Open forum held to begin discussions on policy preparation for upcoming academic year
Meagan Wright, Reporter
The atmosphere was heavy with a mixture of interest and concern while TWU students, faculty and staff filed into MCL auditorium last Wednesday for the Guns on Campus forum hosted by the Arts and Sciences College. Forum speakers that day included Professor Government Jeff Robb, Chief of the Department of Public Safety Elizabeth Pauley, Director of University Housing and Resident Life Jill Eckhardt and SGA Public Affairs Representative and incoming President for 2016-2017 Fatime Osmani. Discussion ensued regarding the initials drafts for the Campus Carry policy, to be set in place by Fall 2016.
The Concealed (Campus) Carry policy is a result from Senate Bill 11’s recent passing in the Texas State Legislature, permitting those with a Concealed Handgun Licenses to carry a concealed handgun on public university and college campuses. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the new law allows public campuses to independently delegate on regulations regarding Campus Carry.
A task force committee of appointed representatives has been established on each campus to draft policy recommendations that best accommodate the diverse populations and unique environment at all TWU campuses. Some of the proposed “gun free zones” on the Denton campus include Pioneer Hall, the Counseling Center, Student Health Services and other locations where services may be provided for minors.
When the forum was opened for questions, an unidentified staff member asked: “Why can’t we know who has a concealed gun? Why can’t there be a list?” Pauley responded: “We cannot violate people’s rights,” Pauley continued: “This is why it is important for the people who are passionate about [the policy] to let their legislature know how they feel.”
The policy is an evolving subject that will remain relevant for university and college students throughout their academic careers. Students are encouraged to become actively involved in continuing the conversation on policy changes and to attend future forums to gain accurate information, as well as additional perspectives.
The Campus Carry policy will become effective for all state universities on August 1, 2016 with two-year campuses following suit with an effective date of August 1, 2017. Nineteen private Texas universities including Baylor University, Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University have made the decision to opt out of the new campus carry law as is their right according to the law. It is important to remember that Open Carry, allowing a licensed individual to openly carry a handgun, continues to be prohibited on all TWU properties and Campus Carry requires licensed individuals to have their weapon concealed at all times.
This controversial topic has raised diverse perspectives from student, faculty and staff. Concerns offered touch on several topics relating to the protection of the TWU community, monitoring, active shooting scenarios and recommendations for potential gun-free zones. Pre-Med major Samantha Price-Nazer suggested: “It could be a good idea, but [with] all the uncertainty, it could also go terribly wrong.”