Mass. college hears officers' pleas, still refuses to arm them

A Massachusetts college voted Tuesday against arming campus police officers, despite pleas from the police sergeant and one other officer.

The Board of Trustees at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston made the decision by an 8-2 vote to keep campus police officers unarmed, according to the Boston Herald.  As a result, MassArt remains the sole four-year state college with unarmed officers.

“The MassArt community has been done a disservice as it has presented a false sense of security,” MassArt police Sgt. Matt Hurley said at the meeting. “Parents have an expectation that when they send their child off to school at MassArt, that since there is a police department there, they have nothing to worry about. This is just wrong.”

Hurley further said that the college’s decision to keep officers unarmed officers has a broader impact beyond campus safety. The police sergeant said that as a result of the policy, officer turnover is “a well-known and expensive problem that this department faces.”

Hurley did point out that MassArt provides officers with Kevlar vests to protect from bullets. 

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Hurley wasn’t the only one on the police force to advocate for armed officers on campus. 

“It’s our students’ and staff’s lives you are gambling with,” MassArt officer William Goldman said to the Board. Despite these concerns, the college held firm in keeping its officers unarmed.

MassArt Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Ellen Carr told Campus Reform that “the trustees did not share their reasons for their individual votes,” but that “the board has been working on improving campus safety at MassArt over time and through many different measures, conducting extensive research and consulting national experts in college campus safety.”

“After taking all perspectives and facts into consideration,” she continued, “they cast their votes, with the common goal of making our campus a safe and inclusive environment.”

This language echoed that of MassArt President David Nelson, who told the Herald that he “support[s] the board in their decision and [he] appreciate[s] the deliberative way in which they arrived at this decision, while looking through the lens of the mission and values of MassArt,” which includes “the common goal of making our campus a safe and inclusive environment.”

An unnamed faculty member noted at the meeting that she did not feel secure around guns.  

“I’m a very sensitive person and there are many other sensitive people on campus and I wanted to speak for me and for them,” the faculty member said.

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James Durkin, an American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees legislative director, warned the board that its members are “striving for some dreamlike, utopian campus insulated from the real world” and that, in doing so, they are “placing the lives of these officers, the staff, and most importantly the students in jeopardy.”  

Carr told Campus Reform that it would cost MassArt $30,000 to arm its officers, including firearm and firearm training costs.

She added that arming officers would add 14.42% to the current $208,000 police budget.

Carr explained that “since 2004, MassArt police officers have been issued Kevlar vests when they are hired.”

This represents “a standard component of their complete uniform, and a precautionary safety measure.”

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More than a half-thousand students and MassArt community members supported the school’s officers remaining unarmed in a November 2018 petition, the Herald reported. The school is the only four-year state-funded school that does not arm its officers, according to the publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mstein81