September 17, 2013
Dear Faculty and Professional Staff Members,
I'm writing to share a background paper on the question of arming the Department of Public Safety's sworn police officers, which President Porterfield discussed in his message to the community on September 13. The attached paper was authored by DPS Director Bill McHale and me to provide information and data to help inform the campus-wide discussion. Every institution must make its own decision on this important question, and the paper outlines the potential risks and benefits to arming sworn officers.
As President Porterfield indicated, it is essential that we have conversations in our community about the topic so that he and the Board of Trustees can consider all perspectives when thinking about how the College can best respond to an active shooter or other high-risk situation. Ultimately, the safety of our community members is our highest priority.
There will be numerous opportunities to provide input and ask questions over the next few months. The attached paper outlines a preliminary schedule for meetings and fora. A website also has been set up with the most up-to-date information, answers to frequently asked questions, and a comment form allowing you to provide comments and feedback on this issue (anonymously, if desired).
I know there is a lot on everyone's plates this fall and I appreciate your attention to this important topic.
Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer
Title IX Coordinator
President Porterfield sent this message to the campus community on September 13, 2013
Dear Members of the Franklin & Marshall Community:
I am writing to let you know that I am initiating an important conversation for the College community. Throughout the semester, we will provide a set of meetings to allow students, faculty, and professional staff to discuss the question of whether Franklin & Marshall should move to a system in which our Public Safety officers are authorized to carry firearms on duty.
Ultimately, I will bring this question to our Board of Trustees, which has responsibility and authority for this decision as one of institutional policy and risk management. My mind remains open about the best approach for F&M, and I welcome an inclusive discussion of this question among the campus community.
A number of factors lead me to raise this question at this time. These include: (1) the ongoing phenomenon of random mass shootings and other mass casualty acts of violence in a host of venues around the country, none of them seemingly at greater risk than any other for such tragedies; (2) the professionalism of Franklin & Marshall’s Public Safety officers, who are sworn police officers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and graduates from municipal police academies approved by the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Education and Training Commission; (3) the Department of Public Safety’s achievement of accreditation by professional agencies—one of only five higher education institutions in Pennsylvania to accomplish this; (4) the fact that our Public Safety officers patrol a large part of Northwest Lancaster and are vested with authority to stop cars, detain suspects, and collaborate with local police on arrests off-campus; and (5) the openness of our campus to the general public.
At the same time, and to be weighed alongside these factors, is our longstanding practice not to arm officers. A change in that practice is not to be made lightly, and I look forward to our campus conversation about this complex issue.
To facilitate informed discussion, I have asked Vice President for Finance and Administration David Proulx and Director of Public Safety Bill McHale to draft a background document to frame the question about arming officers, which they will distribute next week. In addition, College Communications will create a web page hosting information about this discussion and announcing campus fora on the topic. The framing document will be posted online for you to download and read in advance of discussions throughout the fall. We will host at least one forum with representatives of institutions whose campus police carry firearms. We also will make it possible for members of the community to submit questions or perspectives anonymously online. After listening to the views of our community and also consulting with experienced higher education and law enforcement leaders, I will ask the Board of Trustees to engage in a similar discussion at its February 2014 meeting, where the considered opinions of the College community will be available to inform the Board's deliberations.
The question is complex, and thoughtful people will hold varying perspectives on the question itself, and on how best to implement a decision to arm, should there be one. I would like to welcome all members of our community to share their views. To that end, I am asking our interim Provost Joe Karlesky, Vice President for Finance and Administration Dave Proulx, Dean of the College Margaret Hazlett, and Chief of Staff Sam Houser to facilitate discussions among faculty, professional staff, students, members of the Lancaster community, and other stakeholders. We will also engage the Public Safety Advisory Committee (whose members include faculty, students, professional staff, and a representative of the Lancaster City Alliance), the campus Committee on the Quality of Campus Life, and the Diplomatic Congress in our discussions.
All of us take issues of campus safety and security very seriously, and, as an academic community, we have worked proactively to ensure safety and security. In 2012-13 we conducted a formal review of Public Safety by the national campus security firm Margolis, Healy & Associates and have enhanced our emergency preparedness. We have upgraded our nighttime shuttle service, campus lighting, squad cars, and video systems. We actively patrol our campus and surrounding neighborhoods and seek actively to partner with students about safety. Our commitment to continuous review and enhancement of public safety is deeply impressive to me.
I would add that I have thought through and worked on campus safety issues for many years and in a personal way. Prior to joining the F&M community, for eight years I lived with my family in a campus residence hall and saw firsthand the value of outstanding campus security policies, systems, and partnerships. At F&M I have very much enjoyed going out regularly on late-night weekend drive-arounds in order to assess directly both student safety and the work of our campus police. Based on my experience and recent events nationally, I believe we have an obligation to attend to the question of arming our campus police officers at this time.
Thank you in advance for what promises to be a substantial and important series of discussions.
All the best,