In an age where the focus seems to be finding ways to keep guns out of classrooms, the University of Texas announced today it was going to begin allowing students to bring concealed guns into the classroom a controversial decision that could impact recruiting for the athletic powerhouse going forward.
The decisions came following a recommendation from a university advisory panel made up of students and staff members, however, it is important to point out the university will still prohibit concealed handguns from just about everywhere else on the campus in Austin. Handguns are still prohibited in dorms but are allowed in classroom, dining halls and common areas. At this time there is no clarification on if athletic facilities will allow concealed weapons or will be subject to a different policy.
The measure to adopt the campus carry policy has not gone uncontested by professors. A growing list of over 1,700 professors and counting have signed a document announcing their opposition to allowing guns in their classrooms. University of Texas president Greg Fenves addressed the hard decision he backed with an letter to the community, in which he describes how touch of a decision it was for him.
“I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date,” Fenves said in his public letter. “I empathize with the many faculty members, staffers, students and parents of students who signed petitions, sent emails and letters, and organized to ban guns from campus and especially classrooms. As a professor, I understand the deep concerns raised by so many. However, as president, I have an obligation to uphold the law.”
In the state of Texas, gun owners with a license to hold a concealed firearm have been granted access to public grounds on college campuses since 1995. A state senate bill signed last year extends the legal access of concealed firearm permit owners to take their gun with them inside campus buildings, but public institutions have had the right to deny that access. Until now, the University of Texas has blocked that access for permit owners. This decision by the University of Texas, which does not go into effect until August 1, upholds the law according to the state of Texas.
“Although there is great anxiety about the impact of [Senate Bill 11], I urge you not to let this weaken us as a university community,” Fenves says. “The world looks to UT with the highest regard for our excellence, our pride and our unity. Let us show the world that UT can face such challenges.”
The closest comparison I can make for a sports perspective on this topic is the recent trend of colleges opting to allow alcohol sales at college football and basketball games. At first schools like West Virginia and Minnesota were thought to be stepping into dangerous territory by opening up the beer taps to football fans, already likely to be bloated from hours of pre-gaming before entering the stadium, but as more and more schools have experimented with alcohol sales the results have been far more positive than some expected. That said, this was a revenue decision and one with limited negative repercussions where weapons in an academic setting has a lot of potential for some form of loss of life occurring .
This issue at Texas can easily be picked apart from a political standpoint, and it most certainly will in the days, weeks and perhaps even months to come. But if the legal gun owners abide by the rules, as they so often claim to do, then this may not be quite as big a worry as it seems. The sad fact is there are no laws that will prevent a tragedy from occurring. Regardless of how this plays out going forward, you have to imagine that perspective student athletes and their parents may have strong thoughts on the decision in both directions which could impact recruiting going forward.