President Porterfield sent this message to the campus community on January 20, 2014
Dear Members of the Faculty and Professional Staff:
Now that the F&M community is back together after winter break, I am writing to give you an update on the progress of our campus discussions about the proposal to arm our sworn Public Safety officers and to offer a sense about what to expect during the coming semester as the Board of Trustees continues to consider this question.
Thank you to all who have participated in our discussions, which have been thoughtful, substantial, and productive. They have shown how deeply we respect and care about one another and the safety and security of all at the College. They have also shone light on the range of perspectives among us on the prospect of arming our sworn officers. Some of you have asked for more information and more time to talk with one another and learn more about the Department of Public Safety and about our officers before the Board of Trustees makes a determination on this complex topic. The same can be said for some of the alumni, parents, and friends of the institution.
In October, Vice President for Finance and Administration David Proulx and I gave the Board of Trustees an update on what were then early campus conversations about arming, and in December the Executive Committee of the Board also received an update. In December, I shared with the Trustees my sense that the Board and the campus would benefit from still more discussion and information sharing before the Board makes its decision.
The Board has shared with me its gratitude for the significant contributions made to this debate and wants to be sure that it hears all views from all interested parties. The Board has committed to investing the time needed to understand the array of campus perspectives and to weigh thoughtfully the question as a fiduciary, risk management, and legal matter. Toward that end, this semester, the Board will continue to discuss the topic with members of the campus community and consult with experts on safety and security on college campuses. It will analyze the question at the February meeting but will not make a decision at that time.
To organize the Board’s ongoing information gathering and deliberations, Board Chair Larry Bonchek P’91 has appointed a Trustee Task Force, led by the Chair of the Student Life Committee Doug McCormack ’85. The Board will invite an external facilitator to help ensure that the Board’s process is thoughtful, thorough, and informed by credible information from multiple perspectives. This semester’s public conversations will supplement the discussions we had in the fall and will, the Board and I expect, meet the community’s expressed need for more discussion to inform the Board’s deliberations. The other members of the Board Task Force are Stan Brand ’70, Stan Levin ’74, H. Art Taylor ’80, Linda Yarden ’81, and Larry Bonchek P’91.
Those of us who have been facilitating campus discussions have learned that the arming question raises related questions, concerns and issues that—by their very nature—can require immediate and unanticipated follow up and response. Because conversations are unscripted and grow organically among the discussants, we have understood the importance of being as responsive as we can be to what emerges in our campus forums. Because that is likely to continue to be the case, I am going to refrain from forecasting a detailed timeline for the discussions this semester. The Board and I would like to retain the flexibility we need to respond to questions as they arise, instead of being tied to a timeline that does not anticipate how the conversations may unfold and therefore could counterproductively constrain discussion. We will advertise public meetings in advance and, with a spirit of full communication, regularly update the campus on the status of the decision process.
We understand that the Board must ultimately make a decision that will not be met with universal agreement. However, by genuinely engaging the diverse views of our community, looking at the relevant practices of other colleges and universities, consulting with campus safety experts, and communicating regularly, the Board will carry out its responsibilities in a way that shows respect for all and, I hope, strengthen the bonds among us as well as our collective safety.
From time to time this semester, you will receive updates on the progress of conversations and invitations to public forums or discussions. For example, the Trustee Task Force will meet directly with our Public Safety Advisory Committee, the Faculty Council, and members of the Department of Public Safety.
Please remember that you are always able to communicate your views on the topic via a link at www.fandm.edu/arming. The Trustee Task Force has received all messages submitted through that email link to date, and will continue to do so. To assist in its deliberations, the Board also will have access to minutes of forums from last semester and other documents, including results of a student survey of opinions about arming officers and the motion approved by the faculty at the October 29th meeting.
In closing, I want to repeat my thanks for your participation in conversations about this important topic and for participating with reason, clarity, and fairness of expression. I also would like to acknowledge the hard work of the members of our Department of Public Safety who have accepted a profound responsibility to keep our community safe. We owe them both our gratitude and our best thinking about a topic of such importance.
I look forward to an excellent set of conversations this semester. All the best for the spring semester.
Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.
President Porterfield sent this message to the campus community on December 16, 2013
Dear Members of the Faculty and Professional Staff:
As the semester draws to a close, I am writing to provide a brief update on the process by which the Board of Trustees will evaluate the option of arming F&M’s sworn Public Safety Officers.
The Board will discuss the issue in its February meeting but will not make a final determination at that time. Our Trustees, who have legal and fiduciary responsibility for this decision, feel that the question will require more opportunities for analysis and reflection than any single Board meeting is likely to provide. They also feel, and I agree, that further campus discussion and information-sharing would be beneficial, whatever the ultimate decision.
I will write at the beginning of the semester with a more full report on next steps in the consideration of this important question. However, because we had a number of constructive conversations this fall, I thought you would want to know where the discussion with the Board stands before the campus empties out for the winter break.
Please enjoy the upcoming break, and have a Happy New Year.
Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.
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,
Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.