After Hot Yoga shooting, FSU president speaks against gun violence

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If there was any doubt where Florida State University President John Thrasher stood on keeping guns off campuses, it was dispelled Wednesday.

During his annual address to the Faculty Senate, Thrasher spoke out against gun violence as he remembered victims of the Nov. 2 Hot Yoga studio shooting in Tallahassee.

“I am deeply saddened about the loss of Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, a professor in the College of Medicine and Maura Binkley, a senior English and German major,” said Thrasher, who recently completed his fourth year as FSU president. Five other people, including FSU students, were injured.

“But I must tell you, I was also angry,” Thrasher told the audience gathered for his annual state of the university address in the College of Medicine auditorium. “The gunman deprived the world of two smart, kind and compassionate people, and the memory of that terrible night will always be with those who survived. I think the impact on our community has been profound.”

Thrasher said society “has to think about how we can keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people,” and how to balance the rights of gun owners “with the rights of Americans to pursue life, liberty and happiness.”

People, Thrasher said, have the right to feel safe everywhere they go, “and certainly on college campuses.”

“That’s why I have fought for many years to keep guns off campus, and I am going to make my annual pledge to you again today: Guns have no place on a college campus, and I will continue to fight against any effort to allow them.”

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Speaking afterward, Thrasher said the Hot Yoga deaths, as well as other mass shootings across the country, have renewed interest among faculty.

“I continue to be concerned about it,” Thrasher said. “I think they need to hear I am as strong as I ever was on the position.”

Later in his address, Thrasher’s mood lightened. He praised Sunday’s national women’s soccer championship victory, following on the heels of the women’s national softball championship in June.

Thrasher also highlighted FSU’s growth in its national rankings, his commitment to addressing compensation for faculty and getting funding for new construction on campus.

Providing for student success is the university’s top priority, and he noted the hiring of 240 new faculty members this fall, including 125 in new positions.

“We expect as many as 60,000 students – a new record – will apply to FSU by the February deadline,” Thrasher said. “That’s a lot of competition for about 6,200 spots in next year’s freshman class.”

He said the university’s success in research, national academics rankings and student achievement all have played a role in the national view of Florida State.

“While we certainly are proud of our strong athletics program, we’re glad that sports are no longer the first thing that some people think of when you say Florida State,” Thrasher said, drawing applause.

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