Graduate Student Reassigned After Syllabus Required Students with Concealed Weapons to Sit in a ‘Second Amendment Zone’

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

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

By Rachelle Fernandez

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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.

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@TheChrony