President David Leebron informed students, faculty and staff Nov. 30 that Rice will exercise the “opt out” provision of Texas Senate Bill 11, which allows individuals with concealed handgun licenses to carry a weapon on college campuses.
Passed by the Texas Legislature last spring and signed by the governor in June, the “campus-carry bill” included a provision allowing private universities to opt out after consulting with their students, faculty and staff.
“I write today to share my decision, based on an extensive consultation process that included many of you, to maintain Rice University’s policy of a gun-free campus,” Leebron said in a campuswide email.
“My decision was informed by a working group led by Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby that consulted with the Faculty Senate, Staff Advisory Committee, Student Association and Graduate Student Association about whether Rice should opt out of allowing concealed weapons on campus,” Leebron said. “Each of those organizations consulted with their members and collected feedback through online surveys and meetings. They shared that feedback with the working group, and the decision or sentiment expressed by each of these groups was overwhelmingly in favor of Rice exercising its ability under the legislation to opt out.
“Many of the comments submitted were very passionate, reflecting a belief that guns on our campus would make the campus less safe and harm our national and international reputation. Some parents also wrote in to oppose guns on our campus. In addition, the two most relevant groups on our campus in terms of addressing the risks and benefits of this decision, the Rice University Police Department and professionals from Student Health Services and the Counseling Center, were consulted and strongly urged that we exercise the opt-out provision.”
Leebron said none of the constituencies consulted endorsed having guns on our campus. “In fact, each overwhelmingly opposed it,” he said.
“Maintaining the safety of our students and employees is our highest priority,” Leebron said. “There is no evidence that allowing the carrying of guns on our campus will make the campus safer, and the most knowledgeable professional groups believe that guns will make campuses less safe. I agree with that conclusion, and we will therefore retain our current policy prohibiting weapons on our campus. The Rice University Police Department is trained and fully capable of doing its part to keep this campus safe.”
Leebron expressed appreciation for “the thoughtful and comprehensive way the working group and representative organizations went about this important process” and thanked everyone who contributed to the process and the outcome.
The campus-carry law’s requirement to allow people with concealed handgun licenses to carry a weapon on college campuses becomes effective Aug. 1, 2016, but Rice’s current policy will remain in effect.