Shippensburg University is among one of the seven Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools to adopt a weapons policy that would allow students to carry firearms outside of school facilities as long as they can obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Under that policy, weapons would still be banned in “sensitive areas.” PASSHE defines “sensitive areas” as “All PASSHE buildings or any sporting, entertainment, recreational or educational event at PASSHE facilities or property or sponsored by a university.”
Not all PASSHE schools adopted weapons policies, and this discord in policy created concern and confusion among faculty and staff at PASSHE campuses, students and the parents who send their children to go to class and live on the campuses.
According to Penn Live, the presidents of the 14 state universities contacted the PASSHE board last spring to create a system-wide policy banning the permission of weapons on campus and at university events — in exception to the campus police and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
In April 2013, the PASSHE Board of Governors established the Public Safety and Security Task Force to review all aspects of university public safety operations.
The task force’s first assignment was to conduct a thorough review of weapons policies on the PASSHE campuses and to recommend a uniform policy for all 14 schools.
The task force received input from students, university staff and faculty, faculty unions and law enforcement. The task force developed a draft policy that was similar to SU’s policy in that it allows people with permits to carry weapons, but bans “deadly or offensive weapons” in “sensitive areas.”
“Deadly or offensive weapons” are defined by the proposed policy as, but not limited to, loaded or unloaded firearms, pellet guns, BB guns, tranquilizers, stun guns, dart guns, knives with blades longer than three inches, any cutting instrument where the blade is exposed in an automatic way, daggers, swords, clubs, truncheons, blackjacks, martial arts weapons, bow and arrow combinations, explosive devices and ammunition or components to manufacture ammunition.
On Thursday, Jan. 9, the PASSHE Board of Governors broadcast a webcast to discuss the policy and receive input from various organizations.
The speakers who attended the webcast in person included Steve Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF); Ken Mash, political science professor from East Stroudsburg and vice president of APSCUF; Lisa Millhous, communications studies professor from West Chester and president of the WCU chapter of APSCUF; Justin Ammon, student government president at East Stroudsburg University; Shira Goodman from CeaseFire PA and Deb Marteslo from Moms Demand Action.
All the speakers representing APSCUF reiterated the union’s official stance in favor of a campus-wide ban on weapons in all areas of every PASSHE campus.
Ammon thought the draft policy needs a lot of work and more student input. Marteslo was in favor of allowing each individual campus to make its own policy as was the case before.
At the end of the webcast, PASSHE’s executive vice chancellor Peter Garland read questions and comments that were submitted to the board that included sentiment for and against the draft policy. Most of the feedback received at the webcast seemed to indicate a lot of people were unsatisfied with the draft policy.
Garland ended by saying more meetings and discussions on the topic are necessary and he thought the webcast was a good way to get ideas flowing and get information out there, but the policy still needs some work.
“We received a lot of good comments and insight from the webcast. We will consider everything we heard, and the written messages we have received as we move forward and continue to review the issue,” PASSHE media relations manager Kenn Marshall said.
“We are committed to ensuring our campuses remain the safest places possible for our students, staff and visitors. We appreciate those who have expressed interest in this issue.”
The draft weapons policy and is available for the public to read at www.passhe.edu.
For other stories from The Slate about weapons and general safety at SU, check out the following stories: