Moody dean candidate withdraws, citing campus carry

Zach Lyons

Siva Vaidhyanathan, a finalist for deanship of the Moody College of Communication, took himself out of the running in response to the University’s decision on campus carry.

Vaidhyanathan became one of several faculty members who has turned down or left UT at least in part due to the passage of Senate Bill 11, which allows anyone with a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry their handgun on college campuses. Among these is architecture dean Frederick Steiner, who cited the new law among his reasons for leaving UT in an interview with the Texan earlier this month.

As a UT alumnus, Vaidhyanathan said working for the University would’ve been a “dream job” — but when President Fenves released his Feb. 17 statement on UT’s implementation of S.B. 11, Vaidhyanathan reconsidered. According to the statement, professors would be unable to ban guns from their classrooms. If put in a situation requiring him to discipline a professor for violating this rule, Vaidhyanathan said he’d be unwilling to make that call.

“I would have to side with the professor and therefore violate state law,” Vaidhyanathan said. “That would mean I’d be fired pretty quickly, I wasn’t going to put myself or my family in that situation.”

Along with concerns about students having firearms during heated class discussions, Vaidhyanathan said he thinks campus carry limits a professor’s autonomy.

“I have the ability to say students shouldn’t have laptops and cellphones out,” Vaidhyanathan said. “I think that should extend to firearms.”

Jacob Williamson, founder of the UT chapter of Students for Concealed Carry and a computer science and electrical engineering senior, said while he thinks those who oppose campus carry are misguided and reactionary, it is within Vaidhyanathan’s prerogative to withdraw because of the rules.

“[Part of the] job requirement is firing people who disobey state law, so if you don’t want to do that, if you’re not up to that task, by all means find another job,” Williamson said, “I have nothing against him for that.”

Neuroscience professor Max Snodderly, a member of Gun Free UT, said that, beyond campus carry’s effect on faculty, he was frustrated at the government’s decision to pass the law in the face of collegiate opposition.

“It’s insulting behavior on the part of the legislature since they’ve been told by every academic constituency, ‘we don’t want it,’ and they do it anyway,” Snodderly said.