Ken Starr

Baylor University’s Student Senate voted last week to support administrators’ plans to continue banning guns from campus.

A new state law taking effect Aug. 1 requires public colleges and universities to allow concealed handgun license holders to carry guns on many parts of their campuses, but private universities can opt out.

Before private schools make a decision, officials are legally obligated to consult faculty, staff and students.

Baylor’s Student Senate voted 30-6 to opt out and continue banning guns. Student Body President Pearson Brown said he will present a portfolio of student perspectives to President and Chancellor Ken Starr soon.

Starr said at a Texas Tribune symposium in November that he is certain Baylor will opt out of the campus carry requirement, which is part of Senate Bill 11.

“We have made it clear all along that the university believes that guns on our campus are not a good idea in general,” spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said. “We believe they would introduce potential challenges to campus safety and make more difficult the work of our public safety officers.”

She also said Starr intends to discuss his plans for campus carry at a board of regents meeting in February.

While the new law requires administrators to consult students, the Student Senate’s authority is limited to making suggestions to university officials.

“It’s such a complex issue that we need to hear students voice their concerns on both sides of the argument,” Brown said.

The final report to Starr will have all student feedback the group has collected, including a poll emailed to all students asking if the university should continue to ban guns or change its policy when the new law goes into effect.

Out of 3,327 responses, 62 percent said Baylor should not allow guns on campus, 34 percent said Baylor should allow guns and 3 percent were unsure. The responses represent 22 percent of Baylor students.

Brown cited the survey results as he presented his bill suggesting Baylor opt out of the campus carry requirement.

“When we were first approached with this idea knowing that Baylor, in order to reach a decision, was going to have to consult students, we wanted to provide an outlet for every student to voice opinions and concerns,” Brown said at the meeting. “I look at the first line in every senate bill we read: ‘Student senate is elected by the student body to represent and voice the opinions of students.’ ”

As part of student consultation, student government members hosted information tables in the Bill Daniel Student Center, focus group meetings with student organization leaders, a discussion with university officials and a public deliberation.

After the deliberation, just over half of the 35 students there wanted the university to allow campus carry.

In the focus group meetings, two organizations wanted to allow campus carry, three wanted to continue banning it and two were split on the decision.

Deliberative process

“We truly appreciate that our students are discussing these kinds of important and complex issues,” Fogleman said. “Our student government has provided multiple opportunities for our students to engage in active conversations this semester about campus carry. That’s the democratic and deliberative process that we encourage.”

Senior senator Chase Hardy said he supports campus carry and offered a compromise measure for the other student representatives to consider. Hardy proposed allowing certain groups, including veterans, to carry guns on campus.

He said veterans on campus are qualified to carry guns, and it would be wrong if the university bans guns completely.

“I think that with the failure of this bill, we’re creating an environment of Baylor bait for those who seek harm to other human beings,” Hardy said.

Before Senate debate, Austin Ng of Baylor Democrats said allowing guns on campus would make existing problems worse.

“Guns would only make things such as impromptu shootings, suicides and domestic violence ending in murder more likely,” Ng said.

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