Court dismisses Texas professors’ attempt to block campus carry

Three female professors at UT Austin filed suit over a campus carry law last year, arguing in part that it would limit their ability to talk about controversial subjects. (Photo: Gun Free UT)

Three female professors at UT Austin filed suit over a campus carry law last year, arguing in part that it would limit their ability to talk about controversial subjects. (Photo: Gun Free UT)

A federal judge last week refused a lawsuit by three University of Texas professors who do not want legal concealed carry in their classes.

U.S. District Judge Earl Leroy Yeakel III found the professors could not prove their case, which centered on First Amendment grounds. The faculty members, three female liberal arts professors whose classwork sometimes touches on controversial subjects such as abortion and unwanted pregnancies, argued the carry of guns in their classes would chill discussion, thus hindering their right to free speech.

Yeakel, a UT alumni appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, held the professors did not show exactly how they were injured by the campus carry law which took effect on public colleges and universities in the state last year.

“Here, Plaintiffs ask the court to find standing based on their self-imposed censoring of classroom discussions caused by their fear of the possibility of illegal activity by persons not joined in this lawsuit,” said Yeakel. “Plaintiffs present no concrete evidence to substantiate their fears, but instead rest on ‘mere conjecture about possible … actions.'”

The professors include Dr. Jennifer Lynn Glass, the Barbara Bush Professor of Liberal Arts; Dr. Lisa Moore, the Archibald T. Hill Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies; and Dr. Mia Carter, an associate professor of English and Modern Studies. Last July they filed suit just weeks before campus carry took effect, seeking an injunction, which was denied by Yeakel who warned at the time the likelihood of the case being successful on its merits was slim.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, named as a defendant in the suit which he previously described as being frivolous, praised the news from the court.

“The court’s ruling today is the correct outcome,” Paxton said in a statement. “The fact that a small group of professors dislike a law and speculate about a ‘chilling effect’ is hardly a valid basis to set the law aside.”

Gun Free UT, the group of faculty, administrators, alumni, parents and students which spearheaded opposition to campus carry at the sprawling university, has largely gone radio silent in recent months, neither posting to social media accounts since March nor issuing any official press releases since last year.

A student protest against the policy, centered around artificial penises, garnered some national attention, with leaders even visiting the Obama-era White House, but has since faded.

As noted last week by the Texas Tribune, since campus carry went into effect last August, “there have been no major incidents and protests on campus have all but disappeared.”