Union decries proposal to allow weapons in open areas on campus

The statewide union for Pennsylvania state college and university faculties is opposing a proposed policy to allow firearms in open areas of fourteen of the state’s public institutions of higher education.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the proposed policy was created by a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education taskforce composed of law enforcement, members of the state university system’s board of governors, university presidents, students, and faculty.

Though it would allow guns and other weapons in areas like parking lots and sidewalks, it would not allow them inside buildings, outdoor class activities, and at large-scale events.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), a union which represents more than 6,000 faculty and coaches, opposed the move.

“Given the free flow of traffic on a college campus to academic buildings, dormitories, and extracurricular events, APSCUF believes that the best policy remains one where deadly weapons are prohibited from campus (except as secured by university police),” the union said.

That attitude was reflected by Professor Lisa Millhous, a communications studies instructor at West Chester University and the president of the school’s branch of APSCUF, who said she was unconvinced that a blanket ban on weapons was unconstitutional.

“I would rather take the moral high ground and say this is wrong," Professor Millhous said. "If this goes to the highest court and they tell us we have to, then, if there's a shooting, it's on them. It's not on us.”

Millhous also said that faculty at her university, the largest of the fourteen schools with over 15,000 students, were concerned about allowing weapons in vehicles.

“As soon as everybody knows you've got a gun in your car, it's a way for people who don't have a license to get a hold of stuff,” she said.

The move by the university system comes after its lawyers advised that a blanket ban on such weapons was legally unenforceable.

According to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, half of the universities in the system have already adopted rules similar to the proposed policy. Kutztown University was the first to do so when it allowed weapons on its campus in April of 2012.

The Pennsylvania state university system will allow the public to comment on the proposed policy. The forum is set for 10 a.m. on Jan. 9, at the State System of Higher Education’s headquarters at Dixon University Center in Harrisburg, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.It comes two weeks before the State System board of governors could vote on the policy during its Jan. 23 meeting.

The forum will be broadcast on the web at www.passhe.edu; those who wish to participate may do so by attending in person or submitting their remarks and questions to publicsafetytaskforce@passhe.edu.

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