Petition against guns in classrooms gains more than 150 faculty signatures

Selah Maya Zighelboim

More than 150 faculty have said they will refuse to have guns in their classrooms by signing a list circulating through social media as a response to the passage of campus carry legislation. A working group is currently developing recommendations to submit to UT President Gregory Fenves for how the policy will be implemented, including if there will be gun-free zones.

History professor Joan Neuberger co-organized the list as part of anti-campus carry group Gun-Free UT’s efforts to state their opposition to the policy, which will take effect in August 2016.

“If people feel there might be a gun in the classroom, students have said that it makes them feel like they would be much more hesitant to raise controversial issues, and I know, as a professor, I would be hesitant to encourage students to debate really important and controversial ideas,” Neuberger said. “The classroom is a very special place, and it needs to be a safe place, and that means safe from guns.”

According to Neuberger, the list demonstrates to the campus carry working group that there is faculty opposition of the policy. Gun-Free UT has garnered more than 1,900 signatures through a petition and is holding a rally on Oct. 1.

The working group will hold several public forums to register public opinion on the issue.

“These are the types of issues that the working group on campus carry will be listening to — both at this week’s public forum and over the next couple of months,” University spokesperson Gary Susswein said.

Neuberger said the list was inspired by a professor at UT-El Paso who declared his classroom gun free. When this happened, Gun-Free UT decided to see if they could get 100 faculty to also prohibit guns from their classrooms. Gun-Free UT exceeded their target within two days.

Public relations lecturer Dave Junker said he found the list through Facebook and added his name to publicly state his opposition to campus carry. He said he hopes the law is repealed, or at least, that guns will not be allowed in classrooms, or that faculty get to determine policies in their own classrooms.

“It’s hard to imagine what I will do if a student walks into my class with a concealed weapon,” Junker said in an email. “Maybe I wouldn’t be able to tell. Maybe that is the worst part: never knowing if a student has a gun but having to assume that someone does.”

Biology junior Kiran Pilla, who opposes campus carry, said she does not believe the list will influence how the University implements
campus carry.

“Petitions raise awareness, but I don’t think they generally impact legislation,” Pilla said. “Public opinion does not make laws. It’s not a
direct democracy.”