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Campus security

So the news has been full of Ebola and guns on campus.  I was asked last week in a meeting of some top level administrators if students has been talking about the Ebola outbreak.  (The gun article refers to the Anita Sarkeesian threats in Utah, and may not have crossed their radar.)  I replied that while students had asked (I am a biology professor; I was asked in the context of the courses I was teaching), they didn’t seem unduly worried or panicked.

The administrators followed up on what the school policy is in cases of outbreaks of dangerous diseases more locally and especially affecting our campus.  To that I had to reply “I have no idea.  Don’t you know?” (All right, that second part was in my head.)  We don’t even have a standard weather policy; the president or vice president decides the morning of any major weather event if we should delay or close.  Not being a large school and with relatively few residents, the lack of official policy on these kinds of things is perhaps less of an oversight than it would be elsewhere, but something tells me I’m going to be asked to help develop an outbreak policy in the near feature…

Because we are indeed a private school, we are not bound by the kinds of laws that require allowing people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on campus.  In fact we have signs prominently displayed expressly forbidding weapons on campus.

Of course, I work at a women’s college.  There are all sorts of reasons why weapons on campus are both problematic and possibly less likely.  I have no desire to see guns on campus, and our campus security guards do not carry them.  There has been some discussion over the recent years about this policy, but for the most part student, faculty, and staff opinion has by and large been anti-guns on campus.

If our college had invited a speaker who had specific and detailed threats against them, especially ones that stated the writer a) wanted to emulate the Ecole Polytechnique shootings and b) provided a list of specific guns (among other things…), WE would likely have cancelled as we don’t have the resources to protect the speaker or attendees.  This doesn’t seem terribly difficult to me, but hey…

I can sympathize with Utah State’s legal conundrum and with Sarkeesian’s decision to avoid possible violence due to that legal conundrum.  Of course, I’d much prefer these kinds of incidents didn’t happen at all, but it does beg the question where does the authority for campus security lie?  The Chronicle article highlights the murky problems with states that have concealed carry laws.  Private campuses can make their own policies under state laws.  Should we have a more universal approach or should it be left to each school?  How should the other constituencies get to have their voices heard?

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Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.

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