Gun-Free UT Statement on President Fenves’ Campus Carry Policies

GunFreeUT Statement on President Fenves’ Campus Carry Policies – February 17, 2016

Download GunFreeUT Statement on President Fenves

GunFreeUT is a large group of faculty, students, staff, parents, and alumni that support common-sense policies that ban the civilian carry of handguns on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

We acknowledge that President Fenves’s policy adopts some provisions supported by the campus community, including banning concealed handguns in university-run student dormitory rooms, facilities hosting children, and areas with dangerous substances.  It also permits occupants of individual offices to disallow guns in those spaces.  But the policy does not go far enough.  We strongly oppose President Fenves’ decision to permit guns other areas of campus, including classrooms, shared offices, student dining areas, and lounges.  We call upon the Regents of the University of Texas to use their power to amend Campus Carry policy by banning guns in all campus buildings.

Stakeholders do not want guns on campus.  More than 1,700 UT-Austin professors, nearly 1,800 graduate and professional students, a majority of polled undergraduates, and almost 9,000 members of the community oppose guns in classrooms.  The UT-Austin Faculty Council opposes guns in classrooms as do 43 campus departments and 11 academic professional societies.

In our view, the first responsibility of the university president is to protect the safety and welfare of its students and employees.  President Fenves’s policy fails this simple test.  The policy prohibits concealed carry where animals and certain chemicals are present due to concern over accidental discharge, but does not prohibit guns where students, faculty, and staff teach, learn, and work.  The Campus Carry Working Group whose recommendations President Fenves adopted concluded that accidental discharge represents a major risk if guns are handled. 

Campus Carry Policy will make concealed handguns easily accessible for many members of the campus community.  Nearly all faculty, staff, graduate students, and other employees can obtain a concealed carry permit by attending a four-hour course and with no prior or subsequent training of any kind.  If that is too much red tape, Texas has reciprocity agreements with 31 states, including some that issue licenses to nonresidents and have no training requirement.

Campus carry advocates argue that armed citizens will better protect themselves and others, but actual research shows that claim is false.  States with laxer gun laws have more violent crime, no armed civilian (who was not affiliated with law enforcement or the military) has ever neutralized a school shooter, and one of the most substantial studies on the subject shows that even trained police officers achieve just an 18% hit-rate during gunfights.

Failing to ban guns in classrooms and other areas not only makes our places or work and study more dangerous, but it also threatens academic freedom and free speech, compromises our educational mission, and diminishes the university’s reputation.  The university should be known for its distinguished faculty, the quality of its education, and the excellence of its athletes.  Campus Carry damages our reputation at home and abroad.  Governor Abbott and Texas lawmakers recently adopted SB 632 to fund the recruitment of world-class faculty to the university, including its new medical center, yet guns on campus have already repulsed potential recruits and talented faculty have resigned.  We are certain to suffer more losses to our reputation and our donor-base.

Education and research is what we do best and we are struck by the absence of fact-based and data-driven debate on gun safety on college campuses.  We call upon President Fenves to respond to Faculty Council and GunFreeUT requests to establish an institute for the study of gun safety at UT-Austin.  Such a center would make a positive contribution to the study of guns on college campuses and attract some of the best researchers on gun safety to our campus rather than repelling some of its best minds.

The longer President Fenves and the Regents wait to implement the common sense and campus community-supported ban of concealed guns on campus, the more disruptive it will be for our educational mission.  GunFreeUT will oppose the intrusion of guns into our educational spaces by legal actions guided by the best advice we can obtain.  Students and faculty are also planning numerous direct actions.  As faculty, we would prefer to invest all of our energy and talents into what we do best: teach Texas’s young adults, produce world-class research, and fulfill the university’s core mission.  As students, we would prefer to focus on our studies and future careers.  As staff, we would prefer to propel the university to new heights.  Let us keep guns off campus and keep building the university of the 21st century for the State of Texas.

University of Houston advice to faculty members

This is from a powerpoint slide with a bullet pointed list of advice for faculty members now that University of Houston students can carry concealed firearms. It reads:

“You may want to

  • Be careful discussing sensitive topics.
  • Drop certain topics from your curriculum
  • Not “go there” if you sense anger.
  • Limit student access off hours.
  • Go to appointment-only office hours
  • Only meet ‘that student’ in controlled circumstances”
UH has confirmed the slide’s authenticity. Here’s the meeting page with attachments.

