Pa. state schools study different options for weapons policy

Chancellor says systemwide approach may be scrapped

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The system overseeing Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities, having spent nearly a year developing a unified weapons policy, might ultimately scrap the idea and instead leave the decision with individual campuses based on evolving case law.

Frank Brogan, chancellor of the State System of Higher Education, raised that as a possibility in an interview with the Pittsburgh-Post-Gazette.

He said the matter is still under review and may yet yield a systemwide approach. But Mr. Brogan said slowing the deliberation has given the system time for a more comprehensive review of options in a complicated and controversial matter that continues to play out in the nation's courts.

"One of the possibilities at the end of the day may be to not have a systemwide policy," he said Thursday.

Any decision at the university level would be made in consultation with system attorneys, State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said Friday.

Mr. Brogan's comment was part of a wider interview in which he discussed challenges facing the system and efforts to address them.

The State System's board of governors had planned to vote Jan. 23 on a draft weapons standard that had been recommended by a task force, but it postponed the move for additional study and hearings.

As proposed, the policy would bar offensive weapons including firearms from buildings, sporting events and outdoor gatherings, plus all other "sensitive areas" across the 14 universities that enroll a little more than 112,000 students. They include the Western Pennsylvania campuses of California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities.

The measure faced sharp criticism from both sides, including gun rights advocates who felt the policy as written was too restrictive and others including faculty and students who felt the ban did not go far enough.

The system had hoped to have a policy in place by the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

A number of State System universities previously had outright campus bans, even in open spaces, but modified the rules after attorneys for the State System in 2011 advised that complete bans were not legally enforceable.

The lawyers offered their advice after individuals, including at least one student, challenged existing campus rules, officials said.

About half the State System schools, including Edinboro, California and Slippery Rock universities, altered their policies to ones closer to what is now proposed, and their actions went largely unnoticed.

But days after Kutztown University amended its policy last April, word spread and eventually produced inquiries from national media. Amid those inquiries, the State System last spring asked member schools to freeze their policies in place pending a review that stretched into the first half of this year.


Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 or on Twitter @BschacknerPG.

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