Daniel Hamermesh to Leave UT Over Campus Carry

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In a letter to UT president Greg Fenves this week, economics professor emeritus Daniel Hamermesh announced he will leave UT-Austin because of his concerns about guns on campus.

Hamermesh cited the fact that he teaches large courses with hundreds of students as a key reason for his decision.

“With a huge group of students my perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has been substantially enhanced by the concealed-carry law,” he wrote. Hamermesh wrote that he will teach at the University of Sydney in Australia next fall instead.

Hamermesh told the Alcalde that his concerns about guns on campus were a major factor in his decision to leave UT, but not the only factor. “I have a lot of opportunities elsewhere,” he said. “I think I’d feel very differently if I didn’t teach large numbers of students. Most students here are fantastic, but in any group you’re going to get a small chance of having somebody who is out of his mind, and with 500 students that chance gets bigger.”

Hamermesh is a prominent economist whose research frequently makes national headlines. His work has been published in more than 100 scholarly journals and has been featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, TIME, and People, among others. In 2011, he appeared on The Daily Show to discuss his finding that beautiful people are happier.

He said that he believes the law will have a bigger effect on new faculty recruitment than it will on retention.

“This place has so many good things to talk about,” Hamermesh said. “Nonetheless, this is all over the news. I have no doubt that people with alternatives—and those are the good people, the ones you want to hire—are going to be affected. I’m sure we’ll lose a few people.”

Joan Neuberger, a history professor and co-chair of the anti-campus carry group Gun-Free UT, said she was not surprised by Hamermesh’s decision.

“Most people I know don’t want to teach around guns,” Neuberger said. “People at the beginning of their careers have fewer options. But for those who have a choice, I would not be at all surprised if they chose to go somewhere else.”

In an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, sociology professor Javier Auyero wrote that his fears about campus carry will affect how he recruits faculty. “Could I now, in good conscience, attempt to persuade a prospective graduate student or faculty (the ‘top talent’ the university seeks to attract) to join us ostriches? I don’t think I can,” Ayuero wrote.

While opponents of campus carry have been more vocal in recent weeks, the law also has defenders on campus. Tina Maldonado, a senior administrative associate at the Applied Research Laboratories, spoke in support of the new legislation at two public forums hosted by the university. Maldonado, who said she is a firearms instructor, said that she believes concealed handguns will not make the campus less safe. “Statistics show that CHL-holders are the most law-abiding members of our society,” Maldonado said at the second forum on Oct. 5. “Gun safety has to be first and foremost.”

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said that university leaders and the Campus Carry Working Group welcome all feedback on the issue of campus carry. “We understand the concerns that have been raised by Dr. Hamermesh and by other faculty members, and we encourage the campus community to be part of the ongoing discussion about how to implement this law effectively on our campus,” Susswein said.

The working group is expected to release its recommendations by December.

Read our TXEXplainer on campus carry here, and read Hamermesh’s letter to Fenves below:

Daniel Hamermesh’s Letter to President Fenves

Photo by Anna Donlan

 

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