There’s no shortage of people who oppose the prospect of the general public carrying firearms on the University of Texas campus. UT-Austin and public universities across Texas are trying to balance those concerns against the Legislature’s mandate. At a rally yesterday, chants of “Gun Free UT!” were mingled with displays from supporters of the “campus carry” law.
The Texas law allowing campus carry goes into effect in just under a year, and before then, universities will develop their own policies as to where and when firearms are and are not permitted.
UT Student Roxanne Maraji opposes the measure, arguing guns don’t belong on the campus of an educational institution.
“Why would you need to protect yourself in an environment where you’re supposed to feel safe,” she says. “Theres no need for guns in an environment where you feel safe, especially at a university.”
Another UT student, Connor Widder, supports the law.
“You look around and if something were to happen right now who would be here to protect us?” he asked, arguing that UT’s police department can’t be everywhere on campus all the time.
History Professor Joan Neuberger attended the demonstration and said that, while she understands people may have a right to carry on campus, she wouldn’t feel safe if guns are allowed in classrooms or office buildings.
“I don’t want to have office hours if I don’t [feel safe]. You know, we have to give students grades. People get mad about things,” she said. “It scares me, to be completely honest. It scares me to know that a student could have a gun in their pocket.”
At the center of all of this is, of course, safety. A working group put together by UT President Greg Fenves is tasked with coming up with recommendations for the university's specific policies.
UT School of Law Professor Steve Goode is leading the working group, which will take public comment before making recommendations on an implementation plan to Fenves in December.
“[President Fenves] wants to ensure that the campus will be a safe place and that the environment will be an environment that will be appropriate to the university's status as a world class institution,” Goode says. “And, at the same time, we’ve got to do this within the framework that the Legislature passed.”
UT-Austin’s working group will incorporate opinions from online submissions, public hearings and from stakeholders within the group – including alums, students, faculty and parents.
Addie Alexander’s daughter graduated from UT last year. She says she would’ve had second thoughts about sending her there if the law was in effect.
“What a crazy thing to do – to send your kid from Brooklyn to a place where there [are] guns," she said. "That’s crazy.”
The university’s working group will take up the issue at its first meeting on Monday.