Texas Tribune Festival brings politicians and journalists to campus, highlights issues like campus carry

Sarah Philips

Politicians, journalists and politics lovers alike will be descending upon campus this weekend for the Texas Tribune Festival, a three-day conference that includes panels on timely political topics.

Some of the big-name panelists and speakers that will be at the Festival include Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, to name a few. 

The weekend will begin with a keynote one-on-one conversation between Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Kasich Friday night. The panels will cover everything from issues like the STAAR test and big-time college sports to the 2016 presidential election. 

One of the festival’s panels will focus on a university-oriented policy issue — campus carry. The panel titled “Campus Carry is the Law. Now What?” will bring in players involved on all fronts of the issue that sparked campus protests and has been a heavy topic of discussion.

One of the panelists in this discussion is Steven Goode, a professor at the UT School of Law and the chair of the Campus Carry Working Policy Group. The group’s mission was to define regulations and rules surrounding campus carry and UT President Gregory Fenves. 

Goode said the panel will likely revolve around why they chose the policies they did and how they’ve been carried out so far.

“I expect questions that relate both to why we made certain recommendations and how the campus has been dealing with campus carry since it was instituted on campus,” Goode said.

Goode will be joined at the panel by English professor Mia Carter and Antonia Okafor, the Texas state director for Students for Concealed Carry, both of whom Goode said disagreed with the campus carry group’s policies from opposite sides of the issue. Carter was one of the professors who sued the University and the state over campus carry due to her belief that the new law violated her rights. 

“One area would be that the working group did not recommend that guns should be excluded from classrooms,” Goode said. “Mia Carter, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, thought that violated her rights to academic freedom.”

Okafor, on the other hand, believed the policies allowing offices occupied by a single faculty member to be dictated as gun-free and not allowing guns in dormitories were too strict.

“I expect we’ll talk about how we did recommend and that Fenves adopted that sole occupants of offices could exclude handguns from their offices,” Goode said. “As well, guns to some extent could be excluded from on-campus dormitories. Okafor thought that included too much exclusion.”

In addition to campus carry, other topics relevant to students living in Austin are “Rideshare’s Road Forward” in light of Uber and Lyft leaving Austin in May. 

Students who wished to attend were able to get discounted tickets and some volunteer opportunities in order to attend for free, like journalism freshman Henry Youtt. 

“I am so pumped to be able to volunteer at TribFest, because as a journalism major, it’s so cool to actually be walking around events, meeting people from big publications, and maybe getting a little behind-the-scenes action too,” Youtt said. “It should be a good time.”

The Festival will come to a close with a conversation between Smith and independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin on Sunday.