Their claim? Their First Amendment "right to academic freedom" allows them to bar guns from their classrooms.
Unfortunately, the trio brought their alleged tort to the wrong venue--the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (Austin Division)--where Judge Lee Yeakel rejected the claim. In his opinion, Judge Yeakel noted that U.S. courts generally have respected the right of academic freedom, but have not defined it as an absolute right (University of Pennsylvania v. EEOC, USC 1990). Yeakel wrote:
"...neither the campus carry law nor the [University of Texas] campus carry policy is a content-based regulation of speech, nor can either reasonably be construed as a direct regulation of speech. Plaintiffs assert that classroom discussion will be 'circumscribed by the near-certain presence of loaded guns' and that their ability to 'make [their classrooms] truly a marketplace for the robust exchange of ideas will be impaired.' They argue that they are now 'incentivized to err on the side of "trimming their sails," academically speaking, when they push for classroom debate.' Perhaps they are correct. But the campus carry law and policy do not direct plaintiffs either toward or away from any particular subject or point of view. The provisions do not prohibit, require or even mention any form of speech by professors of the university. The burden of which plaintiffs complain therefore does not fit within any recognized right of academic freedom."
It takes a bit of a mental stretch to come to the trio's erroneous conclusion. Perhaps the presence of guns might cause the members of the trio to experience fear. In turn, this fear could impede their right to happiness. However, that unalienable right—endowed upon all human beings by their Creator and for which governments are created to protect—is found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence not the U.S. Constitution.
Judge Yeakel noted that he "searched"—went as far back as the ratification of the U.S. Constitution—for evidence of the right purported by the trio of stormy petrels. However, Yeakel found "no precedent" for the idea that faculty members possess
a right of academic freedom so broad that it allows them such autonomous control of their classrooms—both physically and academically—that their concerns override decisions of the Legislature and the governing body of the institution that employs them.
A constitution "right" to academic freedom? Only in the minds of these three stormy petrels and their ilk who believe they are superior to government unless, of course, they are the governors.
Let the discussion begin...
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