University of Texas threatens professors who ban guns in their classrooms

August 12, 2016 • 1:30 pm

As I’ve mentioned before, on August 1 a Texas law went into effect that allows students at four-year colleges to carry concealed handguns nearly everywhere on campus. (In exactly a year the same law will apply to two-year colleges.)

My post described the law like this:

The students need permits for their concealed carry, and the campus is allowed to designate a limited number of “sensitive areas” where guns aren’t allowed, though those areas must be approved by the institution’s board of regents. You’re also not allowed to store weapons in automobiles.

I can only imagine what more enlightened countries, like Canada, France, or England, think of such a law.

As far as I understand it, the law applies to all colleges, not just public ones, and replaces a previous law that allowed guns only in public areas of universities (quads, sidewalks, and the like). Private universities, however, can opt out of this law, and schools like Rice and Baylor have done just that. There’s no opting-out for state-funded schools. 

Three professors at the University of Texas at Austin, Jennifer Lynn Glass, a professor of sociology, Lisa Moore, a professor of English, and Mia Carter, an associate professor of English, sued to block the law on the grounds that it forces their university “to impose ‘overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies’ that violate the First and Second Amendments, as well as the Fourteenth (see today’s Hili dialogue). You can see the full copy of their lawsuit here.

I posted even earlier that the physicist and Nobel Laureate Steve Weinberg, also at the University of Texas at Austin, said that he would not allow guns in his classroom, and would take the consequences for violating the law. I haven’t heard about Weinberg since then, and he wasn’t party to the lawsuit.

Now, according to the Dallas News, both the state and the University of Texas have warned that professors defying this law, as Weinberg said he’d do, will face punishment:

“Faculty members are aware that state law provides that guns can be carried on campus, and that the president has not made a rule excluding them from classrooms,” attorneys representing the University of Texas at Austin and Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a legal brief filed Monday. “As a result, any individual professor who attempts to establish such prohibition is subject to discipline.”

This threat was clearly intended as a warning to the three brave women standing up against this insane law, but they’re persisting in their suit:

The state’s lawyers, in their Monday filing, asked Judge Lee Yeakel to throw out the professors’ lawsuit. The educators fired back in their own brief, calling again for Yeakel to halt the law for one semester so they can hold a public trial on whether campus carry violates their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.

The professors’ lawyers say the law and UT’s own campus carry rules are too vague for his clients to know if and how they might be punished if they tried to keep gun owners out of their classrooms.

“No person of common intelligence — and one would think that the tenured plaintiffs rise at least to that level — can figure out what governs them on this issue under Texas law and UT policies,” the professors’ attorneys wrote.

They go on to say there is nothing in state law or UT policy that explicitly forbids professors to ban guns in classrooms, so, then, the question is “whether there is any policy at all that would bar plaintiffs from doing what they want to do or that would punish them in some way if they did so.”

I suppose the President of UT Austin, Gregory Fenves, didn’t have much choice here, but it would have been nice to hear him say something like this: “We have to follow the law on this campus, but I think it’s a bad law and I accept it unwillingly.” But not only did he not say that, but also failed to exercise his power to turn any classrooms into gun-free zones.

In the state’s brief, attorneys from Paxton’s agency say the law is clear. It gives campus presidents the ability to designate each school’s limited “gun-free zones,” they say, and if classrooms are not expressly included in campus policy as off-limits to firearms, then guns must be allowed there.

“The president is the sole individual authorized to establish gun exclusion zones on UT Austin’s campus. He has not designated classrooms as gun exclusion zones,” they wrote.

A judge will decide the lawsuit next week, but, as I predicted earlier, I doubt the three women will prevail. It’s Texas, Jake!

And I’m glad I don’t have to teach at the University of Texas! Imagine an angry student confronting you about his grade. “Does he have a gun?” would be your first thought.

UT students protest the law.


68 thoughts on “University of Texas threatens professors who ban guns in their classrooms

  1. A disaster waiting to happen. I used to teach at a public university in Texas, and on two occasions was confronted to the point of feeling uncomfortable by students dissatisfied with their grade.

    I fear for my former colleagues

    1. My advice to the profs: Give everyone A’s, allow no discussion in the classrooms, teach from the book and totally degrade the value of a Texas diploma.

      It may come down to that.

    2. I don’t have the statistics, but there have been killings of professors by disgruntled students.

      There should be a study of this, including all relevant aspects such as what provoked such acts.

      I do not know the basis for the policy. Links?

      Is it based on the idea that a shooter could be stopped by one or more other shooters from killing quite as many people as if all others were unarmed?