Press Release: Longhorns Rounding up National to Local Legislative Hopefuls for Q&A on #ClassroomCarry

PRESS RELEASE
22nd February,  2016, For Immediate Release

Link to Document

Longhorn Cattle Call: Longhorn’s Rounding up National to Local Legislative Hopefuls for Q&A on #ClassroomCarry
There will be no roping or riding, Friday 26th February at 2pm, but Longhornsnational to local legislative hopefuls (including UT’s GSA) who’ve thrown their hats into the civil service ring, are being asked to attend the Longhorn Cattle Call; a Q&A session to answer specific questions about Campus Carry on the West Mall Steps. Following recent direct actions within campus, UT Graduate Students Against Classroom Carry and the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Graduate Student Assembly are now pivoting from their focus on President Fenves to the Texas State Legislators who have imposed #SB11 and #ClassroomCarry on a community that is entirely opposed to it (Faculty Council, Graduate Student Assembly, and Student Governance have all passed resolutions opposing guns in classrooms). UT faculty and grad students say they suffer ongoing frustration with the current law as implemented. Among the queries: “Do you support an emergency injunction of SB11 in order to address real and anticipated harms caused by SB11 and its implementation as planned?” and “Do you support an ‘equality’ amendment allowing public universities to opt out?” To help ease the mood, the event will feature BBQ and music. The press is invited to attend.

CONTACT

UT Graduate Students Against Classroom Carry:  Coordinators
Legislative Affairs Committee of the Graduate Student Assembly: Chair, Michael Barnes

“Photo courtesy of Dickinson Cattle Co. LLC

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February 26 — Longhorn Cattle Call, Q & A with candidates on Campus Carry

Longhorn Cattle Call: Longhorns rounding up all candidates and elected officials for Q&A on SB11 and Classroom Carry

Friday February 26,  2PM
Details coming soon

Facebook Event

Graduate Students Against Classroom Carry and the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Graduate Student Assembly have come together once again to continue the fight against #SB11 and #ClassroomCarry. We are now pivoting from our focus on President Fenves to the Texas State Legislators who have imposed this law on a community that is entirely opposed to it.

Graduate Student Assembly Resolution

Link to document

G.R. 16 (S) 1
The Graduate Student Assembly
The University of Texas at Austin

Resolution: G.R. 16 (S) 1 Sponsors: Legislative Affairs Committee
Keeping UT Classrooms Gun-Free

Summary: A resolution expressing the position of the Graduate Student Assembly on Senate Bill 11 (S.B. 11), the “campus carry” law.

WHEREAS

“Senate Bill 11, the “campus carry” law, was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Governor Abbott last spring and provides that, beginning August 1, 2016, a person who holds a license to carry may carry a handgun – concealed – both on the grounds and in the buildings of an institution of higher education”; and
(from the Final Report, Campus Carry Working Group)

WHEREAS

Graduate students increasingly live, work, study, and learn in spaces that will be open to CHL holders under S.B. 11, if implemented as per the Campus Carry Working Group recommendations; and

WHEREAS

1,787 UT graduate students to date have signed a public statement affirming their opposition to firearms in UT classrooms, who belong to 132 programs in 18 Colleges and Schools at UT and represent 15.8% of the university’s 11,331 graduate student population; and
(from press release, UT Grad Students Oppose Campus Carry)

WHEREAS

The Campus Carry Working group found, “A very substantial majority of the comments [they] received from the University community expressed opposition to or serious misgivings about S.B. 11 and the implementation of campus carry,” which is consistent with conversations shared with this body during assembly meetings and with comments received by our members; and

WHEREAS

We believe new university policies, whether produced internally or required by the state legislature, ought to have a demonstrated positive effect on educational outcomes, and a review of the evidence cited by the Campus Carry Working Group in their report finds no positive effect, in fact their report recognizes that “allowing concealed handguns in classrooms may chill some class discussion and hinder the recruitment and retention of faculty and students”; and

WHEREAS

We are eager to engage in a detailed conversation around the implementation of S.B.11 at UT in the future, we believe it is important to acknowledge a significant group of graduate students who are opposed to guns in academic classrooms in any and all circumstances; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT

The Graduate Student Assembly strongly opposes concealed handgun license (CHL) holders bringing concealed weapons into UT classrooms; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT

The Graduate Student Assembly considers S.B.11 an ideological bill that is an unnecessary intrusion into an educational environment that risks, in the words of Chancellor McRaven, stifling “the academic freedom and robust debate that is central to our mission of educating the young men and women of our state and conducting the research that changes lives and the world around us”; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT

The Graduate Student Assembly strongly encourages that President Gregory Fenves do everything in his power to prevent CHL holders from bringing concealed weapons into UT classrooms; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT

This legislation be filed with the Office of the President, made available on the Graduate Student Assembly website, and be broadly distributed to graduate students and the UT community.

