University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves has announced a decision to allow handguns into campus classrooms.
As of August 1, guns will allowed inside the classrooms at the school, in addition to various offices and common areas in the dormitories. However, the weapons will not be allowed to be taken within individual dorm rooms. The University said this was decided because of the high risk associated with students living in close quarters, which could increase the chance that a roommate will steal, lose, or misuse a gun.
"I have thoroughly reviewed the policy recommendations of the Campus Carry Working Group and decided to adopt them," Fenves said. "Under the law, I cannot adopt a policy that has the general effect of excluding licensed concealed handguns from campus."
The Texas Legislature voted in 2015 to allow guns in buildings on college campuses within the state.
SB-11, or the campus carry bill, requires the approval of a college president before it can be implemented. Students are still unable to openly carry a weapon on campus.
Although guns are not allowed in dorm rooms, the policy does state that they will be allowed in University Apartments, which are located off of the main campus, reports Sophia Beausoleil for KXAN.
There are a number of exceptions to these rules. Guns will be allowed in common areas including lounges, dining halls, and study areas. Visiting family members can carry a concealed weapon into individual dorm rooms. In addition, University housing employees, such as resident assistants, will be allowed to carry a concealed weapon as long as they have a license to do so.
During his announcement, President Fenves said his personal beliefs suggest that guns should not be allowed on campus, leading some to argue that he is not doing enough to support the bill.
"I do not believe handguns belong in a university setting in the campus environment dedicated to education and research but nevertheless as president of a public university I am responsible for implementing campus carry law," said Fenves.
He went on to say that he has notified the campus and chancellor regarding the policies and he is working to create a campus-wide task force that will oversee the process, reports Bridget Spencer for Fox7.
While some students said the move worried them, citing the mental stability of other classmates as an issue that could make allowing guns result in feelings of being unsafe while on campus, others argue that allowing the weapons actually make them feel safer. In the event of a mass shooting or robbery, their classmates could offer protection before police arrived.
A number of professors have signed a petition against the decision, which refers to the new legislation a "direct assault on our free speech rights." Over 280 professors have signed the petition so far.
University officials said that the majority of students at the school are under the age of 21, which is the legal age to obtain a gun license. According to their estimations, less than 1% of students at the school will be able to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon while on campus.