our moral obligation at this moment in the history of our nation to educate. What differentiates our fear to speak from Galileo’s before the Inquisition? In both cases it is the shaming mechanism of dogmatic faith-based belief that seeks to discipline us into submission. This is information that should be offered in classrooms, like teaching evolution or sexual reproduction.

It is not true that there is no scientific consensus on the impact guns have on crime, homicide, domestic violence, suicide, and sexual assault. The statistical evidence collected by scores of specialists is as overwhelming as that collected by astronomers on heliocentrism.  The mere presence of guns increases rates of crime, domestic abuse, suicide, homicide, and sexual abuse. The earth does circle around the sun. Continue reading Galileo and Campus Carry: An open letter to UT Deans and Department Chairs

Bystanders with guns can prove deadly

This article by Arthur Markman was first published on  September 29, 2010  in the Dallas Morning News

Campus shootings, gun control, abstraction and choking under pressure

On Tuesday, I arrived at my office at The University of Texas at Austin after driving my son’s carpool to school. The day started unremarkably. By 8:30, things had changed. I received a text message from the university about an armed suspect on campus. Warning sirens blared, and public address messages asked everyone to stay indoors.

Four hours later, the lockdown was lifted. A 19-year-old student, Colton Tooley, had come onto campus, shot an automatic weapon randomly and was chased by police into a library, where he fatally shot himself. Thankfully, nobody else was hurt.

Ironically, a coalition of student groups went ahead with their plans to host a speaker that night who supports allowing concealed weapons on campus. The University of Texas (like many colleges) does not allow students, faculty or staff to carry weapons on campus. According to news reports, speaker John Lott said an incident such as Tuesday’s might have ended even faster had there been armed civilians in the area.

As a professor, the thought of an armed assailant on campus is frightening. After reading about tragedies such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, I understand the impulse to give more people the chance to defend themselves in a situation in which they feel so helpless.

But as a psychologist, I don’t think arming civilians is the right way to protect our campuses. Let me give two reasons: abstraction and choking under pressure. Continue reading Bystanders with guns can prove deadly

The Consequences of our Indifference

The consequences of bringing guns to classrooms and dorms are  predictable: it will put a chill on public debate and it will increase the rate of suicides, accidents, and sexual violence on campuses. This law will impact the humanities most severely because it will intimidate faculty from tackling controversial issues in class. Most faculty will think twice before offering courses on controversial topics like race, gender, inequality, religion, slavery, empire, colonialism, etc. This law will force universities to spend millions in establishing gun-free spaces, money that should rather be used in salaries, equity, and tenure-track lines. The unintended consequences of the law will also affect universities across Texas: it will become a recruiting- and retaining-talent nightmare. Leading scholars will hesitate to relocate to campuses festooned with gun signs and gun lockers, which will be needed to carve out gun-free spaces. These were all points brought up by the Chancellor of the UT system and by our University President before the last state legislature, but it was all to no avail. The law was passed.

That we should be even discussing the virtue of having guns on campuses is itself a testament to our passivity. After every mass murder a radicalization of the second amendment discourse ensues. And every time there is a mass shooting, new laws are enacted to make guns even more available at every possible public setting. This is both paradoxical and obscene. Had we all collectively put pressure on our legislatures and on gun manufacturers (via our pensions funds), this ever expanding second-amendment laws would have never passed. Yet they did. It is time to act.

— Jorge Canizares-Esguerra

Remarks from Gun Free UT Rally

This originally appeared at
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Gun-Free UT rally

Today I spoke at a campus rally against the implementation of a state law that will allow concealed carry of firearms on public college campuses throughout Texas. For an hour, informed, compassionate, articulate staff and faculty at UT spoke out about the many ways this law will endanger the campus community. I was particularly struck by the words of Matt Valentine, a fellow staff member here at UT, who told us something remarkable about the Founding Fathers’ interpretation of the Second Amendment as it pertains to college campuses:

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took up the issue of campus carry in 1824, and didn’t have to look far for an originalist perspective—Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in attendance. The board resolved that “No Student shall, within the precincts of the University … keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder.”

Tragically, while our rally was in progress, a mass shooting was taking place on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Initial reports indicate ten people have died and another 20 are wounded.

Here’s a rough transcript of my remarks: Continue reading Remarks from Gun Free UT Rally

Campus carry is wrong for UT faculty, staff and students

The following appeared in the Austin American Statesman on September 30,  2015

By Joan Neuberger and Ellen Spiro – Special to the American-Statesman

We write today on behalf of Gun Free UT, an organization of UT Austin faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents who oppose guns in our classrooms, offices, dormitories and on our campus. We are organizing in opposition to Senate Bill 11, also known as “campus carry,” which could allow loaded guns inside our buildings.

Twelve Texas legislators sponsored this law supposedly to make us safer; but most recent studies say that more guns make us less safe. No mass murder or campus shooting has ever been stopped by an armed student or professor. Researchers at Texas A&M University have shown that concealed handgun licenses have had no impact on crime rates.

The chancellor of the UT System, former Navy Seal Admiral William McRaven, said “the presence of handguns … will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”

This semester, a female student was stopped by campus police in the Student Activities Center before she could take her life with a handgun. Studies show that over half of college students contemplate committing suicide — and that the presence of a gun in a household increases the chance of suicide by firearm.

While the gun lobby and those legislators who passed SB 11 are concerned about the Second Amendment, the professors, staff, and students at UT Austin are fighting to protect our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. A university is a space for dialogue, debate and dissent. It must be a safe space, free from the threat of violence and intimidation. Right now, 150 UT Austin professors have signed a petition saying they will refuse to allow guns in their classrooms.

By passing SB 11, the Texas legislature has put our administrators in the unenviable position of implementing a law that they opposed. We are asking that administrators interpret the law in the strictest way possible, allowing guns in the fewest possible buildings. And we are asking the public join us in opposition to campus carry.

Students should have a say about what happens on their own campus. A petition from UT Students Opposing Campus Carry has more than 5,000 signatures. The UT Austin Student Government passed a resolution officially opposing guns on the UT-Austin campus.

Student body presidents from UT Austin, Texas Tech, the University of North Texas, UTSA, and UT-Dallas, signed a letter urging lawmakers to allow their universities to opt out of campus carry legislation.

The Texas Association of College and University Police Administrators opposes campus carry, citing the uncertainties of college life and the complications it poses for police officers attempting to diffuse potentially violent situations.

We have created a petition opposing guns in our classrooms that currently has more than 2,000 signatures. Please search for Gun Free UT on to sign our petition.

Please join us this Thursday at noon at UT’s West Mall to protest campus carry and the legislators who voted for it.

Neuberger is a history professor and Spiro is a professor of radio-TV-film at the University of Texas at Austin. They are co-chairs of Gun Free UT.