Officials at the University of Texas at Austin recently requested that professors remove “gun free” signs posted on their outwardly facing windows, but the deadline for “voluntary compliance” has passed, and the signs remain.
“Gun Free UT” signs were supposed to come down by September 7. The signs protested Senate Bill 11 (SB 11), the 2015 state law better known as “campus carry.” University spokesman J.B. Bird cited a “content neutral” policy outlined in Chapter 13 of the campus Handbook of Operating Procedures as the impetus for the sign removal request.
On Monday, he told Breitbart Texas by email, “All students, faculty, and staff have the right of free speech and expression on the UT-Austin campus.”
That said, Bird continued, “Consistent with U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the university has policies that use a content-neutral ‘time, place and manner’ approach to regulate speech on campus, including the placement of signs.”
He added, “The university’s rules do not allow signs on windows that face externally to campus.”
Breitbart Texas questioned if anything specifically prompted the issue to come up now. Bird responded, “The proliferation of prohibited signs, including hateful fliers, at UT and on other campuses, has demonstrated the need to follow our long-established, content-neutral rules which focus on the time, place and manner of signage.”
He said “content neutral” viewpoint pertains to other group’s signs as well.
UT-Austin history professor Joan Neuberger organized Gun Free UT to oppose campus carry. SB 11 went into effect in August 2016 at Texas public universities and in August 2017 at community colleges. It allowed licensed handgun owners 21 years of age or older to carry concealed weapons into public university facilities. They must clear a criminal background, mental health, and substance abuse background checks.
The university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures also covers the parameters of SB 11. Basically, it permits concealed carry of handguns by permit holders in outdoor areas, public building and spaces, and classrooms. Some exceptions or “gun free” zones include dormitories, except in common areas such as student lounges. Campus carry is forbidden in certain laboratories, patient care facilities that offer mental health services, and college sporting events. Private institutions of higher learning can opt out. Open carry is banned on campus.
Gun Free UT orchestrated numerous demonstrations over the implementation of SB 11, including a 2016 “dildo” carry called Cocks Not Glocks. The group’s website houses downloadable “Gun Free UT” signs that have been hung in faculty windows on campus including in Neuberger’s office window.
Last week, Neuberger told the Daily Texan, the university’s student-run newspaper, that faculty did not receive “official written directive” to remove the “Gun Free UT” window signs. Instead, she asserted that only “word began to spread” among faculty during August that the anti-gun signs and other outward facing signage needed to be removed.
“What happened this summer is that the chairs were informed by their deans in a message that came from the president that they wanted us to take down the signs,” said Neuberger.
Although the deadline has passed, Bird told Breitbart Texas, “We have been working closely with deans to request that faculty and staff members remove all signs in outward-facing windows, regardless of content. ” He noted, “We will continue to work for voluntary compliance moving forward.”
The UT spokesman did not indicate if or when a mandatory compliance phase might begin.
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