A University commission has made a preliminary recommendation to arm a handful of Public Safety officers at the Medical Center, though it will neither be considered nor publicized by UR until the fall semester.
The Security Commission—charged with making recommendations for security improvements on campus—voted unanimously to move the suggestion forward for “further discussion” with University President Joel Seligman, according to Commission Chair Holly Crawford.
The recommendation is not final, nor does it conclude the ongoing discussion about Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers carrying guns.
Crawford, the University’s CFO and Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, said that a final commission report has not yet been drafted. She indicated that the preliminary recommendation may be modified before the final report is issued.
Seligman has said that he will make no decision about the final recommendation, when it is eventually released, pending further review by students, faculty, and staff in the fall. According to Crawford, the final report will not be circulated publically until after Labor Day.
A University statement, published online Friday in its weekday @Rochester newsletter, did not indicate what preliminary recommendations had been made—only that they were “intended largely to address security concerns on the Medical Center Campus.”
Both Students’ Association President Vito Martino, a senior, and Crawford confirmed that the Commission’s recommendation included arming a “small number of posts” at the Medical Center, “24/7.”
The statement said that Seligman is due to address the University Board of Trustees in August and that the briefing “is not for the purpose of securing a vote, but rather to keep [the Board] informed about the Security Commission’s work to date and the process going forward.”
This summer recommendation comes after Crawford issued an impromptu extension to the operation of the Commission, which was previously slated to issue final recommendations in May.
As the Campus Times reported in April, many students did not want the Commission to conclude its work outside the academic year, prompting Crawford to extend the deadline. Students also requested the Commission include student voices over the summer—of which Martino is one.
The duty of the Commission is to perform a five-year review of security on campus, following a 2011 review of a report on DPS. To students, by far the most important issue among those facing the Commission has been arming Public Safety officers.
At a series of forums in April, Crawford and Director of Public Safety Mark Fischer spoke about the possibility of arming DPS officers. Though some students supported the idea—especially after Fischer revealed response delays that outside police agencies had experienced during University drills—many others did not.
Some students offered biting criticism, with others offering personal anecdotes related to guns. Many concerned students gave voice to widely-held anger about racially-biased policing and over-armed police agencies—two concerns of national scale that continue to influence the discussion at UR.
Sworn officers, also known as peace officers, comprise about half the Public Safety force. These officers are more-or-less equivalent to police officers with a jurisdiction limited to University property, with one notable exception—DPS officers do not currently carry firearms.
UR is the only member of the Association of American Universities (AAU)—an organization of 62 prominent research universities in the U.S. and Canada, public and private—with a sworn department that is unarmed, according to Dana Perrin, DPS Public Information Officer and Assistant Director of Public Safety for the River Campus. Fifty-nine of the 60 U.S. schools in the organization have sworn officers—only Columbia University does not.
Only sworn officers are eligible to carry firearms, and those at UR would require additional training before they could do so.
Crawford has continually made herself available for questions, comments, and concerns about the work of the Commission. Those seeking to contact Crawford should email her at SVP_CFO@ur.rochester.edu.
Correction (7/27/2016): A previous version of this story stated that UR’s was the only agency in New York state with a sworn department that was unarmed. Actually, UR is the only university in the 62-member AAU with a sworn department that is unarmed.