UT System Board of Regents vote on campus carry policies

Catherine Marfin

Nineteen days before the law goes into effect, the UT System Board of Regents met to finalize campus carry regulations. The board approved a motion that would allow faculty members to ban guns from their offices, but rejected two additional motions — one that would require faculty members to post signage outside gun-free offices and another that would require people carrying a handgun on campus to do so without a round in the chamber.

Set to be implemented Aug. 1, SB 11 — commonly known as campus carry — allows licensed holders to carry a concealed handgun throughout university campuses. While the law doesn’t allow universities to prevent licensed holders from bringing concealed handguns to campus, it does allow the universities to establish “reasonable rules” regarding the regulation of the law, such as establishing gun-free zones and creating policies for the storage of handguns in on-campus residence halls.

In February, UT President Gregory Fenves decided to allow handguns in classrooms, and the Board agreed. Additionally, Fenves said professors would be allowed to ban guns from their offices.

At the board meeting this Wednesday, neither of these policies were changed, since the Board lacked the two-thirds majority vote required to rewrite the policies.

Regent Wallace Hall proposed a motion that would have prohibited gun-free zones in dorms or offices, but the regents voted the motion down.

"Especially as we recruit top faculty from across the country, they ought to have [the right to ban guns in offices] as well," said UT System Regent Steve Hicks. “It just makes good sense to me.”

Additionally, the regents rejected the UT policy that would require people carrying a handgun on campus to do so with an empty chamber.

“The body of evidence that we have argues that it is inherently safer for the students, the faculty, the administrators to not allow guns to be [loaded and unloaded] on campus,” Vice Chairman Jeffery Hildebrand said. “The less that one manipulates the gun, the better and safer it is.”

The motion that would require signage in all gun-free zones on campus also failed, despite UT System Alex Cranberg arguing that relying solely on verbal notification would be inefficient.

“If a faculty member is concerned about firearms in their office, they should want to have a more obvious written notification,” Cranberg said.

Cranberg also said verbal notification would require licensed holders to disclose they’re carrying a gun, infringing on their right to privacy.

Fenves, however, argued signage that failed to meet state law has no legal standing, and that oral notification is sufficient under state law. Faculty members are free to post signage at their own discretion, Fenves said.

Guns are still banned from ticketed sporting events, areas with dangerous chemicals and patient-care areas.

The meeting comes just one week after three UT law professors filed suit against the University, arguing the law would restrict the freedom of their classrooms and is too vague to be applied on such a large scale.

The policies have sparked criticisms from supporters and opponents of campus carry. In a letter to the UT community, Fenves addressed concerns about the new law.

“As a professor, I understand the deep concerns raised by so many,” the letter reads. “However, as president, I have an obligation to uphold the law. Although there is great anxiety about the impact of SB 11, I urge you not to let this weaken us as a university community. Let us show the world that UT can face such challenges.”