Despite opposition to campus carry, students hope July 1 brings limited change
With concealed carry going into effect on campus, students at the University expect some minimal changes to the overall campus atmosphere.
Any person over the age of 21 has the right to carry concealed weapons in any building owned by the state that doesn’t have the security measures required (metal detectors and security guards at any point of entrance). Universities and hospitals were given a four-year exemption that ends July 1.
A 2015 Kansas Board of Regents survey done across all universities in Kansas said that out of the 10,886 student responses, 70 percent wanted the law amended so that guns were not allowed on campus. Many bills in the legislature attempting to amend this law have failed to gain traction, making guns on campus a reality come Saturday.
For many, the exemption ending won’t change much, if anything, in the campus atmosphere. Sophomore Travis Perkins, from Maize, said he doesn’t think anything will change after this Saturday.
“I think after the first year of it nobody’s gonna care because they’re just going to get used to the fact that people might have guns,” he said.
The fact that people are allowed to carry handguns open and concealed outside campus grounds is a reason why Perkins thinks this won’t change. That and the fact that people won’t know who is carrying a weapon, he added.
At the University of Kansas, in the fall of 2016, 41 percent of undergraduates, or 7,637 students, were 21 or older, making them old enough to carry a weapon. This number does not take into account international students who are not allowed to carry concealed weapons. Although there were 6,155 graduate students, over a sixth of them were international students.
International students, who make up around 9 percent of the University’s total population with 2,300 students, could feel particularly unsafe with the carrying of concealed weapons on campus.
Ed Saragih, an international student from Indonesia who graduated in May, said international students face not only coming to a country with a radically different gun culture than their own, but the overall experience with them might be completely different from their home countries.
“One reason why people decide to go to the United States for education is because they know it’s at least a safer place than the area near where they could go to college in their country, and if that feeling of safety is being discounted, what else do they have?” he said.
Charles Olcese, director of International Student Services, agrees that it all comes down to safety. Amidst dealing with executive orders and regulations, the spring semester also brought more students inquiring about concealed carry and how it would affect them.
To assuage their feelings, his office hosted a variety of forums, one which included Chief of Police Chris Keary. Olcese said that the fact that international students, as individuals with nonimmigrant visas, are not allowed to possess guns is another point of worry for them.
“That is another level of anxiety or feeling vulnerable, so what we tried to do was to address that, trying to put that in context for them, and one of the things that the police chief was very helpful in doing was in articulating that while campus carry or concealed carry is new to the campus, it has been the law in Kansas for five years,” he said.
Still, for Saragih, concealed carry coming to campus was what propelled him to finish college a year earlier than expected.
“My experiences with guns are not experiences where guns are fun, or guns are the best thing in the world,” he said. “Guns are terrorizing people, that’s what I know of guns.”
Cody Campbell, a junior from Wichita, said, personally, his fear comes from the easy access to guns.
In 2015, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that allows people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. This might be another factor to explain many people’s uneasiness, much like Campbell’s, when it comes to concealed carry being allowed on campus.
After July 1, Saragih said, he expects students to be more cautious of how and what they talk in class discussions, especially in controversial topics. If he hadn’t been able to graduate earlier, he said he certainly would have taken more online courses or courses where attendance was not required.
Nic LaPonte, law student from Seattle, who spent five years in the army, said carrying a gun is a big responsibility, and whoever who does it needs to be aware of this responsibility.
“Unless you’ve had a tremendous amount of weapons training, of handgun experience, of that sort of experience with those weapons, it can be seen as more of a novelty than it can be a serious responsibility,” he said.
Ultimately, Perkins thinks that the number of people who will carry would be “minuscule,” an idea Olcese agrees with.
“You won’t know people have guns, it’s not open carry; It has to be concealed,” he said. “It really should be business as usual, it’s just a new reality for us, and for many of us it’s a scary reality. It means something more philosophically more than it does practically.”
LaPonte said that it’s an “existential threat,” where your feeling of safety is stripped away. He said his only worry is people using this in a negligent manner.
