Freshman Safety Series: Security measures can’t be lax at a campus-carry school


Campus Carry Wikipedia/LucioEastman

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia/Lucio Eastman

When I was a freshman at CUSTOMS, the last thing I was concerned about was campus safety. Like everyone else, I was just busy working myself up about scheduling and arriving an hour early to my classes so I could easily find my classrooms. I had never gone to public school, and the first time I saw my English 2030 professor swipe his ID to open our COE classroom, I was taken aback. The first thought that came to mind was that the school was concerned with theft and that was the reason most rooms locked after a certain amount of time once a class ended.

Things may have changed for freshmen since 2013, but back then I don’t remember anyone discussing this security function at all. Just like no one mentioned that some classrooms have pull-down levers (not unlike fire-alarms) which perform some function that I assume would ensure that the classroom door is locked, as most should be during a class period except for the few that do not. I only just learned about these levers last semester at the end of my junior year.

In the mean time, I came to the realization that, whether it was intended or not, the locked door situation was a security benefit. Around that same time it began to bother me when I would see my professors would prop the door open. Everything from a lack of education from the start and little to no communication from faculty to students on the course of actions to take in the event of an emergency frustrates me to this day.

It’s true that campus crime usually takes the form of assault, rape, armed robbery and theft, but college campuses do have their fair share of gun violence. According to the 2015 MTSU Annual Security Report (Clery Act/HEOA), Middle Tennessee saw a reduction in weapons violations in the 2012 to 2014 time period, from seven total on-campus arrests to none. Although we cannot determine how many of these reports involved guns per se, cases of aggravated assault also dropped from 15 on-campus cases in 2012 and four in 2014.

We may not have one of the most dangerous campuses in Tennessee, or in the U.S. as a whole, but a zero-gun tolerance in university laws have helped keep us safe. However, earlier this summer, MTSU enacted a new Tennessee Campus Carry Law, allowing full-time MTSU employees with valid permits to carry concealed handguns on campus property. The decision has drawn the support and ire of many, since our nation is seemingly on the cusp of an arms crisis, with a divide between those who believe the addition of more guns puts us in more dangerous and those who think the presence of weapons with safe individuals would be useful in a time of need.

Whether faculty being allowed to carry concealed weapons will make us safer or put us in more danger is yet to be seen, since quite a few professors are adamantly opposed to the new law.

According to University Police crime logs for August 2016, five incidents of aggravated assault have already been reported so far this semester, although they did not result in arrests. Larceny and non-violent theft continue to be two of the most common reported incidents, but there is a growing uneasiness on college campuses among students and faculty alike who are wary of the new law that makes gun access somewhat easier.

Education and awareness on the issue of gun violence is essential for personal safety. There is such a thing as illegal profiling, but in specific situations most people can be observed to determine if the individual is carrying a concealed weapon or not. Often this includes guns being carried in shirt sleeves, under waistbands and in the sides of baggy jeans and pants.

It’s important to note that when you suspect someone of carrying a gun, you may be right or wrong. Some of the most obvious behavioral signs of a concealed-gun are a person who walks with a stiff gate, so as to not show the outline of a shotgun or rifle, or someone who doesn’t swing or bend their arms when walking.

But these actions can easily be attributed to a physical disability of some kind and surely aren’t proof. Determining if someone has a weapon requires attention to not just their physical actions but also their mental or emotional state. A person carrying a concealed weapon is more likely to show signs of nervousness than someone who is simply injured or has a disability. For more information on how to spot someone who is carrying a concealed weapon, visit here.

Open communication between faculty and students can go a long way in easing students’ fears and keeping everyone safe. If you have a security concern, don’t hesitate to bring it up to your professor. They may not realize that you have these concerns, and you may not be the only one in your class who does.

If your professor doesn’t address safety in the first class session, ask them about what the class might need to do in the event of an emergency. There may be a protocol in place that students need to know. For reference, my English professor last semester told the class that in the event of an emergency she would need to pull the lever to lock the classroom door, and that only if she were somehow incapacitated would one of us students need to do it.

Wisdom is the application of knowledge, and with more safety education and awareness of the issues college students face — including sexual assault, mental health concerns and drug abuse  — we can keep striving to make MTSU a safer campus and reduce the impact that a rare emergency situation may have.

This is part four of the four-part Freshman Safety Series by Digital Editor Sara Snoddy. The series addresses the issues of sexual assault, mental health issues/suicide prevention, drug abuse and gun safety with special consideration to incoming freshman and transfer students.

Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.

For more news, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

To contact News Editor Amanda Freuler, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Tori Roman
    September 27, 2016
    Reply

    I can agree with you my first concerns when attending MTSU were not how safe I was going to be here, knowing already how safe the campus is and having a low reputation of media crises regarding violence or anything resembling that matter. My first reaction was how well I was going to make my school schedule and get to class on time as I’m sure as the rest of the student body had in their minds.
    I think the university does need to stress more on the pro-cations they have for the classrooms like the little details such as the pull-down levers, because I was not aware of that resource until my sophomore year overhearing a conversation between other classmates. They should stress more about their faculty educating us better in situations that can occur where we need the door locked quickly at any time and any place.
    Now I see how some teachers agree to the new gun law carrying permit allowed on campus. It is another pro cation being made to make sure everyone is safe and has some kind of protection in a life threatening situation. I can also see how some are apposed to it, being a confused believer in gun using myself, there are a lot of scary consequences that can come from someone being in possession of a hand gun.

    • CCRFall2016
      September 30, 2016
      Reply

      I also had the concern of safety when deciding on whether this was the school for me. I’m a transfer student from the University of Memphis and we had a surprisingly safe school. There were many precautions in place to discourage and prevent various incidents. I think there are many things MTSU can do better in regards to student safety. I think that having easier access to guns on campus will definitely cause more harm than good. Nothing escalates a tense situation quite like the presence of a firearm. It is very possible that there would be many situations that normally could be resolved without much incident, but end in death or injury because someone has a gun.

      There’s also the matter of personal comfort. Knowing that someone has a gun could easily make many students and other staff uncomfortable. If the school populace doesn’t feel comfortable then that doesn’t bode well for convincing new student to apply. I was a little turned off from the school when I saw comments about crime rate and safety. I am willing to bet that there are more new students that feel similarly.

    • CCRFall2016
      September 30, 2016
      Reply

      Oh, I didn’t mean to reply to you.

  2. ejamtsuf16
    October 13, 2016
    Reply

    I was upset and a little confused when I heard that a bill was being passed to allow faculty to carry firearms on campus. I felt like a lot of other people were upset, as well. I even recall a popular professor claiming to resign if this bill was passed. Now that some time has passed, it makes me wonder if people are still aware/care about this situation.

    It worries me that the bill has not really been addressed by many people. I remember receiving a poll through my MTSU e-mail account about whether or not I agreed with guns being allowed on campus and that was before the semester started. Since then, I have not really heard the issue being addressed by my peers or any of my professors.

    It bothers me that people want to have weapons in a place of education but I also understand the need to feel safe. I think that the state representatives and the school should be more responsible for talking about safety protocols and concerns in the class room. This way, students would be more aware of safety measures in case something were to happen. Allowing full-time staff to carry weapons does not necessarily make our campus a better or safer place.

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