The university hosted an open forum on Nov. 19 to discuss Senate Bill 11. The Bill states that anyone who has a Concealed Handgun License can open carry on campus.
It is mandatory for public universities, however for private universities it is optional. UMHB has the option to completely follow the bill, partially follow it, or disregard it completely. The university currently allows handguns on campus if you have a CHL. However, it must stay in your car.
Dr. Steve Theodore, Senior Vice President for Administration & Chief Operating Officer, and Gary Sargent, Chief of Police, held the forum in the Isabelle Rutherford Meyer Nursing Education Center.
The rules of the forum? Raise your hand, use the microphone, introduce yourself, and address the panel.
“This is not a debate between you and us,” Theodore said. “The administration has no opinion on it right now. Please state your opinion clearly, be brief, and be respectful. We’re all adults here.”
The forum started off with freshman social work major, Grace Scott, mentioning the CHL process and what she has observed.
“My father is a CHL instructor. [The CHL students] are there to protect themselves and their families,” she said “I don’t think we should put a limitation on this law.”
Indy Henderson, a DPT major, took the mic and brought up the topic of police response time.
“The average time for the police to arrive at the scene is three to five minutes,” he said. “A lot of people can die in that time”.
Dr. Theodore responded to the student’s concerns by explaining the police force evaluation process and the presence level of police on campus.
“We always evaluate our police department. We have 24/7 security or police on campus. Now are we going to have a police officer in every building? Probably not. But we do like to evaluate.”
Soon after, Colton Hendrick, a junior church music major asked about the current safety regulations regarding tasers and pepper spray.
Mediator’s explained that the UMHB Police offer self-defense classes, and mace, stun guns and knives (depending on the size) are allowed on campus.
Hope Herring, a mental health graduate student, and a survivor of the Fort Hood mass shooting in 2014, spoke up about her experiences and what she has learned from them.
“I’ve been a CH holder for four years and in the military for six years. It is vital for Senate Bill 1 to be at UMHB. I am a survivor from the Fort Hood shooting. The entire incident took 15 minutes. Three were killed, 15 wounded. Out of the 16 people who were military trained, only two had the initial response to fight.”
Dr. Theodore closed the forum with some words to think about.
“We all want the same thing. We love UMHB, that’s why we’re here. There are different ways to appropriate this law. Let’s not let this divide us as a group.”
The Board of Trustees will have until Aug. 1, 2016 to make a final decision on whether Senate Bill 11 will be a part of campus life. This board consists of leaders and donors for the university, and others who care about UMHB’s safety.