State colleges and universities in Rhode Island can now arm campus police after a vote Thursday night at the State Board of Education. Critics said more guns on campus will not make students safer, but supporters, including University of Rhode Island President David Dooley, said campus police should carry guns to do their jobs more effectively.
Dooley said he believes arming police is logical decision for URI.
"This is widely accepted as the best practice for institutions of our size. I think University of Rhode Island is pretty unique not to have an armed force," said Dooley.
The president cited the "large, open, complex campus" as further reasoning for the importance of armed police.
Chair of the Board of Education Eva-Marie Mancuso has been in favor of arming campus police, and was not surprised to see it pass. Mancuso said she found most people to be in support of the proposal.
The board’s new policy allows each state institution to make the decision about whether campus police officers will carry guns said Mancuso.
“I know that as of right now the University of Rhode Island is proceeding forward to arm, the community college is not and Rhode Island College is doing a further study on it,” she said.
Peter Nightingale is a physics professor at the University of Rhode Island and a member of the nonviolence advocacy group the Raging Grannies. He said there has been little support of the measure from the professors at URI.
“The vote in the faculty senate was rather lopsided towards not arming the police," Nightingale said. "At the forum that I went to I don’t think there was a single faculty member that spoke in favor of this." Nightingale said arming campus police sets a bad precedent, as teachers should be promoting an environment of non-violence in education.
Until now, Rhode Island was the only state in the country that banned armed police on state college campuses. An increasing number of colleges across the country now arm their police, including Brown University in Providence. Eva-Marie Mancuso said she believes that campus police at the University of Rhode Island would not be armed until January 2014 at the very earliest.
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