Not Chilly Enough? Texas Campus Carry and Academic Freedom

By Patricia Somers and Nicholas Phelps


The Texas campus carry law (S.B. 11) intentionally went into effect on the fiftieth anniversary of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas at Austin while the campus and the state mourned the long-ago loss of life. S.B. 11 legalized the carry of concealed handguns with a chambered round by licensed permit holders in most academic, administrative, and residential spaces, including most classrooms and many offices, at public colleges and universities. Reaction was quick, especially on the UT-Austin campus. Gun-free UT rallied with the slogan “Armed with Reason”; students joined a “Cocks Not Glocks” rally that received worldwide publicity; and three UT faculty members filed suit in federal district court. In this article, we discuss the history and background of the Texas law, the reactions of faculty members, and the two court decisions. We also suggest that more faculty data will bolster future court challenges to campus carry.

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One of the most appalling trends in higher ed is the ongoing lowering of academic standards. Administrative emphasis on retention over education has created an atmosphere of competition for attracting and retaining students in courses, and academically challenging courses and professors who hold students to high standards are often avoided in favor of courses that require little work and offer the easy A. Because administration often considers retention in tenure and promotion decisions, a "race to the bottom" has been established that is anathema to education and to the success of our culture.

Faculty is under enough pressure to lower standards without needing to fear that an EARNED low grade could result in being gunned down by a student. While that fear exists regardless, campus carry laws enable students to act in the heat of the moment.

It is already difficult enough to hold students to even reasonable standards when doing so is of no interest to states and administrations and can, in fact, cause you to lose your job. Campus carry laws also greatly increase the possibility that doing so may cause you to lose your life. It is not only the research and discussion that are inversely affected by campus carry laws, it is also the integrity of education itself.

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