Lubbock, TX - Over 500 people who say they are faculty and staff at Texas Tech University have launched an online petition against the Texas campus carry law.
After the Texas State Legislature passed Senate Bill 11 earlier this year and Governor Abbot signed that bill into law, guns will soon be allowed on public college campuses around Texas. Schools like Texas Tech are rushing to prepare for the new law which is scheduled to go into effect August 1, 2016.
As the petition points out, that date marks the 50th anniversary of the Clock Tower Shooting at the University of Texas in Austin which, according to the Houston Chronicle, killed fifteen people and wounded 32.
"Campus carry puts faculty, staff, and students in danger. The presence of guns in university buildings is not only a threat to our safety; it is a threat to our academic freedom," the petition explains.
The petition also cites other grievances with the new law, including that campus carry is discriminatory in that concealed carry licenses are only accessible to students 21 years of age and older.
The writers of the petition recognize that a repeal of the campus carry law is unlikely, so their effort at online activism aims to ensure that Texas Tech President Dr. Duane Nellis designate all classrooms and offices as gun-free zones.
"I typically don't do that kind of thing--fill out online petitions or what have you--but I feel strongly about it," said Lisa Low, Professor of Public Relations at Texas Tech, who signed the petition on Sunday and encouraged her friends to do the same.
Low said that students in the past have become angry with her when she's given them low grades, she wonders how those confrontations would have gone if her students had been armed.
"It's not that I'm anti-gun, it's just that having weapons on campus is not something I agree with," Low said.
Low said that it's not just Texas Tech faculty who are concerned about campus carry, she has been watching stories unfold of other grassroots efforts around Texas to oppose this law.
Texas Tech is aware of the petition Low signed and they say that faculty input will be be a significant consideration in the way they implement the law.
Texas Tech is seeking out input from students and staff on its campus carry policy, the university has already developed a task force shape Tech's version of this state law.
"We received a survey via email from president Nellis himself, asking very specific questions, (for example) if there are places on campus where the campus carry law should be restricted, and it led me to believe there might be some options," said Low. She hopes her input on those surveys helps to influence the number of places where campus carry is restricted
Dana Jennings, a Texas Tech senior, said that in order to vote in this year's elections for Texas Tech's homecoming king and queen, students had to first fill out a survey about their thoughts on campus carry.
Jennings said the questions asked or her feelings on campus carry and whether certain dorms or buildings on campus should be gun-free zones.
Jennings admits that she's not a fan of the idea of Tech having campus carry, but she's been even more worried since seeing her professor's reaction to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College on October 1.
"After the shooting happened on a Thursday and when I went into my class on Friday morning, my teacher who typically comes in with a lot of energy and is very excited to start the day, she came in very quiet and looked at the class and she said 'Guys, I'm a little scared to be here right now,' and we all immediately knew what she was talking about. She said 'These things keep happening and it's a little scary for me to come to work now,'" Jennings recounted.
Assistant Professor of Military Science Major Chris Dawson is a little more comfortable with the idea of having people nearby who are carrying guns.
"It's something I'm used to seeing a lot when I'm deployed, we carry guns all the time, so it's second nature for me," Dawson explained. "So I understand (Texas Tech administrators) have a lot to consider and a lot to weigh out with this (law)."
Dawson believes that Texas Tech has done their due diligence already with the campus carry law by enacting a task force and surveying the campus.
While Dawson wouldn't share his position on campus carry, he said that he did not sign the online petition opposing campus carry at Tech.
He's glad that members of Tech's community are staying involved with the process of determining this new policy.
"It's definitely a great idea and that's part of the political climate we live in today, we have the right to free speech and that if you feel some way, you should definitely voice your opinion about it, that's why I deployed four times to a combat zone, to make sure you can do that," Dawson said.
Dawson believes that one of the most complicated parts of implementing campus carry will be designating gun-free zones.
Tech is working to compile the results from their formal surveys of faculty and students about campus carry.
Low and the other petitioners are hoping that there will be some areas for compromise with the law.
"If there is any wiggle room, if there is any discretion left to the administration on a case-by-case basis," Low clarified.
Low said she hopes the push-back against campus carry from Texas Tech faculty and staff doesn't stop with this online petition.
"I would encourage my peers: let's follow through with this, if there are town hall meetings, let's get off the couch and go and move forward, and if there are advocacy opportunities, let's go and do something about this, lets be heard," she said.
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