Regents reject packing pistols


Armed professors are not going to be part of higher education's immediate future in Nevada.

After a statewide conversation over the need to provide more security and prevent the kinds of massacres that have hit schools across the nation, Nevada's Board of Regents on Friday rejected a highly publicized proposal that would have allowed some faculty and staff to be armed.

But as a result of the intense discussion about the gun proposal, it might someday be possible for specially trained professors and staff members to become armed law enforcement officers through the schools' police reserve programs, which regents said they might expand and extend to more schools.

The vote wasn't close: eight regents against and five in favor, reversing a decision by a Board of Regents committee Thursday.

And one regent, Cedric Crear, voted against the idea Friday after endorsing it the day before.

In the end, the plan pitted two worlds against each other: the slow-going, meek environment of academia and the world of law enforcement, according to Regent and Las Vegas police Capt. Stavros Anthony.

"One world of universities and colleges, neat and orderly, educating students and doing research," he said. "Then you have my world, where we've actually seen dead bodies, we've seen blood over crime scenes, we've had to deal with grieving family members."

Anthony, as he introduced the proposal for the first time to the full board Friday morning, acknowledged that most faculty, students and university and college presidents were against his idea.

"There are people that are completely against weapons," Anthony said. "I understand that philosophy."

The comment earned him conciliatory remarks from faculty leaders after the plan was killed by the board.

If overwhelming faculty opposition wasn't enough to sway them to vote against it, regents had to worry about erroneous national headlines and sound bites that Nevada was handing out guns to its faculty, according to Regents Chairman Michael Wixom.

"Stavros' idea was never to give guns to faculty," an exasperated Wixom said. "It was a hobby horse. It creates an issue for our national reputation because of the sound bites."

Wixom said intense media coverage overshadowed the substance of Anthony's proposal and forced him to vote against it.

Anthony pitched the idea -- to allow specially trained faculty and staff to carry guns on campus where they would become part of reserve officer programs -- after the Virginia Tech shooting deaths of 33 people in April.

The institutions would have paid for some staff members to go through the 21-week police academy training and for their salaries during the time off. Attendance in the program would have required the approval of individual university and college presidents.

Police officers are allowed to carry guns on Nevada's campuses. And the presidents of each institution can grant that privilege to anybody. But at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the College of Southern Nevada, the police chiefs recommend presidents don't give that OK.

Before Friday's vote, UNLV President David Ashley pitched an alternative -- to expand his university's reserve police officer program and extend the program to all of the state's colleges and universities, an idea popular with faculty and the police chiefs.

The only difference between the new plan and Anthony's plan would be that faculty would have to pay their own way, find a way to get the time off, and go through the academy training.

Regents will vote on the new proposal at a later meeting.

UNLV is the only Nevada higher-education institution with a reserve police officer force. The force is made up largely of retired and active police officers from other departments who provide security for special events, such as sports games.

CSN Police Chief Sandy Seda said he was disappointed that Anthony's idea was rejected because he wanted more registered police officers on campus during the day. Reserve officers are only on campus for special events or emergencies.

"We were really looking at this from an all-hazards approach," he said. "It wasn't solely based on this Virginia Tech kind of situation."

But regents voiced a host of concerns about the idea.

Regent Thalia Dondero said she was worried students would think, "Well, if he's (the faculty member) going to carry a gun, so am I."

Regent Steve Sisolak questioned whether in an emergency situation, a student would be able to distinguish between the plain-clothed faculty member with a gun and a shooter.

Crear changed his vote Friday, but didn't explain why after the meeting. During the meeting he chastised the presidents and faculty for flatly rejecting Anthony's plan and not coming up with an alternative idea.

"I'm upset about it. I'm fired up about it. I'm going to hold you to it," he told the presidents and faculty. "I want to see those same people today fight for better security."

Anthony and Regent Ron Knecht both said some faculty members came to them interested in going through the training, but none was so bold as to speak out during public comment periods Thursday and Friday.

Those who did speak were student leaders and faculty members who were staunchly opposed to the notion of allowing faculty to bear arms on campus.

Ryan Crowell, student body president of Nevada State College at Henderson, warned that if the proposal passed, campuses would turn into prison-type settings.

"The only difference now between a prison and a school is that I have to pay to go to school," he said.

Faculty have been fired up about the issue since it was introduced, and many faculty senates chose to resoundingly reject the proposal.

"I didn't have one person come to me and say this was a good idea," said Stephen Rock, faculty senate chairman at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Some were opposed for philosophical reasons, but many others were concerned about how they would look not just to their students, but to the rest of the country.

"All it would serve is a bad sound bite on the evening news," CSN professor and Nevada Faculty Alliance President Alok Pandey said.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0440.

 

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