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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Reinharz OKs guns for campus police

Published: September 21, 2007
Section: News

Following recommendations from an advisory panel formed after last semesters campus shootings at Virginia Tech, President Jehuda Reinharz announced that the university would begin arming campus Public Safety officers. According to sources from Public Safety, the new policy will take three to six months to be implemented.

Last May, as part of an overall effort to further enhance campus safety and security, I asked that a committee be established to consider arming Brandeis Public Safety Officers, said Reinharz in a campus-wide e-mail sent Sept. 12. After careful consideration, I have decided to proceed to arm the Brandeis Public Safety Officers and I have asked [Executive Vice President Peter] French to begin the process. Reinharz chose not to respond to Hoot inquiries about the decision, directing students to a press release on the Brandeis web site.

This committee, which was formed in June, met five times over the summer to deliberate its findings.

According to the report, at the beginning of the information gathering process, several committee members had misgivings about arming the Brandeis Public Safety Officers. Some committee members talked about the idea that a university campus should be a protected space without people bearing firearms, and the graduate student representative spoke about the concerns of some students who come from communities and countries where the police are repressive.

However, the report said, several committee members changed their minds as a result of the information we learned, especially the reality that even a short delay of Waltham Police getting to campus could have potentially very serious consequences for students, faculty, and/or staff.

It added that Captain Stanton reported that the Waltham Police feel that Brandeis would be better protected if the University were to arm its Public Safety Officers in support of arming the Brandeis police, Captain Stanton of the Waltham Police said, Im glad Bentley is armed. We have not had a complaint. They are professionals I have tremendous confidence in the Brandeis Campus Chief.

The report stated that all Public Safety Officers are trained at the State Police Academy [and] are required to be re-certified on a regular basis. Furthermore, the report stated, despite Public Safety Officers carrying clubs and mace, their lack of firearms forbids them to intervene in any situation involving weaponry, forcing them to wait until Waltham Police officers arrive on the scene. Last year, when someone reported that a weapon was present at a fight in graduate housing, the Campus Police could not respond until the Waltham police arrived.

Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, who attended the meetings as support staff, agreed with the report. Were obviously testing and training we have to work out a lot of details. We all witnessed an unfortunate tragedy at Virginia TechI think obviously the world has changed.

Theres a two, three, sometimes five minute delay to have police arrive, Callahan added. There's an advantage to have Brandeis police, God forbid there is an emergency that they're needed, to be here on callobviously, this is just another tool for their job.

Student responses to the decision were mixed. At first, I didn't know why [Reinharz decided to arm police] but then I realized it's because of Virginia Tech. I don't consider Brandeis dangerous but that's nave, said Danielle Gershon 10. We are a good school so kids could get stressed and do stuff like that. But at first, I thought this is Brandeis, why do we need more security guards with guns?

Dan Gillman 10 stated that repercussions from Reinharzs decision have extended beyond campus. I think it's something that should've been discussed more with students and alumni. I work [for Phonathon] and I had someone tell me they wouldn't donate anymore because of it.

It doesn't seem extreme on a regular campus but Brandeis is really safe so I feel like adding guns, even with police, might escalate situations that don't need guns, said Amanda Gilbert 11.

Eli Miller 11 disagreed: It doesn't bother me. Either way, it adds a layer of protection. As long as officers are educated and trained on how to properly utilize those arms, I don't see a problem.

Meanwhile, Depriest Ivey 11 had a succinct response: As long as they don't point the gun at me for no reason, I'm cool with it.

Callahan added that the security committees made a lot of security enhancements, such as the text messages, siren system, and voice-messaging system, but the Brandeis police are first responders. Its kind of like a piggyback situationwe added a lot of technology, but you're looking at first responders who, God forbid they need them, need the tools to do their jobs.

Editors Note: Deputy News Editor Alison Channon contributed to this