A tenured professor at the University of Texas says he will not return to teaching next fall because the state’s campus carry law has him fearful for his safety.
Professor Emeritus Daniel S. Hamermesh has taught Introductory Microeconomics at UT for more than 20 years. The class is a requirement for all economics and business majors and regularly has as many as 475 students each term.
“Because of the increased risk of the concealed carry law, I decided it is best not to do this anymore,” Hamermesh told the American-Statesman.
Hamermesh said he might feel comfortable teaching at UT if his class had fewer students. But because it is so large, he would be unable to tell if a student had become disgruntled or was having mental health issues.
Though some faculty have threatened to leave the university over the law that could allow students to carry handguns in classrooms and dorms, Hamermesh is the first known professor at UT who has decided to follow through. His departure became known after the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Texan, obtained a copy of a letter Hamermesh sent to UT President Gregory L. Fenves on Sunday.
Hamermesh said he does not believe the campus carry law will lead to droves of professors leaving the university, but the law will hurt UT’s efforts in attracting academic talent.
“This is the flagship school of Texas, but it affects hiring across the state,” Hamermesh said. “It’s recruitment that’s the issue.”
Hamermesh said he is quitting only in part because of the law. The professor retired last year but had agreed to teach his large lecture course through 2017.
He said he also has opportunities to work at the University of Sydney in Australia and at another university in London.
Campus carry is very much on the mind of officials at UT. The university has hosted two community forums on the issue and is currently working on how to implement the new law, which will take effect on Aug. 1. At those recent forums, polarized views emerged, but the consensus among faculty and students is against it.
The university continues to solicit input from students, staff and others as it mulls policies that could prohibit guns in certain parts of the campus. The law allows universities to set their own limitations, but they cannot outright prohibit guns on campus. UT has created a 19-member group that will recommend policies to the UT System Board of Regents in December.
“I can’t stress how important it is for people with concerns on campus to have their voices heard,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said.