Concealed handguns won’t be allowed on Texas Wesleyan University’s campus.
That’s what Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach on Friday decided — after gathering feedback from students and faculty at the private school over the past few months — and the university board of trustees affirmed.
“Texas Wesleyan’s current weapons policy will not change and our campus will remain gun free,” Slabach said in a letter to students, faculty and staff.
Texas Wesleyan’s decision comes as private colleges across the state are trying to answer the same question of whether to allow concealed handguns on their campus.
Our campus will remain gun free. Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach
Already, a number of private universities — including Texas Christian University, Rice University and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth — have determined that their campuses will be off-limits to anyone carrying concealed handguns.
A number of students and professors agreed with the trustees’ decision.
“Our university is about one thing and one thing only: education,” said Jay Brown, a psychology professor at Texas Wesleyan. “It’s about faculty teaching and students learning. Anything that interferes with that process shouldn’t be there.”
Lyndsey Bessinger, a junior and resident assistant at Wesleyan, said she had mixed feelings about the issue.
“I personally saw merit in campus carry,” the Fort Worth junior said. “(But) it would have scary to have guns on campus ... roommates could always get a hold of them.
“I would have supported a decision either way.”
Starting in August, Texas becomes one of a handful of states allowing concealed weapons to be carried on some college campuses, along with Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
This has been an increasingly controversial issue in Texas since lawmakers passed a “campus carry” law, letting licensed Texans carry concealed handguns into buildings at public universities as of August and at community colleges in 2017.
Private colleges have the ability to opt out; public universities may create gun-free zones on part, but not all, of the campus.
Starting in August, Texas becomes one of a handful of states allowing concealed weapons to be carried on some college campuses.
A separate measure allowing licensed Texans to openly carry holstered handguns throughout the state as of earlier this month does not apply to college campuses.
OK to carry in some classrooms
Texans with concealed handgun licenses have been able to carry on college campuses, but not in buildings, since lawmakers approved the concealed handgun law 20 years ago, lawmakers say.
This new measure lets them carry them into dorms or classrooms, instead of requiring them to take their handguns back to their vehicles before entering the buildings.
The only people legally allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus are those who have a concealed handgun permit, meaning they are at least 21 and have met requirements including training and proficiency tests.
Officials at public colleges have said the plan could cost nearly $50 million in coming years — because additional officers, training, storage facilities and security technology would be needed — and that expense that might be passed to students.
Wesleyan has held a series of open forums and reviewed feedback from students, staff and faculty, as well as discussing the issue with the Student Government Association, Alumni Association Board, the Student Life Committee and the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs.
925,000 people in Texas are licensed to carry a weapon.
Slabach’s letter to the campus noted that “the overwhelming majority of feedback” was to not allow campus carry.
He said many security upgrades have been made at the campus in the past two years, including adding 38 security cameras, electronic gates and fences around dorms, enhanced lighting across campus, a full-time security dispatcher, five security officers providing round-the-close security and additional off-duty Fort Worth police officers who monitor the campus and basketball and soccer games.
And he said six emergency call boxes will be installed around campus by mid-March.
Omar Dominguez, a student life ambassador and junior at Wesleyan, said he believes security guards protect those on campus.
“I trust Wesleyan security,” he said. “They can handle the job.”
Campus reaction varies
In Texas, more than 925,000 people, around 4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents, have a license to carry, according to the most recent Texas Department of Public Safety statistics.
Whatever the numbers, Zahraa Saheb, a 19-year-old junior originally from Iraq, said she’s very glad trustees made Texas Wesleyan off limits to guns.
“Originally from Iraq, I grew up with guns,” said Saheb, vice president of the TWU Student Government Association. “I don’t want to be in a room with guns that could harm me or my peers.”
Not everyone agrees.
I fear for my life ... when I go to class every day.
Alcira Katagiri, Wesleyan student from Arlington
During a campus carry forum last year, Alcira Katagiri, a 23-year-old junior from Arlington, said this is about public safety.
“I fear for my life ... when I go to class every day,” he said. “Why not give us the possibility, the potential, to defend ourselves?”
And Breanna Lockwood said she understands that many people are afraid of guns, but that fear isn’t worth sacrificing anyone’s life.
“Fear does not trump a God given right, a constitutional right,” said the 20-year-old Arlington junior who plans to get a concealed handgun license as soon as she’s 21. “We are not safe anywhere any more. That’s just the harsh reality.”
Even so, Dennis Hall, dean of students at Wesleyan, said the majority of people he spoke with about campus carry hoped the college would opt out.
“It’s a scary proposition to think about ... guns on any college campus,” he said. “I’m often speaking with students during very emotional, challenging times.
“Not having to have that worry (of anyone carrying a concealed handgun), ... not installing metal detectors, ... there’s a certain amount of relief that comes with that.”