University of Texas Dean Quits Partly Due to Campus Gun Law

fredrick_steiner

The recently-introduced campus gun law in Texas is partly to blame for the exit of longtime dean of the University of Texas in favor of another deanship at an Ivy League school.

The Campus Carry law will offer people the ability to carry a concealed weapon on the campus of four-year state universities throughout the state as long as they have a license to do so.  While schools will be able to create gun-free zones, they will not be allowed to do so in classrooms.

School of Architecture Dean Frederick Steiner said the new state law was “a factor” when he thought about leaving his position at the university, which will be effective at the end of June.  He has been dean of the school of architecture on the Austin campus for 15 years.

“I grew up hunting. I don’t see a bunch of quail or pheasant running around the campus,” Steiner told CNN. “Firearms in my view have their place in the world, and the university campus is not one of those places, except for law enforcement and campus police.”

Steiner went on to say he believes the new law could result in additional gunfire on college campuses and self-censoring by faculty members who worry their lectures or grades could anger armed students, reports Michael Martinez for CNN.

He said that the law does not apply to private universities who also receive government research funding, calling it a “part of a larger assault on public universities” by state legislators who have made cuts to school funding and appointed regents who “were not sympathetic to a leading research university.”

Steiner noted how the new law will go into effect on August 1st, which is also the 50th anniversary of a mass shooting at the University of Texas in Austin.  In all, 15 people were killed and at least 30 wounded by a sniper in a campus tower in what would become one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Steiner said he was concerned about what would happen to free speech and the academic freedom of faculty members under the new law, considering the high-stress situations that classrooms, architecture studios, and grading can create.  However, he did say only a small portion of students would be eligible for gun permits, writes Liam Stack for The New York Times.

“If you think of this famous scene in ‘Animal House’ where the dean is telling the fraternity guys to behave themselves, imagine the guys in ‘Animal House’ with guns.”

There are penalties involved for university administrators who do enforce the new law, causing Steiner to uphold a law he does not believe in.  “I don’t want to break any laws.”

Steiner is set to become the new dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.  He received both his master’s and his doctoral degrees from the school in 1986 for regional and city planning.

Despite these feelings, Steiner made no mention of the new law in his letter to colleagues that told them of his decision to step down.  Instead, he wrote, “As an alumnus with three degrees from Penn Design, this is an unparalleled opportunity to lead a school at an institution that means a great deal to me.”

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

Latest posts by Kristin Decarr (see all)