Faculty members cite campus carry as reason to leave University

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Frederick Steiner is the Dean of the School of Architecture. Dean Steiner will leave Austin for the University of Pennsylvania partly due to concerns with campus carry.
Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Growing up in a family of hunters, Frederick Steiner, dean of the Architecture School, got his first gun when he was 11 years old. 

“I grew up hunting,” Steiner said. “I grew up hunting rabbits and pheasants. My brothers and I hunted. My father taught us how to hunt. It’s part of why I enjoy the outdoors
so much.” 

But Steiner doesn’t want those guns in his classroom — and that is why, in part, Steiner will leave UT for the University of Pennsylvania. Steiner said declining support from the state legislature, including the passage of campus carry, were factors that led him to consider other institutions last fall.

“I didn’t feel [campus carry] was a law I agreed with and could implement,” Steiner said. “In the wrong hands, [guns are] quite clearly dangerous.” 

Steiner’s upcoming departure is the second high-profile instance of a faculty member who has decided to leave the university. Economics professor Daniel Hamermesh announced he was leaving last fall, and physics and astronomy professor Steven Weinberg said he would ban students from carrying guns in his classrooms.  

Steiner said other faculty members have confided to him that they are also considering leaving the University.

“Many of the faculty and administrators at UT are constantly being recruited by other universities,” Steiner said. “[Campus carry] has been raised [as a concern] by people we’re trying to recruit and people we’re trying to retain. It’s a topic that wasn’t brought up a year ago, but it is now.” 

Many faculty members have spoken out against campus carry since Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 11, allowing for the concealed carry of weapons on campus, last June. Both Gun-Free UT, a UT faculty group opposed to campus carry, and Students for Concealed Carry have said they may file litigation in response to UT President Gregory Fenves’ decision to adopt the recommendations of the working group, which recommended allowing guns in classrooms.

Fenves said he is aware of the issue and said he is tracking the number of prospective faculty members and students who cite campus carry as a reason not to come to UT.

“I have to have an annual report [for] the legislature,” Fenves said. “I’ll let them know what that impact is.” 

When recruiting prospective faculty candidates concerned about campus carry, Fenves said he laid out the facts and the expectations for campus carry, stating that the number of concealed carry license holders is relatively small. 

“The question does come up,” Fenves said. “Once we lay out the facts and our expectations for safety, for most people, they factor that into their decision. For some, it has an impact — and for many, it does not.” 

English professor Lisa Moore said she would comply with the law when teaching classes next fall, but said she fears campus carry will stifle academic freedom in her classroom. Moore said a Harvard professor withdrew from a search for a faculty position in the UT Women and Gender Studies department because of SB 11, as well as a prospective student from “one of the top [high] schools in
the country.” 

“I will have to start each semester by telling students that I am not allowed to ask them not to bring their guns to class, and then outlining the reasons I would make such a request if the law permitted me,” Moore wrote in an email.