Fenves Finalizes UT Austin Campus Carry Policies

AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas at Austin President Gregory L. Fenves has adopted policies to implement Senate Bill 11, the campus carry law that goes into effect later this year, and he has appointed a campus-wide task force to oversee the process.

Fenves has notified UT System Chancellor William McRaven and the campus community of his decision. In his correspondence, he reiterated his concerns about the new law and his belief that allowing handguns on campus runs counter to the university’s education and research missions.

“I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date,” Fenves wrote to campus. “I empathize with the many faculty, staff, 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.”

Fenves adopted the 25 policy recommendations that were developed by the 19-member Campus Carry Working Group he appointed last year. The policies provide for rules on how handguns must be carried. Under the policies, certain laboratories, areas where pre-K-12 programs are held, and, with some exceptions, university residences will be considered gun exclusion zones, and employees with private offices will be able to prohibit handguns inside them. Classrooms will not be included in gun exclusion zones. 

“Under the law, I cannot adopt a policy that has the general effect of excluding licensed concealed handguns from campus. I agree with the working group that a classroom exclusion would have this effect,” Fenves wrote in the campus email.

Fenves also established the Campus Carry Implementation Task Force, which will be chaired by Gerald R. Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security. The task force will include experts in university operations, safety and security, as well as faculty members, staffers and student representatives. It will develop guidelines, rules and practices to comply with the campus policies. The panel will work closely with the offices of provost, student affairs, the division of human resources, UT Police Department and other campus leadership.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents can amend the campus rules with a two-thirds vote within 90 days. Senate Bill 11 takes effect Aug. 1. Under state law, the open carry of handguns will continue to be prohibited on campus and in university buildings. 

“Since this is a new law with an unknown effect on UT Austin, we will monitor implementation and its impact on students, faculty, and staff,” Fenves wrote in his letter to McRaven. “I have significant concerns about how the law will affect our ability to recruit and retain faculty and students. If problems develop, we will work to understand the causes and make adjustments to the policies, rules, and practices, consistent with the law.”