As I was packing my bags for Thanksgiving break during the Fall 2012 semester, I was listening to National Public Radio. A story came on covering Kutztown University students lobbying the Pennsylvania System of State Higher Education to be allowed to carry firearms on campus. In April 2013, those students succeeded in changing their school’s policy.
According Kutztown’s Policy A&F-030, dated April 19, 2013, students are still banned from carrying weapons to class, but students and faculty with the proper licensure may request Kutztown’s chief of police for an exception to be allowed to carry weapons into campus buildings.
As of January, PASSHE – of which Temple is not a member – decided to delay a formal ruling on whether to allow weapons in open areas on its member campuses, according to the Inquirer. Other PASSHE schools, including West Chester, Millersville and Shippensburg universities, have followed suit in a variety of ways. Millersville and Lock Haven University now allow license holders to carry concealed weapons in open spaces on campus.
On March 21, multiple Temple students walking west of Main Campus were attacked by a group of teens. One was hit with a brick and needed emergency surgery. It was a series of allegedly unprovoked attacks. The situation is exacerbated by the disconnected and disorganized initial response from Philadelphia Police in the area, as the attacks occurred mostly outside of Campus Safety Services’ jurisdiction, where a significant subset of Temple students live. At the moment, there seems to be no deeper motive or excuse than that these were acts of mindless violence.
The “knockout game” – where unsuspecting people are punched and sometimes knocked unconscious – was a trend in Philadelphia last fall. There are plenty of video recordings of this “game” on YouTube. During the Fall 2013 semester, a Temple medical student was punched in the head while boarding the Broad Street Line at Erie Avenue.
Temple falls under the purview of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education, as do Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, a separate entity from PASSHE, so a ruling for schools like Shippensburg and West Chester would have no effect on Temple policy.
Temple’s current weapons policy prohibits carrying firearms on campus, even for those with a license, except safety officers.
Should those students living off campus consider arming themselves while in their own homes or at any other time while off campus where Temple Police does not patrol? It’s hard to say.
If Philadelphia Police are going to laugh at students in need simply because a precinct building is closed, then what are students to do if more are attacked? Also, the chances of a student getting mugged between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. are probably lower than at night. This kind of lax response doesn’t make students who live off campus feel like the police are going to be there when we really need them: after dark.
Luke Harrington can be reached at email@example.com.