The shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last October that left nine students dead and nine more injured shocked the nation, but it was only the most violent incident in a year in which guns were fired on 23 campuses across the country, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that tracks every school shooting incident.
This spate of gunfire on campuses has raised the question of whether campus security personnel should be armed. Some universities have already given guns to their security guards.
Seton Hall has not made the switch yet, but the question now is: Where does the University stand on this?
According to an article published by NJ.com in October 2015, “N.J. colleges are split” on the matter of arming campus security.
The article explained that some New Jersey four-year public universities have armed their security personnel, while the majority of the state’s community colleges have not.
Among New Jersey’s four-year private universities, Seton Hall, Rider University, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Drew University do not arm their security personnel, while Monmouth and Princeton Universities do, according to NJ.com.
Patrick Linfante, assistant vice president for Public Safety and Security, said that Seton Hall’s current policy calls for unarmed campus safety.
“I have no reason to believe that’ll change any time in the near future,” Linfante said.
While SHU’s campus security has remained unarmed, Linfante said Public Safety has methods of keeping campus safe.
Public Safety has a “very close working relationship with the South Orange Police Department,” Linfante said, noting that there are two officers present on campus every day.
In addition to the SOPD officers on campus, Linfante said that six or seven of the current members of Public Safety are retired police officers with “varying degrees of responsibility within their respective police departments,” emphasizing that students can feel safe at Seton Hall.
For more than 10 years, Public Safety has also partnered with Securitas, a private security service, that maintains a visible presence on campus.
According to Linfante, the distinction between Securitas and Public Safety is that the members of Public Safety are employees of the University, while Securitas personnel are contracted. Neither are permitted to carry guns on Seton Hall’s campus.
“Securitas is one of the largest providers of contracted security in the world,” Linfante said. “They supplement the coverage we provide.”
Students are split on the issue of arming campus security. Alex Pfisterer, junior communication major, does not see the need for SHU Public Safety to be armed.
“We’re a private Catholic school in the Big East,” Pfisterer said, “so I don’t think it would be necessary.”
Pfisterer mentioned that there has not been any violent crimes on campus that he can recall.
“There’s crime everywhere, but relatively the crime we have is not violent,” Linfante said.
Erica Naumann, junior communication major, agrees that SHU’s campus security should not be armed at this time.
Kim Liebler, sophomore psychology major, said that in serious situations campus security cannot wait for police to arrive.
“If someone has a gun they won’t be intimidated by security without some kind of arm,” Liebler said, “If campus is considering allowing security to have weapons, they should be trained in how to use them and given proper background checks and psychological examinations.”
Brianna Bernath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org