Student Government debates legislation supporting right to display ‘Gun Free UT’ signs

Sara Schleede

In a contentious final meeting of the semester, Student Government debated a resolution to support professors’ rights to display “Gun Free UT” signs around campus. 

UT President Gregory Fenves issued a directive earlier this semester telling faculty to remove all window signs, including “Gun Free UT,” by Sept. 7. Fenves then created a task force to investigate potential free speech violations following student complaints. 

Joint Resolution 3, originally introduced Nov. 14, requests student representation on the free speech task force. It also asks the University to issue a formal policy protecting all UT staff’s rights to express their freedom of speech in office windows or clarify their outward-facing sign policy.

“There is an intense intersection between the rights of students and the rights of faculty,” Ian McEntee, SG academic affairs policy co-director and coauthor of J.R. 3, told The Daily Texan previously. “If a professor feels that they cannot adequately express themselves through window signage, that could be likened to a censorship of education.”

The resolution passed in Graduate Student Assembly and Senate of College Councils, but faced major amendments when referred to SG’s governmental affairs committee. First-year representative Ashish Dave said he and the other committee members wanted to remove all mention of “Gun Free UT” signs from the legislation. 

The amendments were drafted during a governmental affairs committee meeting Nov. 26, but none of the authors were present at the meeting. The authors rejected the amendments.

“The point of removing ‘Gun Free UT’ was to make it equitable across the board,” said Dave, a plan II and business honors freshman. “It is our goal to make sure there is a clear, blanket policy, University-wide, for whatever sign anyone wants to put up.”

The governmental affairs committee saw the legislation for a second time Dec. 3 and approved it, sending it to the assembly for a vote. The floor went into a debate to discuss the possibility of the governmental affairs committee taking more time to consider the legislation. 

Law representative Jordan Cope, who voted against the resolution, initiated the debate Tuesday night and another on Nov. 27. Cope said the legislation should be a more apolitical support of free speech. 

“When students come and visit campuses, what students ultimately are seeing is liberal-leaning posters, and it might make them feel like their voices aren’t welcome so much on campus,” Cope said. 

McEntee, humanities and sociology senior, said Student Body President Colton Becker and Student Body Vice President Mehraz Rahman have recently been invited to serve on the task force, but student representation from other organizations is still unclear. 

“Just because SG already has their task force representation set in place doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vote for a resolution meant to codify the representation for other legislative student organizations,” said Jakob Lucas, governmental affairs committee chair and government junior.

The assembly referred the legislation to the student affairs committee for possibly more changes before reintroducing it to the assembly next semester. However, the authors then pulled the resolution, preventing future changes or a vote on it.

“It’s not something that can wait until next semester,” said McEntee, humanities and sociology senior. “I am very upset that we have to pull it, but it is something we had to do to maintain the integrity of our legislation.”