“I could tell you even people who are in the service, who get an enormous amount of firearms training still have issues of negligent discharges, we still have issues of improper handgun and firearm safety,” he said.
The University needs to implement programs and trainings to reduce the risks of accidents happening, LaPonte said. Perkins agreed.
“I think the University should be very open about what they’re doing to make sure that for those people who want to bring guns on campus have the proper training and know what they’re doing,” Perkins said.
The University released more details on implementation procedures where a required training for staff, faculty and students is mentioned. However, it does not say when or how these trainings would happen.
More Signs, More Cops: Campus carry to bring small logistical adjustments, not big changes, to KU
With mere days until the University’s campus becomes gun-friendly, administrators around the University are making their final decisions on what must be changed to make campus carry work. The answer? Not much.
Anyone over the age of 21 will be able to carry a weapon on campus beginning July 1 as a result of a 2013 state law that allows concealed carry in all public buildings unless security measures are installed. The University has been under an exemption for the past four years.
The preparations for this change began in the offices of Strong Hall years ago and are finally wrapping up this summer. Surveys were taken, town halls were held, a committee was convened and a report created.
The final result of these efforts was a revised policy on weapons that mandates any concealed weapon be kept within its owner’s control at all times on campus. The original version of the policy, which was passed by the Board of Regents in December, said the weapon, if stored in a backpack or purse, had to be kept on one’s person at all times. The Regents voted in May to eliminate this clause from the policy in favor of more general wording.
Now, administration is looking at other aspects of campus life that will have to be shifted as a result of this change. Largely, though, most administrators say there won’t be major changes to the way the campus operates.
Police and security changes
Campus Police Chief Chris Keary said the law basically brings the University in line with the rest of Kansas, as concealed carry is already allowed in many public places. But he said the Public Safety Office (which oversees all police and security operations on campus) is making preparations to ensure University community members stay safe.
“We want our officers out of the cars, walking around in the buildings, interacting with people, so that it gives people a sense that there are people around — and there will be people around,” he said. “Hopefully, that presence will give the perception of safety to various members of our community.”
PSO is adding three new police officers and three new security personnel, as well as some equipment, to prepare for campus carry. Not all of the new personnel will be fully trained by July 1, but they will be able to supplement PSO’s current operations within a few months.
The new officers will be key in increasing the visibility of law enforcement on campus. Keary says he’s going to be encouraging his officers to walk through buildings frequently while classes are in session and is looking to set up some spaces on campus where his officers can work and be approachable to anyone walking on campus, such as the KU Info booth on Jayhawk Boulevard.
“We’re not going to be there 100 percent of the time, but it’s an opportunity to be seen in a way different than we have before,” he said.
The new security personnel who PSO is hiring will be trained to operate the new security equipment they purchased. Though no venues or events outside of KU Athletics have been approved to keep out guns using metal detectors and security personnel, PSO wants to be equipped to handle any situation that may arise and require temporary security measures, like controversial events or speakers.
“The necessity for having adequate security measures available should they be needed is very important,” he said. “For example, if that event is being held in the Woodruff Auditorium and the people holding that event want to set up adequate security measures and keep people out of that specific auditorium… we have to be able to do that.”
Deputy Chief James Anguiano said the majority of the force has had training in recent years as well that will equip them to handle situations involving guns. The training of existing officers has been necessary previously, he said, since concealed carry is so common in the general public, even if it’s not previously been allowed on campus.
Many students will see the effects of campus carry most apparently when they must go through a metal detector to attend a Kansas basketball game.
KU Athletics, as previously reported by the Kansan, will have adequate security measures (metal detectors and security personnel) at the entrances to Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium during events. Anyone attending these events is also asked to carry their belongings in a clear plastic bag to speed up the process.
But athletic facilities will be the only part of the University to have such security measures and therefore the only part of the University to remain gun-free under current law.
