Faculty council speaks out against campus carry

Wynne Davis

Faculty members gathered at the Faculty Council meeting Monday to speak out against campus carry and give President Gregory Fenves their thoughts before he submits suggestions to the UT System by mid-February.

Campus carry, which goes into effect Aug. 1, requires colleges to allow licensed concealed handgun owners to carry their weapons in campus buildings. Universities can ban guns from some buildings on campus, but cannot declare classrooms or entire campuses gun-free.

Before the meeting began, faculty members collectively submitted three questions for Fenves: whether professors would be able to ask students with concealed carry to sit at the back of the classroom, whether a building could be gun-free if part of it was gun-free, and if the University will ask to postpone campus carry implementation.

Fenves said asking students if they carried a gun would violate privacy laws.

“In Texas, the identity of those that have [concealed handgun licenses] is confidential,” Fenves said. “We can’t know who they are among our campus community. Only law enforcement is allowed to check CHL holders for their license. Faculty really can’t ask students or anyone else in their class … if they have a [license] and take some action as a result of that.”

While Fenves said the entire buildings cannot be declared gun-free in every circumstance, the University campus carry working group included in its recommendations that professors should have the opportunity to declare their offices gun-free zones.

The Faculty Council also discussed other resolutions including posting signs banning guns from offices, training UTPD officers to deal with concealed carry and forming an initiative to study gun violence.

Some faculty in attendance said professors should get to decide if they allow guns their classrooms.

Physics and astronomy professor Steven Weinberg, who attended the meeting, said he would face the consequences for banning guns in his classrooms.

“I feel strongly enough about this so that I will do what I have already done this term, next term — whatever the University regulations are, I will put into my syllabus that the class is not open to students carrying guns,” Weinberg said. “Now, that may get me into trouble with the state or with the students. I may wind up in court, [but] I’m willing to accept that possibility.”

Although many faculty members raised concerns over where guns would be allowed on campus, Steven Goode, law professor and chair of the faculty group, said the group’s recommendations exceeded the requirements set by the System.  

“There is nothing in the UT System report inconsistent with what [the working group] did,” Goode said. “In fact, our report goes a good deal further than the UT System report on a number of things such as dormitories and offices.”

The council also passed a series of five resolutions concerning further restrictions and safety precautions about guns on campus.