Some Texas professors say guns in classes could chill debate

HOUSTON -- Some faculty members at the University of Houston say sensitive subjects may become taboo in their classrooms because of a law allowing Texas public university students to bring guns to class.

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Jonathan Snow, president of the faculty senate at the university, told University of Houston regents that staff concerns about the law are growing, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.

"Academics know the intrusion of gun culture into campus inevitably harms academic culture," Snow told the Board of Regents.

A faculty senate slideshow shown at a recent meeting featured a message that said instructors "may want to be careful discussing sensitive topics" or may choose to drop "certain topics" from their curriculum.

Under the law, which takes effect Aug. 1, licensed gun owners may carry concealed handguns on public university campuses. University officials have some discretion to designate gun-free zones, but a recent opinion from the Texas attorney general's office said no limits may be placed on students carrying guns in classrooms or dormitories.

Nevertheless, the president of the University of Texas at Austin recommended to UT System regents that guns be banned from dormitories. Private universities may still ban guns from their campuses, and none in Texas has chosen to allow armed students in classrooms.

The University of Houston Faculty Senate adopted a resolution last year that opposed the law, stating, "The diverse academic communities and free academic discourse are especially threatened by the presence of deadly weapons in teaching, research and living spaces."

Jacob Smith, who supports the law and teaches at the university while working toward a doctorate in economics, said that other states already allow guns on campus and have not seen any gun-related confrontations between students and faculty.

"It's an absolutely unfounded fear," he told the Chronicle.


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