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Professor To Take Job In Pa. After Texas Allows Guns On Campus


Many Americans have been moving to Texas in recent years. Fritz Steiner says it's time the move away. He is dean of the school of architecture at the University of Texas, and he plans to quit before a new Texas law takes effect. The law makes Texas the ninth state to allow people to carry concealed weapons in public university buildings. It takes effect August 1, the 50th anniversary of a famous shooting at the University of Texas.

FRITZ STEINER: I grew up around guns. I grew up hunting, and I also learned to be safe around guns. So my reaction is there's sort of an appropriate place for guns. There's not a bunch of quail or pheasants running around campus. It's not a hunting environment but a learning environment. So my reaction was it was an inappropriate place for firearms.

INSKEEP: What is it that you think might happen in a classroom?

STEINER: I don't know. It's just that I don't think that necessarily having a handgun in a classroom is conducive to free speech and exchange of ideas. Here in our school, in architecture, a lot of our work is building projects, making projects and conceiving buildings and environments. And students work very hard on those projects. And many of them stay up all hours of the night. And we critique each other, we critique the project. And those can be very stressful because someone has invested a lot of time and energy in a project and sometimes it may not be successful. And so as a teacher, part of my job is to say, you know, that's not working very well. So it's a very emotional, very stressful period of time. And in that kind of situation - and sometimes people have lost their temper and so on. Somehow a handgun in that scenario doesn't seem to add anything positive to the learning atmosphere.

INSKEEP: What did you decide to do?

STEINER: I was faced as a dean to administrate a law that I didn't think is right and that my faculty and most of my students were very upset about. I became open to the possibility of looking at other schools. And it just so happened that my alma mater was one of those, an institution I have great affection for. And so I proceeded with discussions with them, and it's worked out. So I'll be moving there.

INSKEEP: And what is that alma mater?

STEINER: The University of Pennsylvania.

INSKEEP: Which is in Philadelphia.

STEINER: The city of brotherly love. And the mascot is the Quaker, which is the antithesis of carrying firearms, I guess.

INSKEEP: Good philosophy from your point view, although let's be frank, it's a big eastern city, bigger than Austin. Are you sure it's going to be safer for you there?

STEINER: Well, I'm not sure if it's going to be safer or not. Every place has its own challenges. But I won't be responsible for managing people with firearms in the classroom and in the studios at the University of Pennsylvania.

INSKEEP: I can hear the gun rights advocates' response to this, though. Someone might say if a person, if a student is angry or disturbed and they want to carry a firearm concealed, they're going to do it, regardless of what the rule is. And the rule if it was going to be a restriction on firearms is only going to affect other people.

STEINER: So if we follow that through - so we all should have firearms and then settle our disagreements by pulling our weapons out and shooting each other? I mean, that's...

INSKEEP: I think that is the gun rights argument. Or to be more precise that people could defend themselves in a situation like that.

STEINER: Yeah. But again, as someone who grew up around guns, that doesn't make any sense. It's sort of a return to the wild West, where whoever draws fastest prevails. And even from those times, we know that so much can go wrong with a weapon. I should mention that the university's police department was totally against this law. And they're the ones who our trained to use firearms and use to diffuse situations like this.

INSKEEP: So are a lot of your fellow professors switching schools?

STEINER: I can only speak for myself. But I've had two or three faculty come to me and say they're thinking about the same thing. So I wouldn't be surprised if others are leaving, too.

INSKEEP: Dr. Steiner, thanks very much.

STEINER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Fritz Steiner is leaving his job as dean of the school of architecture at the University of Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.