Faculty union fights plan to arm police at University of Rhode Island

The faculty union at the University of Rhode Island (URI) is opposing several resolutions which would allow campus police to carry firearms.

URI attracted media attention last month after a student mistakenly thought there was a gunman in a dining hall which resulted in a total lock-down of the university.

The Rhode Island state legislature and the state Board of Education are both currently debating resolutions which would overturn a long standing prohibition on allowing campus police to carry firearms on campus.

Frank Annunziato, President of the URI Faculty Union, told Campus Reform he thinks more guns on campus would make URI less safe.

“The purpose for our resolution is to try to inform the board of education members that the faculty continues to oppose this because we believe that the entrance of more guns on campus would in fact create an environment which would be much more dangerous and violent than what we’ve had,” said Annunziato.

URI attracted media attention last month after a student mistakenly thought there was a gunman in a campus dining hall which resulted in a total lock-down of the university.

After the incident the school internally reviewed campus safety measures and recommended allowing officers to carry guns.

Annunziato said the recent incident, combined with the bombings at the Boston Marathon, worked to create a climate of fear on-campus.

“It [the April campus shooter scare] created a lot of fear on the part of the administration here and then of course the bombing up in Boston as well so that’s the background of what that was,” he said.

The faculty union resolution advocates for a more comprehensive campus safety plan in the event of a future campus emergency, according to Annunziato.

“So a part of our resolution calls for extensive training in what to do in these kinds of emergencies and we ask the administration to bring in State Police, the FBI, or any other authority that knows about these things to help them to develop an emergency response plan because we don’t have one here.”

The Rhode Island Board of Education is reviewing the URI resolution to let officers carry firearms and will make a decision on May 20, 2013.

Michael Trainor, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Board of Education, told Campus Reform the recent incident at URI helped bring this issue to their attention.

“The Board of Education and its predecessor the Board of Governors for Higher Education has conducted reviews in 2010 and 2012 of this matter both times not reaching a conclusion.  I think it’s certainly fair to say that this consensus up here that the recent incident at the University of Rhode Island has caused the board to look at this issue again,” said Trainor.

A bill in the Rhode Island legislature which would also change the law allowing campus police to carry fire arms was held for further study Tuesday evening in the House Judiciary Committee.

URI student Alex Babcock disagreed with Annunziato and said she would feel safer if campus police carried firearms.

“I think police should definitely be allowed to carry guns. There are no policies whatsoever as to who can get in and out of the dorms or the buildings. As long as someone lets you in, you are free to walk through the dorms as you please,” said Babcock.  “Most schools make you sign in your guests and provide a valid ID at the front desk. So as long as the security is basically nonexistent for dorms or campus buildings, the URI police officers should be able to carry guns.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @TimPDion

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