However, the state legislature passed a law that will allow health facilities, like all of the University’s Medical Center, to continue restricting guns from their buildings. Watkins Health Center on the Lawrence campus is not exempt throughout the entire facility, but patients are not allowed to carry a weapon during exams or procedures.
Changes in campus services
Although many buildings on campus will not be getting the security measures, some may still have adjustments to make.
For example, the Ambler Student Recreation Center is putting up signs by their lockers informing patrons that they cannot store weapons in the lockers. KU Libraries will have to make similar changes around the lockers that they provide.
Watkins will have to make changes as well to inform patients of their policy on concealed carry. Because the decision regarding how concealed carry applied to them was so recent, details on how it will be implemented there are still being established.
Though she says it’s not necessarily in reaction to campus carry, Durham also said that trainings have been held for many employees in Student Affairs to help them handle dangerous situations.
But, by and large, the changes will not interrupt these services’ operations. Spokespeople from the Rec Center, Libraries and Watkins all said they do not plan on changing their personnel or operating hours as a result of campus carry.
Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, said the law doesn’t change the role of offices like these on campus.
“Our job is still to serve students and we’re following the law and University policy and that’s the extent of it,” she said. “We’re not changing the services we provide for services, period. Students still need to be served and we will still serve students.”
Durham said most of the campus carry conversations in her unit have revolved around what kind of information students are getting, something administration has tried to emphasize through information sessions and an informational website.
Generally, though, most administrators believe that campus carry will not bring massive changes to campus life.
Since concealed carry has been legal in many public spaces in Kansas for years and violence rarely results, Keary said, he doesn’t see huge safety concerns being created on campus.
“I think what we’ll find, hopefully, is that we’re going to be much the same as the rest of the Kansas and Lawrence has been for the past ten years,” Keary said.
Durham also said she can’t imagine July 1 drastically shifting the campus, but she thinks it’s impossible to tell exactly what it will be like.
“I”m not willing to make the leap, come July 1, that this will be the O.K. Corral,” she said. “I’m assuming those who choose to carry will be responsible.”
Faculty considers changing classroom practices as a result of campus carry
Each new semester brings a new round of syllabuses, but this semester professors will include a new added section of information that addresses concealed carry on campus. As the University prepares to shift to an environment where students are legally allowed to bring concealed handguns to class, this will be just one of many preparations.
In response to the arrival of concealed weapons on July 1 as a result of a 2013 state law, professors are taking steps to adjust their teaching style, class content, office hours or even seeking employment elsewhere.
Aerospace engineering professor Ron Barrett Gonzalez, president of the Kansas chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said this is because many faculty members are concerned that concealed carry will have a chilling effect in classrooms.
“I know a nontrivial number of faculty members who are changing their syllabus. What a number of faculty members are scaling back are some of those aspects that may be seen as terribly controversial,” Barrett Gonzalez said. “The chill that we are in seeing in an active, open and honest discourse is a continuous slide that, in my opinion, is an affront to our First Amendment and academic freedom.”
This is especially true for classes that cover controversial topics. Professor Cécile Accilien, who teaches classes in the African and African-American Studies department, said she is concerned that this chilling effect will impact the quality of her classes.
“At a conscious and subconscious level, I think it will be very hard for me to be the same passionate teacher that I was this past semester,” she said. “It’s not just about my safety, but the safety of the other students in the class. (...) My students may become less critical thinkers. I will push them less and in terms of my teaching it will change.”
According to a 2015 Docking Institute survey on campus carry, 82 percent of faculty members don’t support campus carry and 61 percent would let it affect their decision to work at the University.
Changing classroom practices
Barrett Gonzalez said campus carry has driven some professors to rethink the way they teach.
One option is using online classes or hybrid classes for faculty and students who may not feel comfortable in a classroom with potentially armed peers, Barrett Gonzalez said. For example, he plans to offer virtual versions of his classroom lectures.
“I understand that a nontrivial number of students are uneasy being in a classroom where their classmates may be armed,” he said. “I understand that. To accommodate to the students, I’m working to offer a virtual Dr. Barrett.”
