June 27--The University of Idaho plans to do little to address the carrying of concealed firearms on its campus, unlike Idaho's other major educational institutions, which are exploring expanding and arming their security forces.
Matt Dorschel, UI public safety and security executive director, said the university does not plan to hire any more security officers or arm them in preparation for SB 1254 allowing firearms on university and college campuses in the Gem State. The law goes into effect Tuesday.
Dorschel served as the head of the university task force created to provide recommendations and guidance to faculty and students on how to handle the policy changes. The extent of the policy the task force will release on Tuesday is to simply follow the law set forth by the state.
In an amendment to the Idaho State Board of Education policy on firearms, the board approved the changes to allow firearms on campuses statewide.
"An environment of safety and security is critical for institutions to cultivate a climate conducive to knowledge and learning. The Board recognizes a need for the consistency among the institutions in regard to firearms. All institutions shall allow concealed carry of firearms and ammunition by holders of licenses described in section 18-3309(2)," read the policy by the state board.
Dorschel said the task force met weekly but did not believe arming security officers was a necessary action, unlike Idaho State University, which is planning to arm its security staff. He did say, however, the UI will be adding elements on how to respond to armed individuals into its training.
Steve Chatterton, ISU public safety director, told the Idaho State Journal his eight full-time officers and two supervisors, including himself, will be issued 9 mm Glock 17 semiautomatic handguns.
"Our objective is to maintain a safe and secure campus environment," Chatterton said. "We are increasing our officers' capabilities to respond timely."
Similarly, Boise State University said it needs about $500,000 for the upcoming school year to initiate a three-year security ramp-up that likely will include expanding and arming its college police force, according to an article in the Idaho Statesman.
At the UI, Dorschel said, the university works closely with the Moscow Police Department, which has quick response times to provide aid on campus. The MPD also runs the on-campus firearm storage facility, which will be relocated to the campus security office.
"The storage facility is going to be up and running," he said.
Dorschel said various options that faculty are looking into, such as hanging signs outside classrooms prohibiting firearms, is a direct violation of the policy. Although he said he does not have the authority to tell employees what they can and cannot do in terms of signs, the law clearly states firearms are allowed inside classes.
Some faculty, though, are looking for personal actions, like these signs, that they can take against firearms.
The UI Faculty Union hired an attorney to look into what legal and non-legal options were available. Benjamin Onosko, a Moscow attorney, returned with a nearly 20-page write-up diving into the legality of the law applied to university policy and how faculty and administration could respond.
Among other things, he suggested the UI could sue the state and challenge the legality of the law. The university had created its own constitution prior to Idaho becoming a state. The state officially recognized the UI's constitution and that has been upheld in various cases over the year, said Nick Gier, UI professor emeritus and Idaho Federation of Teachers president.
Gier said he doesn't consider this a strong option for the university, simply because he doesn't believe university officials are willing to move forward with the suit, despite firm opposition to the law from former interim President Donald Burnett and current President Chuck Staben.