The law which Professor Hamermesh mislabels the "concealed-carry law" is the Campus Carry Law, which passed the last session of the Texas Legislature earlier this year and will take effect on 1 August 2016. The law allows holders of a Texas concealed weapons permit to carry their guns on campus. So is Professor Hamermesh justified in fearing the impact of this law in his classroom?
I have a Texas concealed weapons permit, and I can attest that they are not handed out like California driver's licenses. The State of Texas ran an exhaustive background check on me in every State in the Union. It took them nearly six months before they decided I was clean enough to carry a concealed weapon in Texas. If they had found any felony in my background – any thing more serious than a minor traffic violation – my application would have been denied.
The point is that the people empowered by this law are squeaky clean. They are not the sort of people who would be inclined to shoot a professor over a low grade. They are, on the contrary, precisely the people who would risk their lives to protect the professor in such an event.
Professor Hamermesh is far more at risk of being gunned down in his classroom tomorrow than he will be after the first of August next year.
Professor Hamermesh is honest enough to admit that he's not risking a great deal for his principles. "I'm 72," he wrote. "I have a very large pension and I have lots of alternatives. I'm fairly successful and economics is a good business. So it's sort of cheap heroism."
"On the other hand," the professor continues modestly, "it will cost the university and other universities in the State."
So, will UT-Austin miss Professor Hamermesh? Maybe, but from some of the student reviews on his ECO304K class, not a lot of students will miss him. One student wrote, "It doesn't really matter if you know the material, it matters if you can decipher his trick questions. He's a great teacher; makes his lectures valuable and understandable for the every man. The wording on his multiple choice tests, however, is a totally different story. Want a GPA booster? Don't take this."
That last note was a frequent complaint. Another student wrote, "Hammermesh (sic) thinks he's funny but most students would say otherwise. If you want to learn microeconomics take someone else. Hamermesh likes to trick you and most students make a low C or D in his class with very few As or Bs."
And another, "The quizes (sic) and tests are difficult and hard to understand, and you must keep up with the readings if you do not want to fail his class. Great guy, noooot a fun class."
And finally, this, " Hamermesh has an unusual sense if humor and loves to jump around in class. He seems less serious about teaching economics and likes to crack absurd jokes. His handwriting is so atrocious, I've seen first graders who can write more legibly than he can. He likes to ask tricky questions which make no economic sense and his final is tough as hell."
So Professor Hamermesh, despite his self-vaunted importance to the operation of the University of Texas Economics Department, will pass into UT history with barely an eye-blink from the people for whom the University of Texas exists – the students.
And the University of Texas campus – as well as every campus in the State – will be safer for both the students and the faculty. With or without Professor Hamermesh's tenure.