This week, the campus carry task force will make its recommendations to President Romo on the implementation of Senate Bill 11 at UTSA.
The measure, which takes effect on August 1, 2016, allows for the authorized carrying of concealed weapons in permitted areas on public university campuses. Texas is the eighth state in the U.S. to allow concealed carry at public universities. Three percent of the state’s residents are concealed handgun license holders.
It’s important to note that the law is not open carry. It will still be against the law to display a visible weapon while on UTSA’s campuses.
The legislation allows the university president to enact “reasonable rules and regulations” but the rules may not either “generally prohibit” or “have the effect of generally prohibiting”’ license holders from carrying concealed handguns on campus.
President Romo convened the task force in the fall. It includes several students, staff members and faculty, along with administrators from some key areas of the university. Our responsibility was to develop recommendations for a plan that included determining what, if any, exclusion zones should be established.
The recommendations that the task force will make are the product of many months of thoughtful work. To develop a list of reasonable exclusion zones, we reviewed existing legislative requirements, laws, penal codes and accreditation standards.
We conducted research, looked at best practices from universities in other states that already allow campus carry, and carefully listened to the UTSA community. We held many campus forums and received hundreds of email comments. Throughout the process we made every effort to be transparent, inclusive and diligent.
Some of our recommended exclusion zones include areas where minor children receive services, health care centers, laboratories with combustible, flammable or dangerous materials, campus locations serving alcohol and shared housing units.
We also are making suggestions about safety education and training programs related to campus carry.
We understand that it is not possible to please everyone with the plan we will present to President Romo. However, as a public university, we have an obligation to uphold the law. Without question, though, our foremost priority remains the well-being of every student, faculty and staff member, and visitor to campus.
President Romo will issue a university policy later this month.
The implementation of this law and a campus carry policy has evoked strong feelings on both sides of the issue. However, we should not let it divide our campus community or distract from our mission.
It should not deter anyone – student, faculty or staff – from taking full advantage of the diverse ideas, opinions and opportunities at UTSA.
That is what defines us as a university of excellence.