      How to separate the cracked nuts from the whole nuts? Or some other more appropriate analogy?

  2. This seems to be just more insanity from Texas and they are very good at it. Just the other day in another pretty nutty state, Florida, they had some kind of public 2-hour course or play acting between the local police and some of their finer citizens. A policeman shot a woman two time, killing her right in front of her husband.

      1. I believe it was Einstein who defined “insanity” as “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result each time” — which, as history has shown, is a fine description of “gun control”. Since gun control (also known as citizen disarmament) has proved not to guarantee the public peace or safety, it’s understandable that UT would experiment with something new for a change. Let’s see how the experiment works out before throwing witty insults around, shall we?

  3. ‘“Does he have a gun?” would be your first thought.’

    Your second thought might be, did I remember to put on my Kevlar this morning?

  4. “I can only imagine what more enlightened countries, like Canada, France, or England, think of such a law.”

    [raises hand]

    I know! I know!

    …[deletes string of vernacular English]

  5. All right, perhaps I’m going to show my UK – centricity again, but I think that it’s simply incredible that University students should be allowed to tote any form of firearm into classes.

    I left my University some 40+ years ago and before then and until now I have never even seen a firearm except in movies and some museums.

  6. Well, this Canadian thinks it’s simply insanity. As a consequence, I predict a huge spike in the number of A and A+ grades.

    1. As a consequence, I predict a huge spike in the number of A and A+ grades.

      I’d predict that marking schemes would be revised. Blanket A-grades would be issued until the end-of-finals day, when the students and professors are no longer required to remain on campus, then the correct – as-marked – grades would be issued. Since courses would by then be ended, any student on campus is obviously a killer out for revenge, to be shot down at range by concealed snipers. Or automated target-seeking machine guns, to raise the prospect of further new advances in massacre-technology.
      What could possibly go wrong?
      Does Texas need any new legislators. I think I’m probably qualified.

  7. Could the university impose regulations on top of the concealed carry? E.g., “While on campus all concealed weapons must be concealed within a locked case no less than 12″ x 24″ x 6″ in size. Case must be painted in high-visibility orange.” Or perhaps, “All persons carrying a concealed weapon on campus must provide at their own expense a crier walking not less than 3 paces in front identifying the individual as someone carrying a concealed weapon and calling out at least once per minute.” (Although I guess that one might get a bit disruptive in class.)

    1. Deny “concealed carry” licenses for weapons of less than 18inch bore.
      It’d resurrect the lost art of stealth battleship design. That alone might drag Texas, kicking and screaming, into the early 20th century.

        1. Oh dear.
          What a pity.
          Never mind.
          (Though I don’t have Sgt Maj Shaddup’s timing for it.)

        2. That is an extremely parochial comment. The Japanese Yamato class had 18″ guns, so one of those would most certainly qualify.


  8. Hi Jerry,

    I’ve been a reader but non-commenter for nearly a year. From that place to the North of you.

    “I can only imagine what more enlightened countries, like Canada, France, or England, think of such a law.”

    I would hazard a guess that most of us think such a law is crazy and that no civilized country would have such a law.

    I am not a gun owner but friends and relatives here own guns and hunt as well. I have no issue with the reasonable use of firearms.

    However, I think that the carrying of handguns or other firearms has no place on the grounds of a place of learning – except of course by those who are members of law enforcement.

    I would never attend a college or University, nor visit such a place while a law such as this is in place.

    As a former teacher, I would not work at an institution where members of the public, students and faculty were armed while in classes or on campus grounds. That is insane.

    We know of course that many Americans are reasonable and sane people, and feel nothing but sadness at what is happening and continues to happen in the US.

    It is galling to think that a Nobel prize winning physicist should have to fight this kind of battle on the very grounds of that institution where he is a professor.

    I am aware of course, that the US has a very different culture when it comes to guns. We are often reminded of this by your news programs, and when visitors from the US occasionally try to bring weapons across the border.

    There seems to be an attitude that these are toys, toys which are nevertheless vital to one’s identity for many in the US. Almost a talisman, and that this extends to children also learning this attitude. Not by all of course, but some number, of which this is yet another indication.

    I wish you all the best in combating this wild west attitude.

    1. “I would hazard a guess that most of us think such a law is crazy and that no civilized country would have such a law.”

      True — but the US is no longer a civilized country, and it hasn’t been one for some time.

      And BTW, I am an American, though sometimes I wish I weren’t.

        1. Yeah, I’m with you. I’m glad I live in progressive Washington. I lived 9 years in Wyoming during the Bush years and the politics were disgusting. My wife and I were so happy to get the hell out of there. Many American states have become completely radicalized by ideology and religion. Pathetic.

