Students and administration both find themselves grappling with a decision on what to do
regarding campus security.
In a country inundated with news of mass shootings and police brutality many Americans
are asking themselves whom should they be afraid of; the bad guys with guns or guys with bad
judgement with guns. This national question has echoed to Northampton Community College
where the student body is split on whether campus security should be changed to suit a
seemingly more dangerous world.
“Safety and security of everyone on this campus is our highest priority,” NCC President
Mark Erickson said. “I don’t just say that, I mean that, because nothing would be worse than
having someone on this campus being hurt, injured or something horrible happening.”
To combat that possibility the administration at the college has already taken steps to
“One of the things we’re looking at now is dead zones for cell phones to make sure if
anything happens we’ve got our responsiveness there,” Erickson said. “And then we’ve over the
years increased both what the security staff looks like, the caliber of training for those and the
number of folks that are in those sorts of roles.”
NCC security staff are equipped with pepper spray, handcuffs and batons, as well as
wearing body cameras.
“Body cameras have been enlightening, they help us train our staff for an appropriate
response and they do a great job in documenting the incident,” said Mark Culp, the director of
facilities and public safety at NCC.
In the event of an emergency, making sure the faculty, staff and students are aware is a
top priority as well. One of the ways the administration would alert students is through beacons
placed throughout the school.
“If there is an emergency on campus, within a few minutes of the emergency we get an
alert and it goes out to those alert beacons which are located in every classroom and in every big
public area,” Culp said. “It goes to every student, faculty, staff member or community member
that has signed up for an alert. Then it also goes to all the college computers. If your computer is
on, no matter what you’re doing, an alert pops up and tells you something’s going on on
Continuing to improve security at the school is a time-consuming process according to
the administration, with careful decision needed to ensure the right choice is made.
Erickson said, “We continue to add things as we think that we need new things. The other
thing that we have, and I think it’s all in place, is a safety and security group that we meet with to
talk about these issues. So that we hear directly from folks in the community about what are you
hearing, are there shortcomings?”
“One of the things there has been concern about was lighting kind of going back and
forth across the street. So there was all-new lighting put in there to make it safer to move from
the residence halls.”
While these improvements are mostly innocuous, the possibility of arming campus
security has proven to be a hot-button topic for some.
Student senate president and third-year CIT Cyber Security and CIT Networking major
Jesse Sharp said, “No, I do not believe security should be armed. My reasoning behind it is that
going from just recently getting pepper spray for the security officers to arming them with guns
is too fast a transition. I feel it may tear the student body and even administration apart internally
with conflicts, since it is a highly controversial topic to begin with.”
Others feel unsafe in the wake of an incident where a faculty member was threatened by a
student who was later arrested by the Bethlehem Township police.
“The only interactions I have had with campus security was the day of the student-faculty
threat situation,” second-year Criminal Justice major Adan Almaraz-Guzman said. “I was
crossing the College Center bridge to Penn Hall when there was an alarm going off. I was
puzzled to what was going on when a security guard came over and asked me to, ‘please step
into this room until it’s safe.’ I was in a Science classroom just waiting it out before it was all
Guzman also added that security should have access to weapons stored in the event of an
emergency. “What if it wasn’t just a threat? What if he was armed? With our security equipped
with the necessary tools to protect themselves and others from danger, they can stop a dangerous
situation from escalating further.”
Second-year Media Production major Paige Jalbert also worries about potential threats. “I
would not be against security guards being armed, as long as they have other options to resort to
first, rather than only having a gun,” Jalbert said. “If this comes into effect, I will want to make
sure that the guards are trained under pressure while armed. The only reason that I feel like they
should be armed is the fact that this world is dangerous. Reality is that schools are not as safe as
they used to be, and students need protection.”
It’s not just students with concerns about security, members of the college’s faculty also
worry about safety.
English professor Mary Mathis said, “I am concerned with campus incidents. My gut
instinct tells me yes, they should be armed, but I don’t know enough.”
“I think guns in the hands of security might be part of the solution, maybe giving more
flexibility to officers to defend themselves and others in case of an incident. Again, I don’t know
all the ins and outs of arming security.”
When asked to rate her feeling of security on a scale of one to ten, one being not very
secure and ten being very secure, Mathis answered three or four. “I’ve been teaching here 14
years and I feel less secure than I did when I first started.”
Mathis also cited the overall increase of violence in society, and how more guns in the
hands of citizens is not necessarily the answer. She also discussed how anyone and everyone is a
target in today’s world.
While students and faculty have their concerns, the decision ultimately lies with the
Erickson said, “At the end of the day, I think the answer is the college leadership has to
do what we think is in the best interest of the safety of the campus. With the town halls that we
had previously, it was a mixed bag.”
“It was ‘yes, we believe that we should have [armed security]’ and ‘no, we really don’t
think we should,’” he said. “It was helpful and I think informative to hear all that conversation,
but at the end of the day it doesn’t end up being a vote. Because it’s a tough decision and you can
argue both sides of it, but ultimately, for me, and the leadership of this college… we simply want
to make sure this is a safe place. And that if we move in a particular direction, we do that simply
because after all the facts are in and we’ve listened to all the voices it just makes the most sense.”
Another solution to safety concerns would be to develop a full campus police force
instead of security guards. In a study conducted by the Department of Justice published in 2015,
92 percent of public colleges and universities in 2011 and 2012 had campus police forces.
“I think that if you take that number and you parse out community colleges you’ll find
very different numbers,” Erickson said. “I think on four-year colleges, and I’ve been a four-year
college president, I think armed, full police forces are much more often the norm given the
natures of those campuses.”
However, in some ways NCC mirrors four-year colleges more than its community
college counterparts. NCC is the only community college in the state to offer on-campus housing
to its students.
In a 2015 interview with U.S. News and World Reports President Erickson said, “We’re
a two-year college with a four-year feel. Students really do invest in this college and get
While Northampton Community College may have the feel of a four-year college,
without the key components, will it only appear to be an ersatz college to the larger academic