Press Release: “Grad Students say ‘Don’t Waste Your Breath’ to Tabled Measure”

PRESS RELEASE

2nd February,  2016
For Immediate Release

Contact : UT Graduate Students Against Classroom Carry
Link to File
Facebook Event

The University of Texas, Austin: “Grad Students say ‘Don’t Waste Your Breath’ to Tabled Measure”

On January 27th, in an unexpected and surprising action, the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) refused to cast a vote on a proposed resolution (G.R.16(S)1) that opposes concealed handguns in classrooms at The University of Texas at Austin.  The GSA Legislative Affairs Committee, which introduced the original resolution, authored by chair Michael Barnes, called for an amended version of the resolution to be reconsidered by GSA on Wednesday, February 3rd in a special session.  The Legislative Affairs Committee worked last week with vocal critics of the original resolution in drafting the amended version.

In advance of the special session, we are calling for direct action in order to ensure graduate student voices are recognized and respected. UT Graduate Students Against Campus Carry, working in partnership with the Legislative Affairs Committee, invites all graduate students to an event titled “Don’t Waste Your Breath” (Wed., Feb 3rd, 3:00-5:30 pm on Gregory Plaza). We will put our “hot air” to use by asking each graduate student to blow up a balloon as a visible “vote” for or against implementation of Campus Carry (SB11) at UT. We will then haul the balloons — our collective breath — to the GSA Special Session to visually represent our strength in numbers.

The disappointing indecision within GSA last week comes as a very unwelcome surprise to nearly 1,800 graduate students who join the voices of 1,700 faculty members, the Faculty Council and 40 academic departments, centers, and schools who support making classrooms “gun-free zones.”

The concerns of graduate students regarding SB11 were evident during the first forty minutes of the GSA meeting, during a discussion with Vice President Vance Roper about the Campus Carry Working Group’s Report. Graduate students overwhelmingly raised concerns about the implementation of SB11, and specifically about the Campus Carry Working Group’s recommendations that guns should be allowed in classrooms, and that graduate students who share offices should not be allowed to ban guns in those spaces.

One student stated that she would not have come to UT if she had known that SB11 was a possibility and asked what kind of options graduate students who have just commenced their doctorates are left with, and whether her only remaining option now is to withdraw completely from PhD process. Another graduate student questioned the logic of the recommendations that guns should be prohibited from laboratories but not classrooms:  If it is not safe to have guns in labs, why is it okay in classrooms? Isn’t “accidental discharge” equally concerning in a class full of students? Another GSA representative explained that it was becoming apparent that graduate students and others concerned about SB11 are not being heard on this issue –  especially with regards to the Working Group’s recommendations – and stated that a group of graduate students are prepared to engage in acts of civil disobedience.

Last Wednesday’s event follows a steady march of recent activity among graduate students at UT Austin in the campus carry debate, and precedes the anticipated release in February of campus carry policy recommendations by President Gregory Fenves. Several public forums were well attended by graduate students in the Fall.  On December 1st, 1,789 graduate and professional students across 132 programs in 18 Colleges and Schools wrote a public letter to President Fenves outlining their opposition to guns in classrooms at UT-Austin. In early December, the Legislative Affairs Committee hosted a campus carry conversation, inviting graduate students in particular to express their concerns and ask questions about SB 11. This conversation, and the forums that preceded it, led the Legislative Affairs Committee to issue two open letters on campus carry to President Fenves, which the committee delivered in person on December 9th, 2016. The first, An Open Letter Expressing Opposition to Firearms in UT Classrooms expressed opposition to handguns in classrooms, while the second, An Open Letter Addressing Graduate Student Questions on Campus Carry, raised serious questions and concerns regarding the specific details of implementing campus carry, beginning August 1.

Until last week, the GSA had not discussed legislation concerning SB11 since before it was signed into law, in June of 2015. This stands in stark contrast to the Faculty Council at UT Austin, which has already passed two separate resolutions, both of which outline opposition to guns in classrooms. Getting the GSA to pass a resolution now is key, especially as Fenves is due to make his decision by mid February – there may not be another chance for the GSA to pass a resolution on behalf of concerned graduate students. Will our GSA be able to reverse the current trend toward inaction, and deliver a strong statement concerning campus carry that represents UT Austin’s graduate and professional students’ voices? If you help us by participating in our direct action Wednesday, at the very least, the GSA will be required to engage with and consider the collective voice of the graduate student body that it promises to represent.

CONTACT

Coordinators for: UT Graduate Students Against Classroom Carry utgrads.oppose.campuscarry@gmail.com

For more information about Campus Carry visit Gun Free UT and access the Graduate Student Petition here.

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The Archaeological Institute of America Statement on Campus Carry

aiaseal

At its Janary 8, 2016 Council Meeting, the AIA Council voted to approve the following statement:

The Archaeological Institute of America 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 August 2016, allows licensed handgun carriers to bring concealed handguns into buildings on Texas campuses. Our societies are concerned that the campus carry law and similar laws in other states introduce serious safety threats on college campuses.

