President Fenves announces working group to review campus carry

Matthew Adams

University President Gregory Fenves announced the formation of a committee to review campus carry in a University-wide email Thursday.

On May 30, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 11 to allow licensed permit holders to carry concealed handguns on public university grounds starting Aug. 1, 2016.  In his email, Fenves said the law gives campuses certain discretion for establishing campus carry regulations and hopes to make the campus as safe as possible.

 “The safety of our community is of the utmost importance,” Fenves said in the email. “I want to make clear my goal is to promote safety and security for all members of the campus and in a way that is fully compliant with the law.”

 Fenves said the committee, referred to as a working group, will submit recommended policies by late November for him to consider. The group will be supported by two subcommittees — one focused on safety and training, and the other on communication and training — staffed by the UT Police Department, Campus Safety and Security and the Office of the Vice President for Legal Affairs, among other offices on campus. Nineteen members, including three students, will serve on the working group.

 The working group will meet soon and announce opportunities early in the semester for community feedback and public meetings on campus, Fenves said in the email.

Steven Goode, law professor and chair of the committee, said the number of concealed gun holders on campus will be limited because the majority of students on campus are not 21 and ineligible to carry concealed weapons. Going forward with the working group, Goode said they will systematically examine public opinion on campus carry before submitting recommendations to President Fenves.

“Presumably there will be people who will have very specific suggestions about places they believe to be exclusionary zones,” Goode said. “There may be suggestions about particular times exclusionary zones should be established. We’ll take the information we get and try to make the most use of it.”

Rachel Osterloh, president of the Senate of College Councils and member of the working group, said her main goal is to make sure the campus is safe and to communicate plans to students.
“My goal on this committee is [to] incorporate the law in such a way that students feel as safe as possible, making sure we listen to the voices of students and communicate what we are doing so students don’t feel misinformed about what is going on,” Osterloh said.

CJ Grisham, president of lobbying group Open Carry Texas, said going forward he hopes the committee will study campus carry regulations in the 26 states that have a campus carry law. Grisham said committee recommendations must follow state law and explain the reasoning behind specific proposed rules.

“It would make sense you don’t carry while playing basketball or in a gym where people are sitting side by side,” Grisham said. “Some of the science labs where they are working on volatile chemicals or even extreme heat would probably not be a good place. But if they start making classrooms off limits, that will violate the statute. If they start making buildings off limits, that will also be violation of the statute.”