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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Arm Campus Safety Officers?

By Jen Thomas
08:57PM / Monday, April 23, 2007

Portion of a flier that was posted at the MCLA campus [Photo by Jen Thomas]
North Adams – Until tragedy struck the Virginia Polytechnic Institute campus exactly a week ago, most students all over the country took their safety for granted. As area college students struggle to come to terms with the sorrow stemming from last week’s events, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts administrators and staff are working to implement procedures to help students cope.

"It’s one more stressor in a time that’s stressful," said Erica Forrest, coordinator of Counseling Services at MCLA.

The Wellness Center sponsored three open meetings for students last week, “to support each other as we come to terms with this profound tragedy,” according to fliers posted on campus. According to Forrest, few students have taken advantage of the services, with only 20 students attending these meetings.

Gun Control?

In response to the shootings, anonymous students posted fliers on-campus, which advocated for MCLA public safety officers to carry guns. The printed headline read "They can carry when protecting the public; why can’t they carry when protecting you?"

The fliers claim that the current school policy only allows officers to carry batons and prevents the use of firearms. The fliers further urge students to contact the administration about the issue.

In a meeting dedicated to discussing the college's policy on emergency response tactics last week, Director of Public Safety Joseph Charon noted the fliers.

"It wouldn’t do the campus any justice," he said.

"I don't believe arming public safety [officers] is the answer," MCLA President Mary K. Grant added.

Coppola, however, supports the student movement to arm campus officers.

"I feel like people here are still naïve," he said. "We all keep saying, 'It can’t happen here.' It can happen on any campus, and people need to realize that."

Focus On Victim Lives

Many of the students at the college responded to the huge media attention granted to the shootings by questioning their own role as American students living on a college campus.

"I hope that some public outrage comes from this," said Alyssa Weisblatt, a junior at MCLA. "If anything, I want to hear more about the heroes and the lives of the victims. So far, I feel like Cho has gotten more spotlight then they have, which I think is wrong."

"There was a little bit of discussion in classes, but there wasn’t really anything generated locally," said junior student Tom Coppola.

In an attempt to raise awareness about the tragedy, Coppola started an online group for MCLA students to join. The group, called "Today, We're All Hokies - MCLA Chapter," allows students to openly discuss their reactions to the events of April 16.

"It’s showing that MCLA does care," he said. The group currently has 252 members.

Grant wrote an open letter to the college community in the days following the event, hoping to unite the campus in remembrance of the lives lost at Virginia Tech.

"At a close knit campus like ours, we have a strong sense of community and safety; this is a great strength," she said. "Sadly, we may never be in a position to stop an act of violence before it begins, but we must do all that we can to respond effectively and swiftly, placing the safety and well being of members of the MCLA campus as our highest priority."

Backlash On The Media

"There’s been an extreme media backlash," said Coppola. "For the first few days, the media just had the victims listed as numbers."

"When I found out NBC aired Cho's videos on the news and found his plays and videos on the Internet, I was appalled," said Weisblatt. "I’m not interested in listening to this man’s madness. I find it sickening that the media is allowing people to listen to his message, when I believe they should have waited to post this, or to not post it at all."

"I feel a strong sense of sorrow for the victims' families," said Coppola. "I just hope something good comes from it."

Jen Thomas is a senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an iberkshires.com correspondent.
Your Comments
Post Comment
I believe the campus officers should be armed, and have felt that way since before the Virgina Tech incident. It is difficult to understand why colleges would not want their officers to be able to fully protect the students against all threats.
from: Gailon: 04-25 00:00:00-2007

In response to the earlier comment, how often do you hear of accidental or unintentional shootings by city, town or state police officers? It happens so infrequently that it should be such a minor concern compared to the measure of safety that having properly armed officers would provide.
from: reechieon: 04-24 00:00:00-2007

As a parent, I have mixed feelings about this. There is the worry of an "accidental", "unintentional," or even a "mistake" shooting of a student by an armed campus officer. But is that worse than an intentional murder by a fellow students? And is that what we are coming to, forced to choose the lesser of the evils on college campuses, high school classrooms, and workplace environments?
from: K.L.on: 04-24 00:00:00-2007


 
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