Arming Campus Security
Arming security is a discussion that is making its rounds again on NCC campus.
In the wake of the Ohio State University attack in late November, injuring eleven students and faculty members according to the New York Times, NCC students and faculty are wondering why a decision has yet to be made about arming campus security.
“The highest priority for this college is safety and security, so we spend a lot of time thinking about that. I think a component of that is about arming security or having police. Different colleges do those things differently. The majority of community colleges don’t have armed security. Last year we began exploring the topic,” said Northampton Community College President Mark Erickson.
In the Spring semester of 2015, Student Senate members formulated a strong argument on why arming campus security should be the board of directors top priority, including the statistic that it takes approximately ten minutes for police to arrive in an emergency; such as an active shooter.
Nancy Trautmann, an English professor who read last year’s forums on the discussion, said, “Campus security administrators shared data about response time (local police vs. campus security), and data showing that an armed presence ends violence, even without shots fired, faster than an unarmed response.”
Although Trautmann is aware of the given data, she does not believe campus security should be armed.
“I am anti-gun so I do not see the need for anyone to have them, but I also understand that may be naive,” said the professor.
Trautmann is not the only professor who doesn’t believe in guns on campus.
“I would probably feel more uncomfortable with armed security guards. I don’t think NCC campus security should be armed, however I wouldn’t necessarily be against having people who are specifically trained in using firearms and have the psychological training to handle those types of situations be hired,” said Astronomy Professor Michael Wyant.
Ten years ago, NCC security was allowed only a set of keys to lock and unlock doors, and had no training in the use of weapons. Since 2007, the board of directors has required security to carry expandable batons, pepper spray and handcuffs. Security staff must also be trained in Act 235- essentially the same training as police.
“They’re required to have psychological training, police training, and firearm training. The next level for our security team is to possibly carry Tasers, or even both Tasers and firearms, as was the discussion between the board of directors and others,” Mark Culp, director of facilities and campus safety, said.
Tasers are most effective when standing twelve feet away from the intended target, as they have wires that shoot out of the top and attach to the perpetrator. They are not ideal for an active shooting, as was pointed out by Culp.
“There’s a mixed feeling around this topic, and because of that we’ve decided to take an informed but deliberate process to figure out what is best for NCC. We continue to work in a methodical way looking at this issue, we’ve looked at other colleges and their national data. This will be a topic that we’ll be revisiting again later this spring with the board, but with the understanding that we don’t want to be caught in a simply reactive mode,” said Erickson.
Erickson and Culp agree that there is always room for improvement regarding campus safety, but note that most 911 situations revolve around medical emergencies.
Until a decision is made regarding arming campus security or not, Culp and Erickson work with the board to have safety measures in place in case of an attack.
“We have an emergency alert system for students, who can sign up for it on the main NCC website, located on the bottom right. They’ll get text message alerts. We also have a tabletop drill, which is when we give an active shooter scenario to the administrative and crisis team and go through steps to make sure we’re prepared,” said Culp.
The Board of Directors, Student Senate and faculty will meet Spring semester of 2017 to reopen the discussion.
Students expressed their concerns over arming campus security with firearms, and whether they felt safe on NCC Campus.
“I do think that campus security should be armed because you never know when someone could attack our school. I think NCC is a safe space, but it can be safer if we arm our security guards,” said Donald Davis, a Computer Security major.
Students may feel as though arming security would make them feel safer, but some expressed a need for more security visibly patrolling the campus.
“I’ve never felt unsafe, but it would be a more comforting feeling if more security personal were around,” said General Studies major Kelsey Adair.
Communications major Rebekka Ditzig agreed, saying “I think what is more important is to have more visible security. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen a security guard around campus. I don’t think armed security would make me feel safer, but instead an increased presence during the school day, especially at night, would.”
Ditzig doesn’t think it would be necessary to arm security, but expressed concern over her personal safety at the lack of personnel.
“I have been worried before about leaving night classes and having to walk out into the parking lot alone. It’s not always well lit, and I think it would be more comforting to see more security cars parked around campus to watch over students who have late classes,” she said.
English professor James von Schilling thinks it’s also unnecessary to give firearms to security.
“I don’t believe in guns on campus. I would support our campus security in being trained on how to disable an attacker without using one. Giving security firearms wouldn’t make me feel safer,” said the professor.
Mixed feelings about arming security remain on NCC campus throughout students and faculty. Ultimately, the decision lies with the NCC board of directors, who will discuss the situation again in Spring of 2017.