Earlier this month, public forums were held by David Tedjeske, director of Public Safety and Ken Valosky, vice president for Administration and Finance, concerning the possibility of the Public Safety Department transitioning from private security to a full-service law enforcement agency.
The forums gave students, faculty and staff the opportunity to raise their questions and concerns about the complexities of the possible change.
Since the community forums, which were held over a period of two weeks, student reaction to the proposed changes has been strong, yet varied.
While many students understand the safety concerns that were put forward by both Tedjeske and Valosky, there was a lot of apprehension surrounding the idea of Public Safety officers carrying firearms on campus.
“I think it’s a good idea and beneficial to the campus to have full service law enforcement; however they should not be allowed to carry guns,” says senior Siobhan Cooney.
“I think that the cons far outweigh the pros when it comes down to the gun situation. I know as a student on campus I would not feel safer if public safety carried guns, even if they are sworn officers. There is no reason to add that onto our campus. Adding guns is adding fear,” Cooney said.
“With violence increasing in schools around the country, especially gun-related incidents, increasing the presence of guns on a college campus seems exceptionally counterintuitive,” says John Veise, a member of the Class of 2014. “Especially on a campus where there have been minimal, if any seriously violent crimes where armed guards would have had little or no impact. It seems to me that Villanova’s time and money would be better served focusing on implementing a system that would provide students a way to feel safe reporting severe alcohol intoxication which has caused far more tragedy on our campus than violent crime.”
“The possibility of armed officers on campus is frightening for me,” says Joey Versen. “Yes, if a school shooting occurred having them there would probably speed up response time, but that’s the only scenario where they’d be necessary. In any other situation, firearms are so unnecessary and the thought of an officer possibly using a gun on a student is pretty sickening.”
Although the most severe reactions both at and since the community forums were surrounding the issue of firearms on the University’s campus, there is also a large faction of the student body that is in favor of transitioning Public Safety to a full-service law enforcement agency that is armed with firearms, as well as other defensive means such as pepper spray and tazers.
Many of these students noted that other universities in the region, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, already have armed police officers as a part of their campus security measures.
“Having armed security on campus would be a step in the right direction for our safety,” says Michael O’Neill, a student in the School of Business. “The goal would be to never have to use the guns, of course, as is the case with any armed official. Hopefully the guns never would need to be used, but I think we should follow in the direction of a number of other schools and have some armed officials on campus.”
The recent increase in mass shootings, particularly at schools, was cause enough for many students to support an armed police force at the University.
“I feel like most people will immediately hate the idea and complain that it will cause Villanova to have a stricter campus, but I’m for any measure that will make the campus a safer place,” says senior Pete Nacaratto. “As it currently stands, Public Safety is merely a liaison with the surrounding police and doesn’t really have the capabilities to prevent a widespread tragedy on campus. If something happens they have to call Radnor police in for help. I would hate for any type of large scale tragedy to occur on campus to deter Villanova from heading in the direction it is headed. If this measure ensures the continued positive growth of our university, I am for it.”
Still, other students were in favor of just a portion of Public Safety officers being trained to carry firearms, without the whole department being transitioned into a full-service law enforcement agency.
“With today’s world, a university can never be too safe,” says criminal justice and psychology double major Jess Dittmer. “There are many things that can go wrong and we need to be prepared. While I don’t believe a full police force is necessary with Villanova’s safe history, it would be beneficial for a portion of Public Safety to carry firearms and receive training to serve as the medium between campus security and police.”
There are also many students who see no need to change the Public Safety Department from their current role on campus.
“I think that our campus is already very safe, and changing Public Safety to real cops is unnecessary,” says sophomore Mackenzie Wood.
“I think one of the strengths of the current system is that officers are able to keep students as their primary concern,” says senior Evan Nardone.
“Having sworn officers would require them to abide by guidelines that would detract from student focus. Additionally, having guns would further the divide between students and Public Safety officers. I definitely think it would increase resentment toward Public Safety.”
“Personally I don’t feel that they are necessary,” says Kira Schlobohm, a member of the Class of 2016. “Most of my friends are not very happy about the idea.”
Both Tedjeske and Valosky stressed at the forums that no decision has been made as to whether or not Public Safety will make the transition to a full-service law enforcement agency, nor is a decision of this magnitude imminent.
They both were also open to the idea of including even more student input before a decision is made, possibly through a survey.