In 2013 the Kansas legislature amended the Personal and Family Protection Act to allow the concealed carry of firearms on and within all public facilities. Before the enactment of that provision, the state’s public universities had been among the institutions that could seek an exemption from the state’s permissive concealed firearm provisions. As a result of the 2013 legislation, KU, as well as other public universities in the state, will lose its exemption on July 1, 2017.
Earlier this month, the drafted KU policy for implementing concealed carry on campus was approved by the governance committee of the Board of Regents. The drafted policy can be found here.
In light of these developments, the faculty of the KU School of Public Affairs and Administration issues the following statement.
The KU School of Public Affairs and Administration
A Statement Regarding Campus Concealed Carry
The University of Kansas asserts, as a key part of its mission statement, that it “is dedicated to preparing its students for lives of learning and for the challenges educated citizens will encounter in an increasingly complex and diverse global community.” The faculty of the School of Public Affairs and Administration strongly believe that allowing the concealed carry of weapons in campus buildings compromises the creation of a safe learning environment that is a necessary pre-condition for the achievement of that objective. We are concerned that allowing firearms on campus will likely frustrate our efforts to encourage and promote student engagement around a range of difficult and challenging issues, which could powerfully undermine a fundamental dimension of the University’s mission.
As is clearly the case with many disciplines across the breadth of an institution like KU, effective education that prepares students for lives of learning and for the challenges of educated citizenship in the world of public affairs and administration will often take classroom discussions onto terrain that is unconventional and controversial. Robust engagement with what sits on that terrain is at the core of the educational experience that we commit to provide for our students.
We believe that in a learning environment that welcomes the presence of concealed firearms, fear of triggering violent escalation will produce strong student reluctance to express unconventional or controversial ideas. A “learning environment” so constituted fails to measure up to what must be a defining characteristic of our classrooms, and the fear-based chill that is imposed upon the free and robust exchange of ideas as a result, is antithetical to how our classrooms must function. It is paramount for our students to be safe. Further, however, for us to generate the engagement associated with meaningful learning, it is equally paramount that they feel safe.
Thus, our most ardent present concern is to create and maintain a learning environment that cultivates critical thinking, engaged discussion, dissent, and intellectual debate. We believe that the authorized presence of concealed firearms will contribute to an environment of fear and in doing so, will undermine the University’s effort to achieve its fundamental educational mission. Because we believe that such weapons have no useful place within an educational environment, we strongly support measures that enable colleges and universities to prohibit concealed weapons from their campuses.