  9. And when the inevitable happens, will the university say, “Oh, we never thought a student would actually use a gun!” or “Well, accidents will happen” or perhaps “No one could have foreseen this dreadful carnage! It is the parents’ fault!” Because it is bound to happen.

    1. I prophesy that “when the inevitable happens” the victim will be found to have shouted “Allahu akbar” just before being riddled with bullets of multiple calibers.

  10. Luckily modern students are renowned for their slow-to-anger, easy-going nature.

    Absolutely no way someone is going to get shot over a Halloween costume, ethnic cuisine, or rumour of sexual impropriety.

    Insert mandatory ‘trigger warning’ joke here.

      1. As it so happens, I saw just that at my old alma mater, U. of Michigan, many years ago. A frat-boy at a party got drunk and turned paranoid, and ran to his room to get his rifle. When he came into the main party-room with it, a large group of not-so-drunk frat boys grabbed him, first hustled him out onto the lawn, and then wrestled the gun away from him. I heard the boy protesting vehemently that he’d grabbed it for self-defense, but the other frat-boys didn’t buy his story. Once the paranoid drunk was disarmed, his frat-buddies hustled him through the back door up to his room, where some of them sat on him (sometimes literally) until he sobered up and calmed down. He didn’t get his rifle back until a good while later. Nobody was harmed, the public peace was not disrupted, and there was no repetition of the incident.

    1. Don’t worry: the terribly-passionate, Politically Correct, Social Justice Warrior crowd would blench and faint at the very sight of a real weapon, and would run away weeping piteously rather than pick one up. I’ve seen for myself that the loudest mouths are accompanied by the weakest fingers.

  11. Insanity. I have 3 grandchildren in college – 2 in Indiana and 1 in Kansas. I don’t know what Indiana’s laws in respect to guns on campus are, but the idiot state legislature in Kansas passed legislation in 2013 to allow conceal-carry on campuses. In 2015 they added to their stupidity by repealing requirements for firearm training to obtain a conceal-carry permit. There was a 4 year moratorium on enforcement to allow for universities to prepare for the new law, so it will be in full force in July 2017. We are trying our best to oust the extremists in the state house, so I hope this law can be repealed. I’m frightened for my grandchildren.

    1. I’m sure governor Sam Brownback has it all worked out down there in Kansas, as long as it doesn’t take any money because they don’t have any. Here in Iowa we refer to our governor as the honorable governor Brain dead. Some call him Branstad.

      1. As one who lived in Kansas for 25 years, I am glad I no longer live there with the likes of Brownback and Pat Roberts. They are rarely bothered with a rational thought.

    1. What I find bizarre is that private institutions can opt out while public ones can’t. What practically differentiates the circumstances of a class at a private U. from a class at a public one?



      1. A private school is funded from private sources, not (usually) from government tax monies. Therefore, the state can’t punish a school’s noncompliance by cutting off the money.

  12. As a Canadian I just think the whole thing is really weird. Why must one bring one’s gun to school?

    I asked one of the constables on my campus about why he wears Kevlar every day. He said it was a health and safety requirement and then said he needed it in first person shooter scenarios. I found this weird. Like that happens all the time. I figure if I were him I’d be more likely to hulk out being overheated in 35C weather than be fired upon and saved by the Kevlar. It’s like he really believed such a thing was imminent and I wonder if Americans on the whole feel constantly threatened to the point that some want to carry guns everywhere all the time.

    1. Yes, it is similar to little kids who need to carry the blanket with them. Makes the kid feel safe while taking that biology test. That is the sarcasm that Donald Trump is looking for.

    2. “he needed it in first person shooter scenarios”

      What the heck is a ‘first person shooter’ ? As opposed to a guy with a gun…


      1. I know, I thought the same thing but those were his words. This is what happens with a generation who grew up on first person shooter video games I guess.

    3. Yes, we are threatened — and so are you, and so is every Western country and quite a few Asian ones; you just don’t realize or admit it yet. Since 9/11/01 there have been more than 28,000 Jihadist attacks, successful and not, around the world. Do you think they’re going to stop anytime soon?

      1. And not one stopped by a good guy with a gun. Indeed, it was suggested that the night club shooting in Florida may have involved some “friendly fire”. But by all means, bring your gun to Walmart just in case.

  13. Somehow I don’t think that Prof. Weinberg has anything to worry about since he is well past retirement age and would have no trouble getting an appointment in any number of universities in the US located in non-redneck states.

