Students express worries
The use of intimidation, the cost of campus events requiring security and the number of campus police officers that will be armed were among the concerns students raised at last Tuesday's forum on the procedures for the arming of University Police. Approximately 18 students attended the forum, which was organized by the Student Union Outreach Dream Team, a task force to communicate between the Union and the student body. Student representatives on a firearms advisory committee formed by University President Jehuda Reinharz at the end of October, including Matt Rogers '08, Fanny Familia '09 and Student Union President Shreeya Sinha '09, will bring the concerns raised at the forum to their first committee meeting.
Reinharz reached the decision to arm campus police last September after the recommendations of a committee of students, faculty and staff that convened over the summer. The date for the first meeting of the new advisory committee, the members of which also also include Prof. Robert Moody (THA), Prof. Paul Jankowski (HIST), Chief Operating Officer Peter French and Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, has yet to be determined, according to Rogers.
Senator for the Class of 2009 Julia Sferlazzo, who led the forum, and representatives on the advisory committee said student response is extremely important in communicating ideas to the administration during meetings.
"What's really important is that we continue these forums [as decisions are being made]," Sferlazzo said.
Concerns brought up during the forum included whether all public safety officers will be armed, proper procedure in using or motioning towards guns worries about intimidation by public safety officers and how the decision to arm public safety officers will affect the cost of events on campus that require security. The psychological effects that could result from having guns on campus were also discussed.
"There's a lot of elements that go into the [gun] policy," Sferlazzo said, "and we just want to gauge what students want."
Etta King '10 raised the issue of students' lack of knowledge about the policy to arm Brandeis police and called this "one of the greatest issues surrounding guns on campus." Students don't have the time to gather the information they need, she said.
According to student representative Fanny Familia '09, representatives will put minutes from the advisory committee meetings online so that students can access them.
King agreed this would be beneficial and added that having resources online would allow parents and those outside the Brandeis community to know what is going on regarding the arming of campus police.
"To be able to have that be a transparent process would be most comfortable for me" and for other students, King said.
Other students brought up the issue of having protocols for when officers are allowed to draw their weapons, and if they do so, how it should be done.
I want to make sure that if a police officer gets upset for some reason, he won't just be able to pull out his gun, Sahar Massachi '11 said.
According to Senator-at-Large Jessica Blumberg '09, there should be clear steps that all public safety officers must take before pulling out their guns or certain phrases they must say.
"If all students know what those phrases are . that would be a good way for people to have that extra level of checks on [the proper use of guns by police officers]," Blumberg said.
Students then discussed whether or not all public safety officers should be armed. "Arming campus police does not necessarily mean that every police officer has a gun in their holster," Sferlazzo said. "There's a big spectrum between every police officer having a gun in their holster and no guns at all."
"I think the ability to stop violent crimes is a lot greater with guns," Sarah Bernes '10 said.
Ben Serby '10, who formed the group Students Opposed to the Decision to Arm, disagreed. "I really don't see a need for any [public safety officers] to carry their weapons on a day-to-day basis," Serby said. "[Virginia Polytechnic Institute] police were, in fact, armed, and it didn't really serve as a deterrent to the shooting that ensued."
Jamie Ansorge '09, however, said that with respect to Virginia Tech, "the idea was to have quicker first-response time with armed officers," and that here at Brandeis, public safety officers know the campus and would be able to arrive at the scene of emergency situations quicker than the Waltham Police Department would.
Students also expressed the need for an improved relationship between students and public safety officers at Brandeis, adding that intimidation is a big factor introduced with guns.
"Especially at night when they're breaking up parties, that's the only time when people come into contact with public safety officers," Senator for Racial Minority Students Gabriel Gaskin '08 said.