As you may have heard, many University of Texas-Austin faculty members have expressed their outrage at the impending outbreak of Second Amendment freedoms on their leafy urban campus. One aging prof quit at the prospect and a Nobel laureate pledges civil disobedience. Some of the student body have announced their intention to arm themselves with other less lethal options. But all the sturm und drang has been leading up to this: UT-Austin president Gregory Fenves — having been dragged kicking and screaming through the process — has just announced a new policy for campus carry in advance of the August 1 go-live date . . .
While there are many facets to the new policy, in essence it boils down to guns OK in classrooms, not in dorms. Mostly. Here’s Fenves’s email just sent to the UT-Austin community.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 10:16 AM
To: University of Texas at Austin-HR-ALL-ALLUTEMPLOYEES-Official <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Message Regarding Campus Carry Policies
Dear UT students, faculty and staff:
I have decided on the policies for UT Austin that comply with Senate Bill 11, the Campus Carry legislation that goes into effect Aug. 1, 2016, and submitted them this morning to Chancellor William McRaven. Please see my letter to the chancellor and the policy document that details my decision.
I have thoroughly reviewed the policy recommendations of the Campus Carry Working Group and decided to adopt them. Under the law, I cannot adopt a policy that has the general effect of excluding licensed concealed handguns from campus. I agree with the working group that a classroom exclusion would have this effect. As we have communicated since last June when SB 11 was approved by the Texas Legislature, current law does not permit open carry of handguns on campus or our buildings under any circumstances.
I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date. I empathize with the many faculty members, staffers, students and parents of students who signed petitions, sent emails and letters, and organized to ban guns from campus and especially classrooms. As a professor, I understand the deep concerns raised by so many. However, as president, I have an obligation to uphold the law.
I have appointed a Campus Carry Implementation Task Force to be led by Dr. Gerald R. Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security, to deal with the many aspects of implementing these policies. The Task Force will develop guidelines, rules and practices, as well as address the process for determining gun-exclusion zones under the policies. Because SB 11 is a new law, we will monitor its effects on our teaching and research, as well as our ability to recruit and retain faculty members and students.
Although there is great anxiety about the impact of SB 11, I urge you not to let this weaken us as a university community. The world looks to UT with the highest regard for our excellence, our pride and our unity. Let us show the world that UT can face such challenges.
I am proud of the accomplishments and hard work I see across campus every day. UT is a vibrant community that is leading the world. I commit to you that we will provide for safety while fulfilling our vital role as a leader in learning and discovery.
Gregory L. Fenves