Indiana, PA - Indiana County

State system weighs policy on campus weapons

by SAM KUSIC on October 26, 2013 10:59 AM

A standardized policy that would allow people to carry weapons in some places and prohibit them from doing so in others at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities remains on the table as Chancellor Frank T. Brogan has called for a series of public hearings on the matter.

At the State System of Higher Education Board of Governors’ meeting earlier this month, Brogan recommended that the hearings be held at various places throughout the state to gather public input on the proposed policy.

The policy, as drafted, would ban people from carrying weapons, in “sensitive” areas on the campuses. For purposes of the policy, a weapon includes loaded and unloaded guns, ammunition, knives with blades longer than three inches, daggers, swords, clubs, and bows and arrows, among other things.

And it defines a sensitive area as being inside any state-system building or at state system events held either inside or out.

The policy would apply to people who hold concealed carry permits. It would not apply to law enforcement officials, security details for prominent people or members of the Armed Forces when in uniform and conducting official business.

At IUP, the proposed policy is counter to what the university already has on its books — a complete ban on possessing weapons anywhere on campus, regardless of whether the person has a concealed carry permit.

The state system is looking at drafting a standard policy for its 14 universities following some court rulings at the federal level and in other states relating to firearms possession public institutions.

In consideration of those rulings, state system attorneys advised that individual university policies completely banning weapons might not hold up if contested in court. That led them to create a model policy, which some universities ultimately adopted. But when officials at Kutztown University moved to adopt it, word of the policy bubbled up to the public arena, causing a controversy.

As a result, the board of governors stepped in and said that any work on rewriting weapon policies at Kutztown or at any other university should be set aside until the state system as a whole could adopt a standardized measure.

That left IUP and several of the other universities with the policy had in place, which, in IUP’s case, bans weapons altogether.

And that’s just fine with the faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, whose position is that weapons shouldn’t be allowed anywhere on campus, period.

“APSCUF believes the best learning environment for students is one in which all members of the university community feel safe from the threat of violence. APSCUF believes that this is best secured by reliance on university security and police professionals,” it said in its policy statement on the matter.

“Given the free flow of traffic on a college campus to academic buildings, dormitories, and extracurricular events, APSCUF believes that the best policy remains one where deadly weapons are prohibited from campus (except as secured by university police).”

Mark Staszkiewicz, president of IUP’s union chapter and a gun owner, said he shares that view.

“The union position is that we that we don’t believe guns have any place on campus.”

He asked what the system should fear more, a Second Amendment lawsuit or a liability lawsuit arising after someone is injured or killed.

He also said he understands that the Council of Presidents, the body representing the presidents at each of the universities, shares that view.

But officially, IUP is mum on the matter.

University spokeswoman Michelle Fryling said IUP is awaiting guidance from the board of governors on what policy it will put in place.

President Michael Driscoll, however, said he believes it makes sense to have one standard policy.

“I think it is appropriate that the PASSHE Board of Governors provide system-wide policy direction, and I look forward to their approval of such a policy.”

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