August always brings the return of the school year and this year it also brings the official implementation of campus carry at Texas community colleges.
In order to maintain compliance with Senate Bill 11, which allows licensed owners to carry concealed handguns on the public campuses they attend, Grayson College has outlined its rules and regulations regarding the legislation. Schools are allowed to establish policies as to when and where concealed handguns are permitted, so long as they do not have the effect of generally infringing on the rights of license holders. The law was applied to the state's public universities in August 2016 and applies to community colleges effective Aug. 1 this year. Private colleges and universities are not required to abide by the law, which supporters say increases safety on college campuses and critics decry as dangerous and disruptive of the educational environment.
“We've been very deliberate in our consideration of what we would do in the roll out of this,” Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said of the law. “And we've always had the primary concern of the safety of our faculty, staff and students in mind.”
Policy information provided by Grayson College indicates that concealed handguns will generally be allowed on campus, as well as in student housing. Those who live on campus and wish to store their firearm in their respective rooms must do so in a safe approved by the college. Roommates who express concern over the presence of a firearm in their dorm will be allowed to transfer to a different room. The college will not keep a list of students, faculty or staff who possess a concealed handgun license, nor will any such persons be required to disclose their status as a licence holder. Only law enforcement officers may openly display their firearm on campus, while in the course of their duties.
McMillen said the college's rules and regulations were developed with the help of the school's Campus Carry Task Force and input from the Grayson College community.
“We had a task force that considered the issue,” McMillen said. “I believe there were 10-15 individuals on that and then we had a survey that went out to faculty, staff and students and we gathered information from there. From the survey, we distilled down what the concerns were, then we had follow-up, open campus forums, where we talked about the issues so we could make sure that everyone knew where we were going.”
Under state law, concealed handguns are prohibited from certain areas of campuses and at certain events. These include college-hosted sporting events and UIL competitions, open meetings such as that of the college's school board, disciplinary hearings, official government meetings and judicial proceedings and polling areas for local, state and federal elections.
McMillen said these prohibited areas and events were likely identified due to their potential for disagreement and tension among participating members and those in attendance.
“In a disciplinary hearing, for example, the future of, perhaps, a person's employment, or their grades or their future ability to be in a college program is likely to be the subject of the discussion,” McMillen said. “Those are heightened scenarios.”
McMillen has also established permanent exclusion zones which include the Baptist Student Ministry — a leased property — and any college-sanctioned event in which alcohol is served by an organization subject to the oversight of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Temporary exclusions may also be requested by students, staff and organizations. Those who wish to receive such an exemption must submit a request in writing to the Office of the President at least 90 days before an event is held and provide evidence that a concealed handgun creates some special danger. The college president has the sole authority to designate a specific venue a temporary exclusionary zone, but will however employ a campus carry committee to investigate requests and make recommendations.
McMillen said he believes the Grayson is well positioned for the implementation of campus carry and that policy changes — within the school's rights — may be made at a later date if deemed necessary.
“We think we're as prepared as we can be,” McMillen said. “We do feel like, having watched universities go through this, that we won't have much incident as this rolls out.”