Res Life Director opposes change; students offer mixed views
BY JALEN PERRY
A state bill proposed in October would allow anyone with a conceal carry license to bring their guns into all any college in the state, including all UW System schools. State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced in late December that he doubted the bill would see passage by the legislature before the end of their session in February.
Whether the Capitol takes action on the bill in the coming weeks or months, reactions at Parkside appear mixed.
Campus safety leadership remains tight-lipped, while officials from Residence Life oppose the bill, citing safety concerns. But two students who disagree about whether the proposed legislation should be adopted both think it would increase their safety if an active shooter situation ever came to campus.
Weapons now prohibited
State law currently allows people with conceal carry permits to walk around campuses with their weapons, but it leaves the decision up to the school whether to ban weapons inside of their buildings.
Chief of Police James Heller declined to offer his opinion about the proposed legislation in an email interview, but he pointed to the standing orthodoxy of Policy 85, UW-Parkside Firearms and Dangerous Weapons Policy.
That policy highlights obvious things such as no firearms/weapons in buildings or by employees, with the exception of law enforcement, no weapons in residence halls, at special events or in official UW-P vehicles.
Parkside administrators have taken precautionary measures, posting “Weapons Prohibited” signs on mostly all entrances.
If the proposed bill passes, it would take the power completely out of their hands and such signs would face removal.
Problems for Campus Residents
Joe Berthiaume, Director of Housing and Residence Life, strongly opposes allowing guns or any concealed weapon inside any of campus buildings.
“I think it is a horrible bill, and I cannot envision any possible advantages to allowing guns on campus,” Berthiaume said. “From a housing perspective, there are many disadvantages.”
According to Berthiaume, potential problems with allowing guns to enter living halls begin with storage of the guns in the rooms, which may pose major issues for roommates, students with anxiety and strong emotional disdain for weapons. They would be knowingly exposed to a perceived threat by their neighbors or accidental discharge of a weapon inside of a room.
Also, Berthiaume said, the presence of alcohol may affect how people deal with their weapons. Resident advisers could also face the danger of trying to discipline an unruly student who has a gun.
Current policy for residents facing an active shooter assume that weapons are not allowed inside the building, according to Berthiaume. Residence Life staff would adhere to the policy on the campus website and serve as second responders.
“While they [police] are resolving the incident, Res Life would be involved with follow-up with regards to emotional and anxiety support for students, taking care of parents phone calls to the school,” Berthiaume said. He stressed that his main goal each year is to make sure students graduate and live in as safe an environment as possible.
Opposing views among students
The student body appears torn on the issue, exhibiting stark opposition of the general public on gun control issues.
“[The proposed bill] doesn’t bother me at all,” said David Zapp, a junior. “The people who would be concealed carrying are probably not the people who are going to shoot up the school, so it wouldn’t bother me at all.”
While Zapp expressed confidence about allowing concealed weapons into school buildings and classroom, junior Antoine Torrence had a different perspective.
“I do not think it’s necessary,” Torrence said. “It’s actually stupid to let them do that, especially inside the building.”
However, both agreed that, in an active shooter scenario, they’d feel more comfortable knowing either they or someone nearby had a gun to stop the shooter.
Student Government takes stance.
Parkside Student Government President, Hannah Kowalczyk says that the organization is aware of the proposed bill and have taken the steps to inform themselves further.
“Upon the announcement of the possible change in legislature PSG asked for Chief Heller to come to one of our meetings and give us a breakdown of the campus safety procedures already in place, as well as how this change in legislature would affect everyone on campus, but more specifically us as students.”
To get the pulse of the school, Hannah, as well as other students within the student government, went out to see what students had to say.
“PSG went in search of the student bodies opinion on the issue. We spent a total of three days on the bridge and in the Brickstone surveying students. In the survey we were looking for if the student were for or against the bill, and their reasoning behind their answer.”
Once PSG tallied up their results, it was clear which side the student body was on in regards to the bill.
“After totaling the survey results we sent a letter urging our stance, as a student body, against the passing of the proposed bill. Along with this letter we sent the surveys the students had filled out as well, this included students opinions both for and against the bill.”