Staffers fire gun questions at University of Idaho safety official

State's new law allows retired law enforcement, enhanced concealed carry permit holders to possess firearms on campuses


July 02--MOSCOW -- Many people have asked the same question of Matt Dorschel -- what does the University of Idaho expect now that guns are permitted on campus?

Dorschel, UI's executive director for Public Safety and Security, said what he can say at this point is that schools with similar laws in place have not seen an increase in gun-related problems.

Dorschel, along with UI General Counsel Kent Nelson, fielded questions from more than 80 faculty and staff members during an open forum Tuesday on Idaho's new law that allows some people to carry concealed weapons on public college and university campuses. The meeting was also extended to staff and faculty members on UI's Boise, Twin Falls and Coeur d'Alene campuses via video conference.

Questions during Tuesday's forum ranged from why a professor or instructor can censor language in their classroom, but not guns; what kind of discipline a professor or instructor would face if they chose to not abide by the law; if a concealed carry permit holder can be required to disclose that information; and to clarify the definition of a concealed weapon. There were also questions about whether people can carry pepper spray and what will happen with sensitive areas like the university's child care center and laboratories.

Dorschel said the reason guns cannot be censored in a classroom is because it would be a violation of UI's governing body. The Idaho State Board of Education approved a policy change last month requiring colleges and universities to permit firearms on their campuses.

Idaho's new law allows retired law enforcement officers and enhanced concealed carry permit holders to possess firearms on college and university campuses, with the exception of residence halls, dorms and facilities housing event venues that seat more than 1,000 people.

But, Dorschel said, the university's policies on other weapons have not changed, making it possible for someone to carry mace if they choose. Nelson said proper discipline will be enforced if an employee opts to go against the law, which for faculty involves going through the provost's office.

A couple of different teachers asked what kind of language they could include on a syllabus and if they could include a voluntary policy saying they'd like to have a gun-free classroom. Nelson said he would need to take that into consideration, but liked a suggestion to provide educators with permissible language for syllabuses.

As far as how laboratories and child care facilities will be handled, Nelson said UI's approach and polices regarding the new law is an evolving process and the university is continuing to work with peers at Idaho's other institutions to find the answers. Kenton Bird, director of UI's School of Journalism and Mass Media, suggested UI consider proposing legislation during next year's session to add those areas as exemptions to the law.

Director of Parking and Transportation Carl Root asked what UI planned to do regarding Moscow's Intermodal Transit Center, which is operated cooperatively with the city. Nelson said that question had not been brought up before and something he wants to look at more closely.

"I appreciate that point," Nelson said. "I think we need to look at that."

Dorschel emphasized during the forum that if anyone feels unnerved, threatened or sees a firearm on campus that they should report it to either campus security, UI's threat-assessment team or the Moscow Police Department. Moscow Police Lt. Dave Lehmitz said he was not aware of any reports of people seeing firearms on UI's campus as of Tuesday evening.

"So if something happens in your classroom that causes concern, you should report it immediately," Dorschel said.

Rudd may be contacted at erudd@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-8465. Follow her on Twitter @elizabeth_rudd.

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