  14. I bet guns aren’t allowed in the State Assembly or any court room or other govt buildings though, right?

    1. Yes, they are — to officially-sanctioned, properly-sanctioned, government-hired guards. Thus is created the difference between first-class and second-class citizenship.

  15. If guns-in-public-places is such a hot idea, how come delegates (and the public) were barred from bringing firearms into the GOP convention last month, concealed carry permits be damned? Hell, Cleveland cops roped-off a gun-free cordon sanitaire several hundred yards out from the Quicken Arena for the duration.

    Wasn’t the Donald concerned that, were he to be attacked by bad guys with guns, he’d be deprived of the beautiful sight of all those good guys with guns sending bullets heading back in the opposite direction? Didn’t hear a peep about the infringement of Second Amendment rights from the Repubs then, did we?

    Why shouldn’t professors at UT have the same safety privileges?

  16. There are so many things I could say here, but all I will is that when I was in school (public) and the first day of hunting season came, attendance was down. Same when I was in university. Neither institution permitted loaded firearms on campus except when carried by law enforcement officers on duty. In secondary school, guns on campus was never an issue for me. University, I checked them in to the armory when I arrived, and drew them out when needed. I used a club rifle for competitive shooting (I never made the cut), and kept my crossbow in the armory as well. I would have bailed out if there had been permissible open carry, much less concealed. and I wasn’t in a right to carry state, where denial of a permit is rare, or a state where sale is unregulated entirely.

  17. Following Maryam Namazie’s (sp.?)example, perhaps some protesters will walk nekkid into classrooms. Or at least brandish dildos and vibrators? Will the gun toters faint from the sight, their delicate aesthetic sensibilities having been so offended?

  18. I live in Texas and I work in the “awl bidness”, so I see the madness every day. The one bright spot in this for me is that my own alma mater (Rice University) has opted out of this particular insanity.

  19. UT was my graduate school. They will never see a penny from me. Despicable.

    Weinberg is on the right side. The president does not care about the well being of his students and faculty.

  20. “I can only imagine what more enlightened countries, like Canada, France, or England, think of such a law.”

    I live in England, and I gave up having any expectation that the U.S. would ever enact sensible gun laws when this utterly failed to happen after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The new concealed-carry law at UT is appalling, but it doesn’t surprise me any longer.

    1. You should know then that there are serious questions being raised about the alleged Sandy Hook Massacre. For one thing, records show that the school was closed in 2008. For another, legal papers have surfaced showing that the FEMA was holding an “active shooter drill” at the location at the time. For a third, some of the people photographed at the location at that time have turned out to be professional actors. Have you ever seen the movie “Wag the Dog”? If this scandal breaks before the election, Hillary will lose a mammoth percentage of the vote.

      Meanwhile, let’s watch and see if having all those horrid-horrid guns on campus makes U of T more or less safe. I suspect that all the proper Europeans (except the Swiss) will be surprised. But then, I live in Arizona — a state where concealed-carry of firearms has been allowed on college campuses (and everywhere else in public) for a very long time. When was the last time you heard of a mass-shooting in Arizona?

      1. I’m well aware that there are a number of bizarre and repugnant conspiracy theories concerning the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders. It saddens me that people would think that the killings of twenty little children and their six teachers was a suitable subject for conspiracy theories, but that’s just another aspect of the U.S. which baffles me utterly.

      2. Hmm. Jerry must be traveling today or something. Usually he trashes these kinds of insane posts. Or maybe this deluge of posts from Leslie is useful, because it lets everyone see what a real gun-totin’ member of the ammosexual, tiny-penis club sounds like.

  21. Doesn’t this law allow professors to carry concealed firearms too? In that case, the profs ought to take advantage of it. As Heinlein wrote, “And armed society is a polite society”.

    1. I thought that comment was intended satirically, but in view of your post about Sandy Hook, I fear you may be serious.

      If politeness is enforced through fear of getting your head blown off, it ain’t worth it.


  22. This is the stupidest law ever! I’m so glad I don’t live in Texas…. then again, they probably wouldn’t want me there anyway.

  23. The reasoning behind this gun idea is flawed.
    Every Army in history has learned (to it’s cost) that without the discipline training armed people are useless except as target practice for the fully trained.
    Does the state really expect students under fire to be able defend themselves properly?
    Does it expect trained or ideologically motivated attackers to be such easy meat?
    There seems to much Hollywood disaster movie thinking in this and not enough common sense.

  24. If “we” are going to be objective rather than reactionary about this issue, we will have to ask questions rather than make shot-from-the-hip pronouncements.

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