Other faculty members are taking more drastic steps. English professor Maryemma Graham said she won’t be teaching classes this semester, but instead will focus on the other aspects of her job, like research and mentoring.
In addition, she said that she has begun looking for a new job outside the University.
“What we are doing at colleges and universities is helping people change and transform into the best people they can be,” Graham said. “Our job is to create a space where that’s done as safely, openly and honestly as possible. So when you start using the word concealed it’s the opposite of that.”
the University’s concealed carry website, professors are only allowed to keep guns out of their offices if they have adequate security measures, which would include metal detectors and armed personnel at the entrance.
Accilien said she is considering adjusting or not offering her office hours. According to the University’s concealed carry website, professors are only allowed to keep guns out of their offices if they have adequate security measures, which would include metal detectors and armed personnel at the entrance.
“I wouldn’t be comfortable having a student who’s drunk come to my office and bring their alcohol,” she said. “To me, it’s the same thing.”
The Kansas Board of Regents policy does allow faculty members in a single office to lock their doors, as long as it doesn’t interfere with office hours.
Guidance from administration
Aside from the information provided on the concealed carry website and in the information sessions hosted by the University, the only guidance faculty have received is information on suggested syllabus language, University spokesperson Erinn Barcomb Peterson said in an email.
She said the suggested syllabus language “included detailed wording for courses that have labs and field trips.” It also had information for professors who require students to store their backpacks and belongings away from them during tests or lab.
Graham said the University has failed to show its opposition to the change during this transition and that has put faculty in difficult positions.
“The University did not stand up against this as a whole, only faculty and students did, so we didn’t have the leadership to make it really clear that they were trying their best for the students,” Graham said. “All along the assumption has been that there’s nothing you can do about it and that’s the problem I have.”
Some departments have taken it upon themselves to provide training or information, including Accilien’s which had the department meet with the Public Safety Office.
Accilien said it’s disappointing that some people don’t think campus carry is a big deal. To her, it means they aren’t thinking about the vulnerable people who are either marginalized or aren’t legally allowed to carry guns, like international students and faculty and students under 21.
“A lot of people aren’t thinking about their position and privilege. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury to not think about my position as a women, as a person of color, I’m an immigrant,” she said. “Too many people aren’t thinking about all of the different aspects of this.”
How KU is handling the newest part of the freshman experience: campus carry
On Tuesday, June 13, the first day of orientation, incoming students and their families filled the Kansas Memorial Union. One of the first things on their itineraries? A new safety panel for parents and guests.
According to Katie Treadwell, associate director for orientation in the Office of First Year Experience, one of the largest topics discussed by this panel and one of the largest questions on the minds of these parents and guests is concealed carry.
“We have a campus safety panel that will happen for parents and guests at orientation. Students don’t attend that,” Treadwell said. “KU Public Safety Office (KUPSO) will introduce all of the resources they use on campus to keep us safe and introduce the concept of concealed carry.”
Of course, she added, the panel also includes the representatives from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center (SAPEC) who will speak on issues regarding sexual assault and consent, as well as Student Affairs who will discuss campus safety “as a whole.”
However, with the exemption that kept weapons off public universities set to expire on July 1, the issue of concealed carry is one that is undoubtedly weighing on students’ and parents’ minds.
Over the past few years, administrators and groups like those presenting on the panel have gathered, from things like from town halls and orientations, student questions regarding the 2013 state law, which allows individuals over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon in any public facility unless security measures are in place.
“Any time a new question comes up at orientation, I submit it to the Provost’s Office and they craft a response and make it publicly available so that in the future we can continue answering those questions,” Treadwell said. “Because part of making people feel OK about it is making them feel that their question is important even if it’s the hundredth time you’ve been asked that question.”
“The conversations that we’ve had with students have really been those ‘what if’ scenarios, not necessarily from a place of fear,” Treadwell said. “But just from a place of wanting to be prepared and being unsure about what this looks like on campus.”
