Press Release

1 December 2015
For immediate release

The University of Texas at Austin:
1,787 Graduate and Professional Students
Oppose Guns in Classrooms

Austin, Texas: 1,787 graduate and professional students at the University of Texas at Austin have signed a petition stating their opposition to guns in classrooms, and have sent an open letter to President Fenves and the Board of Regents today. The petition is a response to SB11, the concealed campus carry law that, effective 1 August 2016, will allow Concealed Handgun License holders to carry guns into campus buildings — including classrooms — unless President Fenves designates them as “exclusion zones”.

The students belong to 132 programs in 18 Colleges and Schools at UT and represent 15.8% of the university’s 11,331 graduate student population. The petition began on 16 October 2015 and will remain open for additional signatures until August 2016.

Many of the signatories are Teaching Assistants or Assistant Instructors who are responsible for grading undergraduate work, teaching classes, and meeting with students one-on-one. In an open letter to UT Austin President Fenves, 71 Graduate Students from the Department of History argued that the presence of firearms in classrooms would hinder classroom discussions, especially those regarding “institutional racism, prejudice, and violence towards non-white bodies in recent US and global history.” The letter continues: “We believe that allowing weapons of any kind in the classroom will cause a chilling effect upon our students’ ability to grapple un-self-consciously with the complexities of history, and hamstring our ability to teach them.”

The graduate student petitioners join more than 1,500 UT Professors and 100 UT staff members who publicly oppose guns in classrooms. Faculty in 40 academic departments at UT have also released statements in opposition to SB11. Among the latest to join the Gun-Free UT effort is the Department of Chemical Engineering, whose statement reads “We believe that guns in classrooms, laboratories, faculty/advising offices, and collaboration spaces would be unsafe and stifle the free exchange of ideas central to a world-class university. […] We also fear that SB11 may damage our ability to recruit and retain the most capable students, faculty and staff.” Further, 40 National Professional Associations have also published statements opposing SB11. These include a joint statement from the American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. And 29 American Scholarly Societies have signed a combined statement opposing SB11, stating that: “Our societies are concerned that the Campus Carry law [in Texas] and similar laws in other states introduce serious safety threats on college campuses with a resulting harmful effect on students and professors.”

The Graduate Student Petition is affiliated with Gun Free UT, a broad association of faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni of the University of Texas who are opposed to guns on campus. Gun free UT’s petition on change.org has reached 8,401 signatures.

CONTACT: utgrads.oppose.campuscarry@gmail.com
Petition is hosted at http://gunfreeut.org/petitions/graduate-student-petition/

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