Students and faculty on both campuses of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are asking for more security when the campus carry law takes effect next August.
Nearly 100 campus community members attended two town hall meetings last week in Edinburg and Brownsville.
Before the Brownsville meeting started Thursday, about 180 students signed a petition against the carrying of guns on university campuses.
“We’re a group of students, faculty and professors who are against this new law that will allow students, or just people, bringing guns on campus,” said Adan Lozano, a Spanish graduate student. “I was explaining the movement ‘Dogs Not Guns,’ it’s kind of like, it’s a form of protest like the UT Austin [students] did.”
UT Austin students started a movement two weeks ago in which they will carry a dildo to campus on the first day of school, Aug. 24, 2016, in protest of the concealed campus carry law, which takes effect Aug. 1, 2016.
“It says specifically in the rules that you can’t bring your pets or sex toys on campus, but now you can guns?” Lozano said. “Like, why would I feel safer with guns around and not my dog? That’s kind of like the point of this, to show we’re not satisfied with this bill.
Hopefully, get the UT System attention and make something out of this.”
The rules and policies created by institutions cannot prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns on the campuses.
Mark Kaswan, a political science assistant professor, spoke against the law during the Brownsville meeting.
“The fact that we’re having to go through this conversation really makes me sad,” Kaswan said. “It makes me sad because what it represents, I think, in a very direct and visceral way, is that the government of the state of Texas rules on a basis of a culture of fear. … In other words, the government is not governing in a sense in terms of what is in the common interest, what it is for the common welfare of people but on the basis of the kind of sense of fear.”
Kaswan surveyed his students on the campus carry law.
“In the results, students overwhelmingly opposed the new law,” he said. “Over 75 percent said that they do not think that people should be able carry guns on campus at all. Over 60 percent of the students expressed the concern that the presence of concealed weapons on campus would make a campus quote ‘more dangerous’ as opposed to quote ‘safer.’”
Daniel Skaines, a management information systems in business administration senior and veteran, spoke in favor of Senate Bill 11.
“Now, for concealed handguns on campus, a lot of people are just thinking, ‘Well, we’re living in fear’ and ‘Why do we need a gun’ and that’s the way they look at this policy,” Skaines said. “On the contrary, I personally feel that we don’t need this nanny state of, ‘You know what, let the police handle everything.’ If it’s a crime, the police have their job but, you know, what if I’m going to a dark alley and there’s no police around or one of these trails at [the Brownsville campus] when I got a 9 o’clock class, nine times out of 10 there’s not going to be an officer there to hold my hand. If someone jumps out of a tree and stabs me, I’m probably going to die if I’m not able to defend myself. So, being able to defend myself is going to make me, personally, feel safe.”
In the Edinburg meeting last Wednesday, Eugenio Treviño, a political science and communication major, suggested there be more security on campus.
“The reality is either with or without the campus carry law, shootings are always a possibility,” Treviño said. “So, I feel maybe like a trained security guard, police officer, someone that is trained or someone totally dedicated to defuse these sort of situations … maybe having one of those trained individuals in every building, if possible. If not, around in traffic areas. I think that would be a great idea.”
Chief Legal Officer Karen Adams serves on the Senate Bill 11 Campus Carry Working Group, which was appointed by UTRGV President Guy Bailey.
“When we hear things that we feel we need to clarify, we do try to jump in,” Adams said last Wednesday. “People are expressing their concerns about safety. That’s coming across loud and clear and, you know, we have the challenge of trying to balance concerns about their safety with what the law requires us to do.”
Within the provisions of the law, universities are allowed to consult the campus community for feedback on rules and policies that can be established, said Ben Reyna, associate vice president for Security and Campus Affairs and chairman of the working group.
The next town hall meetings will take place from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Brownsville’s El Gran Salón and from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday in Edinburg’s Student Union Theater.
Members of the campus community may submit comments to campuscarry@ utrgv.edu.
–Rider News Editor Angela Cantu contributed to this story.