University of Texas architecture dean leaves post over new campus gun law

The dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas has resigned over a new state law that will allow students to carry guns on campus.

Frederick "Fritz" Steiner will leave the Austin university after 15 years in the role to take up the post of dean of Penn Design, the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school. The Pennsylvania university, Steiner's alma mater, announced the appointment yesterday.

Steiner said the incoming law, known as "campus carry", was the reason why he was leaving his post.

"I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry," Steiner told nonprofit news service The Texas Tribune. "I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in."

"Penn is a great institution and I am very happy to go to Penn, but I was approached," Steiner said. "If it wouldn't have been for campus carry, I wouldn't have considered it."

The new law, which was passed last year and takes effect on 1 August, will allow students, faculty and staff over the age of 21 with licences to carry concealed guns to bring their weapons onto campus, including in classrooms.

How the law will be implemented and concerns about safety have been a fraught subject at faculty meetings and among students, according to Steiner.

The rash of mass shootings that continues across the country have prompted some states, including Connecticut and New York, to tighten restrictions on guns and increase background checks on buyers, but other states like Texas have loosened regulations.

The law has caused divisions at the University of Texas, with the university's president Gregory L Fenves stating that the institution had adopted the law reluctantly.

"I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date," he wrote earlier this month.

Some fear the law could cause creative professionals and intellectuals to leave the state.

Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster tweeted: "UT Architecture Dean departs due to campus carry law. Wow. Beginning of a Texas brain drain."

Students for Concealed Carry, a group that supports the new law, admitted in a statement published in The Texas Tribute that worries about guns on campus are taking "a real, measurable toll on the state's institutions of higher education."

But the group added that "campus carry is not to blame for the current atmosphere of fear on Texas college campuses".

UT Austin is ranked in the top 10 architecture schools in the US for undergraduate education, while Penn is among the top rated for graduate schools.

Steiner completed his graduate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school located in Philadelphia. He will take up his new post at the university on 1 July.