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Reinharz to organize firearms policy advisory committee with Union help

Published: November 2, 2007
Section: News


In order to devise protocol for arms use by campus police, President Jehuda Reinharz has commissioned the organization of a firearms policy advisory committee to be chaired by Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter French.

Reinharz explained in an e-mail, in the continuing effort to constructively engage the community in the campus safety program, the University will be a forming a firearms policy group to advise Ed Callahan, Director of Public Safety as new policies are drafted. He added in a later e-mail, the mandate for the committee is simple yet demanding: to advise Public Safety on the development and communication of firearms policies and procedures that will allow for a successful community supported safety program on campus.

To form the committee, Reinharz directed Faculty Senate Chair Marc Brettler (NEJS) to nominate two professors to serve on the committee. Reinharz also requested that Union President Shreeya Sinha select two students to be part of the committee. The rest of the committee will be composed of graduate student representatives and staff members. Reinharz will not serve on the committee.

I want everyone to be reassured that were using the proper protocol, said Reinharz in an interview. He continued, its important for everyone to feel that they have a role in this protocol.

Reinharz explained that from the beginning he wanted community input in the creation of protocol. He said his decision was reaffirmed by his interaction with Students Opposing the Decision to Arm during his office hours two weeks ago.

Regarding the topics to be addressed in the committee, they can bring up any subject they want, said Reinharz, any rules that relate to guns will all be on the table. Reinharz mentioned sensitivity to students among the possible issues that might be addressed. He added, if [the committee] comes back with a unanimous decision, Im not going to question it.

In an Oct. 25 Faculty Senate meeting, professors Paul Jankowski (HIST) and Robert Moody (THA) were chosen to serve on the committee. In an e-mail Jankowski said, I do not at present know very much about the committee, but I am glad that it has faculty representation on it and I will endeavor to familiarize myself with the kinds of concerns faculty have about this matter so that I can bring them up in a constructive manner.

The undergraduate community will be represented by Union President Sinha and two other students who have yet to be chosen. According to Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray 10, the presence of an additional student on the committee has been okayed by Peter French.

Sinha and the Union E-board will select the remaining two students via an application process that has yet to be finalized explained Gray. Were working on putting together [selection] criteria, he said.

Gray explained Sinhas presence on the committee saying, as the Student Union President, her role is to advocate to the administrationshes got a great relationship with them. He added, Because of the respect the administration has for Shreeya and Shreeyas position, having her voice on committee will greatly increase the ability for student concern to be heard.

As a member of the policy advisory committee, Id like to advocate on behalf of students that feel like they are voicelessand feel a sense of distrust towards police, Sinha said. She added that she wants to voice the concerns of minority students who feel harassed by the police. This would include forms of diversity training, which Racial Minority Senator Gabe Gaskin 08 is currently exploring, Sinha explained.

Id like to advocate for a committee to respond to any issues of inappropriate use of guns [by police], said Sinha. She added, there needs to be a committee active whenever theres legitimate student concern of inappropriate use of guns on campus with significant student representationa system set in place for the future.

Sinha further explained that she and the two other student representatives once they are picked will make ourselves very visible so that students can offer their input.

Were committed to making sure that productive suggestions can be made to this committee, Sinha remarked.

Union Treasurer and member of the initial firearms advisory committee Choon Woo Ha 08 said, [the committee] is very positive because the administration is willing to be more transparent. He added, education of students and police is a very important process that cannot be compromised.

Students Opposing the Decision to Arm organizer Ben Serby 10 was pleased to hear Sinhas intentions. However, he commented, its sort of sad that the University didnt consider [issues of diversity] firstthe fact that students have to bring that to the [administration] is ridiculous.

Phil LaCombe 10, another SODA organizer said, I interpret this to say that our meeting did in fact have an impact on him, that students need to be included in the process.

Student reaction to the committee was skeptical. Theyre trying to soften the blow of the decision [to arm], said Marianna Faynshteyn 10, its damage control.

Mitch Berkowitz 11, who expressed his agreement with the decision to arm, said, having an advisory board with students is an effort to appease people. Its more bureaucracy that we dont need.