A screenshot of the Weapons Policy included in the graduate assistant's syllabus sent by a student in the course.

During the first week of classes, a University of Utah graduate assistant was reassigned, given additional training and is no longer teaching this semester over a firearm policy the graduate assistant included in their syllabus. The decision was made by university administration on Aug. 22, just two days after fall semester started.

The graduate student wrote in the “Weapons Policy” section of their syllabus that students who carry concealed weapons on campus are restricted to a “3×3 taped square” area without a desk. A screenshot of the syllabus was shared with The Daily Utah Chronicle by a student who was in the class on the day of the incident and wishes to remain anonymous.

According to the anonymous student, a university official spoke to the class on Wednesday, Aug. 22, and addressed the issue.

“One of the students raised their hand and said, ‘I had no idea people could carry guns on campus, I thought they were banned on campus,’” the anonymous student said. “That just shows the ignorance of students of the university because they don’t know the law as far as carrying a gun.”

The grad assistant’s syllabus referred to the U’s free speech zones, and that if those existed, the grad assistant reserved the right to a “Second Amendment zone.” Under Utah’s firearm laws and the U’s firearm policy, which enforces state law regarding firearms on campus, students are allowed to concealed-carry weapons on Utah campuses as long as that student has a permit.

“I am reserving the right to restrict elements of the Second Amendment in my own classroom,” the syllabus read. “If you feel that it is somehow at all appropriate to bring a gun to class (hint: it is not — this is absurd, antisocial, and frightening behavior), you are restricted to spending your time in class in my ‘Second Amendment zone’ a 3×3 taped square on the floor in the very back of the classroom, that will be shared with all other gun carriers.”

“Because of [their] statement and [their] weapons policy, we’re completely unable to have an open discussion on the Second Amendment now,” the student said. “The professor [themselves] did not condone the carry of any weapon.”

When asked if a student had actually stood in the “Second Amendment zone,” the anonymous student responded, “I was very glad that no one stood up and went to the back of the classroom, because who knows what could’ve happened.”

The syllabus has been covered by Fox News and The Washington Post, while the National Rifle Association (NRA) has worked to draw attention to it. The anonymous student spoke with NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen. However, it is not clear who first shared the syllabus with the NRA.

“A course syllabus is an official university document and must adhere to state law and university policy,” said U spokesperson Chris Nelson. When asked if the graduate assistant brought up an important topic for students, Nelson said, “It was not the proper mechanism to raise this.”

“I would also encourage students to review the U’s Student Bill of Rights that is part of the student code,” Nelson said. “If students ever feel their rights have been violated, the Office of the Dean of Students is available to assist them.”

State Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, posted a screenshot of the syllabus on her personal Facebook account, condemning it.

“The students who sent me the screenshot of the U of U class syllabus felt immense pressure and fear,” Lisonbee said. “Isn’t it hurtful to their education that they feel they can’t openly approach their teacher, and feel the need to remain anonymous to receive a good grade?”

In 2017, Lisonbee sponsored HB198, which allows individuals above 18 years old to obtain a concealed-carry provisional permit until that person turns 21, at which point they must renew.

“It seems to me that students should never be afraid to express their views or stand up for their rights in a higher education setting,” Lisonbee wrote.

According to the State Legislature’s website, Utah’s renewal trend for concealed firearm permits is reported to hit 174,078 in 2018. The report also states that in a 20-year span, ranging from 1994 to 2014, 62 percent of concealed firearm permit applicants are out of state residents.

