January 25, 2016
AUSTIN, TX – University of Texas at Austin Professor Steven Weinberg, declared he will try to ban guns his classroom this fall, even if it breaks university rules and state law.
Weinberg, who won the Nobel Prize in science in 1979, said at the university’s faculty council meeting that he understands the decision could leave him vulnerable to a lawsuit. Most university task forces across the state have found that Texas’ new campus carry law prohibits such a ban. But Weinberg said he believes that he would eventually win that suit, because forcing professors to allow guns quashes constitutionally protected free speech and academic freedom.
“I am willing by my own actions to expose myself to this,” he said. “Let’s have it heard. We should allow the courts to decide it.”
The campus carry law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, requires colleges to allow people with concealed handgun licenses to carry their weapons in campus buildings. University presidents can declare some rooms or buildings gun-free, but those declarations can’t have the cumulative effect of banning guns campus-wide.
At UT-Austin, President Greg Fenves appointed a task force to review the law and suggest rules. That task force has recommended banning guns in dorms and allowing professors to ban guns in their individual offices. But it said that bans in classrooms went too far.
Fenves, who hasn’t yet weighed in, said on Monday that he expects to propose his rules by mid-February. But in comments to the faculty council, he indicated that he would have to stick with state law. When asked whether professors can require students with handguns to sit in the back of the classroom, for example, Fenves said he didn’t think so.
“As a public university, I am obligated to seeing that we carry out the law,” Fenves said.