With less than 20 days until those on campus are allowed to carry guns, concealed carry is becoming less of a “what if” and more of an inevitable part of campus that incoming students, regardless of their stance on guns, have questions about.
Sarah Malakoff, a freshman from Mckinney, Texas, said she has been sure of her choice to attend the University for quite some time. Now, after only recently becoming aware of concealed carry at the University, she said she sees both negative and positive sides to the issue.
“It’s great as it can allow someone to feel safe on campus and if need be, protect themselves in a dangerous situation,” Malakoff said. “However, you can be sitting in class or walking on Jayhawk Boulevard and a student right next to you will be able to have a gun and you have no clue as to what their intentions are.”
The importance of the hypothetical scenarios being dissected by staff like Treadwell are evident in the concerns of students like Malakoff. Although full of hypothetical questions right now, she said, it doesn’t change her decision to come to Kansas.
“It didn’t even pop into my mind when considering where to go to college,” Malakoff said. “It’s not something I think most high school students think about. It’s a very new controversial topic.”
The issue’s influence, or lack thereof, on choice of college was the same with Nate Gendler, a freshman from Omaha, Nebraska.
Gendler, who described himself as aligning “moderately right” and supporting the second amendment, said he has become fairly educated over the years on carrying a concealed weapon
and has plans to conceal carry in the future. However, his opinion skews when it comes to college campuses.
“I just think it should be a gun-free area, as public and private high schools and such are,” Gendler said.
When thinking about the issue and how it will influence his upcoming time at the University, Gendler said he weighs the pros and cons.
“It has many pros: more college gun safety classes, regulation and there is the potential that it could prove to be safe for students,” Gendler said.
The cons are paramount too, though, he added.
“I am not indifferent, I’d prefer it be gun-free,” Gendler said. “But I do understand and support the legality of concealed carry. I just don’t know how I feel about them on a campus.”
Although students like Malakoff and Gendler didn’t consider the change when choosing a university, they may have questions about it once they get here. That’s why orientation assistants like Kenny Nguyen and Leslie Alva were trained to have the answers, or at least know where to find them.
Nguyen, a junior from Dodge City, said that in serving his second year as an orientation assistant, he hopes to help educate new students on concealed carry with the tools he has gained through training at the University.
“It’s all about prevention education right now, stuff like what to do if you see it, this is how you should conceal it and this is how it should be,” Nguyen said. “It’s nothing that KU can change.”
Instead of changing it, Nguyen said, the University is focused on educating students about concealed carry. Although the campus safety panel during orientation is for everyone except incoming students, they may have something just as good, maybe even better: peers working as their orientation assistants who likely had or have the same questions as them.
Alva, a junior from Kansas City, Kansas, said the issue of concealed carry will likely be one discussed daily during the two months of orientation. How that issue is to be discussed, she said, is up to the students.
“It’s one of those topics where you’re not just like, ‘Hey, by the way…’ There’s not really a way for you to introduce the topic to them,” Alva said. “You just be there.”
Along with their assistants, incoming students will also attend an Opportunities Fair during their one day orientation. Hosted in a ballroom at the Union, the fair has been specifically designed to station KUPSO front and center in order to answer any questions.
“A lot of questions are stuff like, ‘Are there going to be lockers supplied for students that are living in the residence halls?’ or ‘What about Watkins? Will that be considered conceal and carry,’” Nguyen said.
As part of their orientation assistant training, Nguyen and Alva attended the same panel that parents and guests will attend at orientation, where KUPSO was available to answer many of their questions. According to Treadwell, this panel will eventually be presented to incoming students at required Hawk Week event Jayhawk Jumpstart on Aug. 18.
“One of the things that we found when we talk with students about some of those pieces, the health, wellness, life on campus, is in June it’s not quite as relevant as when they’re actually here and spend a night on campus,” Treadwell said. “It’s a lot more real and more relevant at that point.”