The graduate assistant responsible for the syllabus could not be reached for comment. The new instructor of the course declined to comment on the syllabus.

r.fernandez@dailyutahchronicle.com

@TheChrony

7 COMMENTS

  1. People like this ‘graduate student’ are more dangerous to society than anyone who carries a gun under legitimate concern for self defense. They obviously misunderstand the entire concept of self defense and have never been in any such situation where they have been forced to act in self defense. Say that all of the guns disappear over night, and you no longer have the CHOICE to carry a means of protecting yourself from people who are bigger, stronger, and meaner than you. Then what? Should we forgo the very institution of law that modern western civilization is built upon and go back to barbarism and totalitarianism? Should we be ok with people who are physically weaker being beaten, raped, and silenced by thugs who have no fear of retaliation? Of course not, and even if we did, guns are never going away. Even if they were made illegal overnight, you would have to remove every gun (registered and unregistered) from every person in the country. So it might benefit this individual and others who hold similar hostility to the right to carry a weapon for self defense to accept reality, educate themselves on matters that make them uncomfortable and rethink their highly irrational and somewhat oppressive viewpoints. Not everyone in the classroom should be assumed to be carrying a gun as a part of some malicious plan or power trip, some of these people are well trained veterans, victims of rape or other trauma seeking security, or maybe just people aware of what can really happen when obvious signs of complacency invite potentially violent oppertunists.

  2. Is there a reason the graduate student has not been named? It would seem that students have the right to know who is infringing on their rights and who is making the University look foolish on a national scale.

  3. The graduate student does make a good point that we, as a nation, have decided to restrict free speech to zones quite often. Usually, those zones are located where the people at whom the protest is directed will not be ‘disturbed’ by them. And yet, even as gun violence escalates, we choose to remove gun-free zones in the name of safety while ignoring all the issues that contribute to that violence. Those issues are not just access to guns, but without that easy access would be expressed in different ways. Maybe we’d be willing to address lack of living wages, healthcare and job insecurity, better investment as a society in education and people if we weren’t so invested in protecting the rights of firearms. Hard to tell.

    Still, especially on a campus micro-managed by the Utah legislature, this was not a good method to bring this topic up. Also, it makes those who may have conceal-carry permits feel picked on, which isn’t helpful to having a dialog with the goal of coming up with solutions.

  4. It bothers me that people think that those that carry honestly and lawfully are being label as threats and that we’re somehow “absurd, antisocial, and [elicit] frightening behavior”. I’ve been going to school here everyday for the past couple years and conceal carry everyday while on campus and I’ve not once or have ever stopped any of my professor or instructors from giving their opinion or expressing themselves. I find it equally absurd that people are more concerned with me instead of the people who care nothing for the law and who would want to do harm to the students, teachers, and school I actually care about.

  5. As a parent of a student at the University of Utah, I am appalled and extremely disturbed to learn that this campus allows students the right to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The graduate student was making a point, and good for that graduate student. This is simply a public safety issue. 40 states do not allow concealed weapons on campus.

  6. 1. Am I correct that those who carry concealed weapons in part justify their right to do this by intimating that they will be the ones to act in a dangerous situation? If so, then I would hope that such people know something about courage. But then does it not seem strange that the student who reported this teacher anonymously called down the force of the university administration and the gun-rights lobby instead of first talking to her personally about her policy?

    2. Rep. Lisonbee says that “students should never be afraid to express their views or stand up for their rights in a higher education setting.” But isn’t this precisely what this teacher did? She expressed her views and stood up for her right to a sense of safety in a higher education setting — in a class syllabus. Yes, supporters of concealed carry have a difference understanding of the right to a sense of safety than this instructor does, and their understanding of the right is currently the law in Utah, but does that mean those who express disagreement, albeit in an unconventional way, should be immediately punished? Perhaps the teacher could simply have been told to change her policy and given a warning. If I were a teacher at the University of Utah, I would certainly now be afraid (if I wasn’t already) of expressing my views or standing up for any rights that the state of Utah currently disagrees with.

    • The comment was that no student should feel afraid to express their view or stand up for their rights. Students don’t represent the institution. The teacher does. The teacher didn’t just express their view, they actively discriminated in public form, against law abiding students who do actually have the right to carry according to the law.

      So to answer your question, no that isn’t what the teacher did. The teacher infringed on the rights of the students, enacted a hostile and demeaning climate in the class, and deliberately took excessive academic freedom to infringe upon constitutional and state freedoms and rights. This teacher didn’t promote a discussion in the topic, rather they ostracized and intimidated permitted carriers both in their class and across the campus. Very glad to hear the appropriate response was taken by the university.

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