The Economic and Academic Downsides of Texas' Campus Carry Law

Mar 3, 2016

The University of Texas is preparing to search for a new Dean for its Architecture School. Outgoing Dean Fritz Steiner recently announced he was leaving his post ahead of a new statewide law allowing permitted gun owners to carry a concealed handgun on campus.  

Officials and experts can’t pinpoint exactly how much it will cost the university to replace Fritz Steiner, but UT Austin and other public colleges and universities could soon discover a financial cost to the law.

Audrey June with the Chronicle of Higher Education says finding a replacement for Steiner could be complicated.

"One of the things that is going to be tough, I think, is that you’re trying to replace a dean in this instance who has built up a school to have a really good reputation under his tenure," June says. "So, that adds a level of complexity, because the school operates at a high level, and that’s something that UT Austin senior administrators want to maintain."

June says there is a growing trend among universities to seek outside help to filling high level positions like that.

"Nine times out of 10, the work of hiring that level person is going to be turned over to an executive search firm," she says.

Search firms can cost schools thousands of dollars. But, June says the real cost will be to the school’s reputation, if more faculty members leave because of campus carry policy. Last October, microeconomics professor Daniel Hamermesh announced he would leave UT because of the law

"This makes UT look like a bunch of crazies," he told KUT. "This makes the choice of coming to the university less attractive, and that’s going to hurt the university and hurt public higher education in Texas.”

President Gregory Fenves told The Austin American-Statesman last month that he is “very concerned about the effect of concealed carry on recruitment and retention after the newspaper reported that UT Austin's Moody College of Communication lost a dean candidate because of his concerns about guns on campus.

The candidate told the newspaper last month would have a "chilling effect" on classroom discussions because of the possible presence of weapons.