The University of Texas in 2014 inaugurated the "Dr. Harry Edwards Lectures on Sport and Society," honoring one of the country's best known scholar-activists.
Now, Edwards says that he is ending his association with the university to protest the Texas campus concealed carry law. He has asked that the lecture forum no longer use his name. Edwards wrote in a letter published at the Huffington Post that the law is "objectionable on grounds of educational principle, indefensible on grounds of practical reality, and unmanageable in terms of inevitable unintended consequences."
Edwards founded, along with Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the Olympic Project for Human Rights in 1967. Smith and Carlos staged the Black Power salute the next year at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. Edwards later earned a doctorate from Cornell University and held a position as professor of sociology for three decades at University of California, Berkeley, where he taught courses including the sociology of sport. At age 73, he remains one of the country's most prominent voices on race, class and activism in sports.
UT-Austin and other campuses have adopted policies allowing professors to ban guns in their individual offices. But a student group backing the law has protested even those exceptions in letters to the Texas Attorney General, the UT System Board of Regents and Gregory Fenves, president of the Austin campus. UT has also adopted rules banning concealed weapons from some "ticketed events" at the Erwin Center, which hosts the Texas men's and women's basketball teams as well as other large events.
Edwards argued in his letter that the law poses real threats to open discourse and debate and safety on campus. He highlighted the opposition of first responders to campus concealed carry laws in the eight states where they have been implemented. Edwards said that excepting athletic environments from the rule would further alienate athletes from "normal student life and expectations."
"My decision was an exceedingly difficult one, but silence is evil's greatest and most consistently dependable ally," Edwards wrote.
His remarks from the 2014 inaugural lecture at UT can be viewed here.
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