52 psychology professors sign petition against campus carry

Matthew Adams

As UT continues to discuss implementation of campus carry, 52 members of the psychology department have signed a statement voicing opposition to the law.

This statement is against SB 11, legislation passed by the 84th Legislature in the summer, which will allow licensed concealed handgun owners to legally carry on a college campus starting August 1, 2016. The 52 members signed a list — along with more than 550 other faculty members — that expressed they would not allow concealed carry in their classrooms.

Psychology associate professor Andreana Haley said she believes campus carry is not a good option because of the different activities that take place in the psychology building.

“There are a lot of vulnerable things in our building,” Haley said. “We have a day care center, a children research lab [and a] free clinic for mental help that is staffed with student therapists.”

While this petition is against campus carry, Rebecca Bigler, a psychology professor who helped start the effort, said the department is focused on protecting the students.

“[This} accounts for our responsibility to speak out, because this is what we do,” Bigler said. “It comes out of caring for our students … We want to protect the lives of the students at the University of Texas.”

Bigler said looking back, members of the department should have spoken out against the legislation before its passage.

“Generally, the faculty would say we were caught off-guard,” Bigler said. “It is hard to keep up with the legislation at each time. We should have all gone down and testified.”

Ellen Spiro, a member of the group Gun Free UT and a radio-television-film professor, said this statement is important to continue teaching people about campus carry.

“The psychology department’s statement is powerful,” Spiro said. “From our different departmental perspectives, it is not easy to get 50 professors to agree on anything. Its quite a feat to see that they did and important in terms of educating why this is wrong for our campus.”

Some of the faculty who signed the petition included Jacqueline Woolley, professor and chair of the psychology department, and Bertram Gawronski, professor and David Wechsler Regents Chair in psychology.

University spokesperson Gary Susswein said keeping campus safe is the priority at UT. A working group discussing the issue will release recommendations on campus carry implementation to UT President Gregory Fenves in November.

“We are working very hard to listen to and understand the concerns raised all across campus, including from students and faculty,” Susswein said. “Campus safety and security is our top priority as we implement the new law.”

While the members of the department wanted to make their voices heard against the law, Haley said she is confident the appropriate decision will be made across the UT System.

“There is a lot of pressure on the administration to comply with the law,” Haley said. “I trust everyone at the higher levels, that they will take it seriously and be within the compline of the laws.”