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Design Moves

The Dean Of Architecture At UT Austin Just Resigned—Because Of A Gun Law

Frederick Steiner says a new law permitting the carry of concealed weapons in Texas catalyzed his move.

The Dean Of Architecture At UT Austin Just Resigned—Because Of A Gun Law

Photo: via UT

The University of Texas, Austin, just lost the dean of its top-ranked architecture school. Frederick Steiner, who has served as dean since 2001, will begin a new position as dean of The University of Pennsylvania School of Design on July 1, 2016. The reason for his departure? SB 11, a controversial bill that permits students to carry concealed weapons on public college campuses in Texas, the Texas Tribune reports.

"I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry," he said in an interview. "I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in."

Gregory L. Fenves, UT Austin's president, issued a letter saying that while he does not support guns on his campus and empathizes with the safety concerns that faculty, staff, and students expressed, he has to uphold the law.

Research shows that guns do not make for a safer environment—no matter how much rabid proselytizing the NRA and other firearm-advocate groups spew. Now, Texas's education system is feeling the ripple effects of loosening the reins on gun control.

The pro-gun group Students for Concealed Carry sent the Texas Tribune a baffling statement in response to Steiner's resignation: "Just as witches were not to blame for the Salem witch trials, and just as vaccines are not to blame for the negative results of the anti-vaccine movement, campus carry is not to blame for the current atmosphere of fear on Texas college campuses."

Steiner is not alone in his perspective, but is one of the highest profile faculty members to take a direct course of action. Lisa Moore, a professor of English and women’s and gender studies at UT Austin, told the Guardian that the legislation "is crippling our ability to fulfill the mandate set forth in the Texas constitution, which directs the state to provide its citizens with a university ‘of the first class.’"

Steiner was a well-respected figure in the architecture community at UT. It remains to be seen if the university can recruit a replacement who matches Steiner's caliber or if, as architecture critic (and Texas resident) Mark Lamster tweeted, this is the beginning of Texas's "brain drain."

We reached out to Steiner for comment and will update the story if we hear back.

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