Gun-Free UT holds campus carry forum

Beginning on August 1st, licensed gun holders will be allowed to carry weapons at the University of Texas as well as other public universities across the state. The law has raised many loaded questions around the "40 Acres" especially for staff members. The biggest question: How will professors teach in an environment with weapons in them?

Some faculty and staff members at UT have a difficult task on their hands.

"We're trying to respond to and implement a law that was passed by the legislature." Coleman Hutchison, the University's English department's associate chairman, said. "We have to find smart and safe ways for it to be a part of campus culture going forward."

The law, campus carry, is set to take effect in less than seven months but how that law is going to be applied is raising more complex questions for staff members on campus.

"What do we as employees of the university, as faculty and staff, of the university need to do to prepare for that transition?" Matt Valentine, a lecturer and senior program coordinator at the university, said.

Complex questions with no simple answers.

"People feel strongly about their rights to hold guns. Faculty especially feel strongly about the right to teach difficult topics in what they consider, and rightfully so, safe spaces," Hutchison said.

The group "Gun-free UT" held a teach in to help answer some loaded questions that some professors feel have not yet been addressed.

"What to do of the presence of a gun in the classroom?" One teacher said. "A gun is for killing, a gun is not for protecting anybody, it is for killing. I need something very clear from the university about what to do to protect my life against that."

Another UT professor said, "As a professor, I have never been told, explicitly or clearly, what my responsibilities are in the classroom for stewardship of that community."

He went on to say, "So if I haven't been told what to do if two students are arguing in the back of the class or if they are kissing in the back of the class. I haven't been given any guidance on that, now, jump from that to what do we do in an active shooter situation?"

A situation that few feel they'll be prepared for by August.

"It's not something that you can fully prepare for because you don't know what students you are going to encounter in the future and what problems they might introduce to a class," Valentine said.

The president's office released this statement concerning the schools time frame on installing an implementation plan of campus carry.

The president is reviewing the recommendations and will finalize campus rules by the middle of February.

Now the group that met on Monday is not associated with the official working group appointed by the university that submitted their report on this issue to the school on December 10th.

However the UT President's office said they are taking in and listening to the opinions of all of their campus groups and concerned members.
 

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