The AIA joins with more than twenty-eight other scholarly societies who have also expressed concern about campus carry legislation. For a complete list, please visit the Modern Language Association’s Statements on Campus Carry Legislation page.

UT Faculty Council Passes New Resolutions on Campus Carry

On November 16, 2015, the UT Austin Faculty Council passed a resolution concluding that it “strongly opposes allowing guns in The University of Texas at Austin classrooms, laboratories, residence halls, university offices, and other spaces of education.”

In December 2015, the Campus Carry Policy Working Group (CC working group) released its report recommending the gun-exclusion zones that should be allowed when Senate Bill 11 (SB 11) is implemented on August 1, 2016.

Consistent with the Faculty Council’s resolution, the CC working group recommended excluding guns from:

      • Laboratories
      • Animal Facilities
      • Dormitories (but not public spaces)
      • Assigned offices (with responsibility for notifications and off-site meetings).

Although the working group expressed its strong opposition to guns in classrooms, it did not recommend excluding guns from them, and it reached no consensus on mixed use buildings.

Responding to the CC working group’s recommendations, the Faculty Council recognizes that the CC working group had a difficult job and that they “made every effort to remain true to the charge President Fenves gave us: to recommend steps he can take that will promote safety and security for all members of the campus in a way that complies with the law” (Report p. 7).  The Faculty Council also wishes to express its support for maintaining campus safety, but it also affirms its broader responsibility, one that includes protecting free inquiry and academic freedom from intimidating influences that impede learning and creative activities.  With that responsibility in mind, the Faculty Council endorses the following resolutions:

Resolution 1.  Classrooms should be gun-exclusion zones.

Commentary:  All members of the working group felt that guns should not be allowed in classrooms.  They were, nevertheless, concerned that excluding guns from classrooms would be considered a general prohibition and therefore illegal.  They considered but rejected the alternative, which is to exclude guns from classrooms while providing secure storage for guns for students and instructors in class.  Such storage could be provided as secure gun lockers in enclosed spaces at various locations on campus.

The working group reasoned that storing and retrieving guns introduces risks that are greater than just carrying guns.  While it is true that there is a risk to storing guns, the risk is borne mainly by the gun owners, not the whole campus.  If the risk is unacceptable, the gun owners have the option of leaving their guns at home.  Students and faculty who feel intimidated, or at risk because of guns in the classroom, do not have the option of missing or cancelling classes.

Resolution 2:  When any part of a building is a gun-exclusion zone, the whole building should be a gun-exclusion zone.

Commentary: Having parts of buildings as exclusion zones will be very difficult to enforce, while treating buildings as units will reduce requirements for signage, which is a goal of the Chancellor’s.  This policy will solve the problem of how to treat mixed-use buildings.  In addition, it means that common areas in dormitories would be gun-exclusion zones.

Resolution 3.  University personnel who have declared their office a gun-exclusion zone should be able to post appropriate signage if the “whole building” policy proposed in Resolution 2 is not adopted.  They should also not be required to meet an armed person at another location.

Commentary:  Recommendation #18 in the CC working group report proposes that an office holder who has prohibited concealed weapons should give oral notice to visitors and arrange somewhere else to meet with gun owners.  The expectation of oral notice and having to arrange external meeting space is complicated, time-consuming, fraught, and intimidating, and it is an unjustifiable burden on University personnel.  Gun owners who wish to meet with staff in a gun-exclusion zone  should store their weapons and not create unnecessary work for already overburdened staff and faculty.

Resolution 4.  The University Police should receive extensive training to deal with the implementation of SB 11.

Commentary:  A recent demonstration adjacent to campus and in a campus parking garage evoked a confused response from campus police.  Several men with semiautomatic weapons   on the roof of a parking garage were not considered reason for alarm.  Open display of a handgun or a very good replica was also deemed acceptable.  Students and staff asked officers on the scene if the open carry of handguns was permissible, and whether the garages were considered university premises, and the officers were unable to give clear answers. The University needs to establish a policy that assures the campus that the police are properly trained and will not allow armed individuals to intimidate or threaten the community.

Resolution 5.  The University should mount an initiative to study gun violence, and non-lethal means of enhancing personal safety, both on-campus and off-campus.

Commentary: As the CC working group recognized, this important area of study has long been neglected. The University of Texas at Austin could quickly become a national leader by establishing an interdisciplinary research center or institute spanning STEM and Humanities disciplines and recruiting outstanding senior scholars to lead innovative approaches to these complex problems.  This effort should include a robust multi-media Public Scholarship effort to make research results on gun violence and violence prevention accessible to the public. A working group should be tasked with developing a plan to establish these research and outreach efforts.  One useful step might be an initial workshop on campus bringing leading scholars from other institutions to interact with UT faculty, staff, and development officers to help jump-start this process.

Armed with Reason