No decision made after hearing for professor lawsuit against campus carry

Estefania Espinosa

A federal judge held a hearing on Thursday to determine whether the implementation of campus carry, which began on Aug. 1, should be put on hold while a lawsuit filed by three UT professors against the University and the state of Texas is resolved.

Professors Mia Carter, Jennifer Lynn Glass and Lisa Moore filed the suit in July. They argue that the presence of guns in classrooms — which the state law and UT policy allow — will restrict the freedom of discussion, and so violates the First Amendment.

At the hearing, there was some initial confusion about whether University policy outlines any disciplinary action that would be taken against professors who prohibit students from bringing licensed weapons into their class.

Attorneys representing the professors and the University also disagreed about what the official University policies regarding campus carry are. The professors’ representatives pointed to a list of policies approved by the Board of Regents, while the school’s lawyers argued the official policies were in UT-Austin’s Handbook of Operating Procedures.

After about an hour of discussion, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel called a recess to give the two sides time to reach a consensus on the exact University policies. Unable to reach an agreement, the issue was put aside for the time being.

The court then heard arguments from both sides for about 90 minutes on whether professors should be allowed to ban guns in their classrooms.

“The threat [of guns] heightens both the tension and it heightens potential consequences of these situations,” said Max Renea Hicks, who is part of the professors’ legal counsel team. “Because of that, they know that [campus carry] would begin to curtail … academic discussion in the classroom.”

Anne Mackin, an assistant attorney general who represented UT-Austin and the UT System regents, said the professors’ argument that this is a First Amendment case is not valid.

“For a First Amendment claim to succeed, [two things are required.] First, a direct regulation of speech and second, the fact that the direct regulation be content-based,” Mackin said. “The UT defendants’ policy is neither.”

Judge Yeakel ultimately decided to give the lawyers until Monday at 5 p.m. to submit documents clarifying UT’s policies and until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to respond to the opposing side, after which he would come to a decision as quickly as possible.

“I think [this case] does have much broader application, potentially, than just these professors for the semester or the [students],” Judge Yeakel said.