Boston, MA – The Board of Trustee for the Massachusetts College of Art and Design voted 8 to 2 not to arm the college’s police department on Feb. 6.
The fact that the school, better known as MassArt, has refused to allow their police officers to carry weapons has long been a long-standing controversy, according to the Boston Herald.
“The MassArt community has been done a disservice as it has presented a false sense of security,” MassArt Police Sergeant Matt Hurley told the board. “Parents have an expectation that when they send their child off to school at MassArt, that since there is a police department there, they have nothing to worry about. This is just wrong.”
The college has equipped its police officers with bullet-proof Kevlar body armor but not guns, the Boston Herald notes.
“[MassArt] acknowledges that our officers face danger and may end up being shot at while in the performance of our duties,” Sgt. Hurley said. “However, here we stand today to try and rationalize why we would need to be equipped with a firearm.”
MassArt is located within walking distance of Northeastern University, Boston Latin School, Simmons University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science, and Wentworth Institute of Technology – all schools with armed police departments.
MassArt remains the only four-year state college without an armed police department after the board’s recent vote, according to the Boston Herald.
Campus Reform reported that Ellen Carr, the MassArt Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, said “the trustees did not share their reasons for their individual votes” but that “the board has been working on improving campus safety at MassArt over time and through many different measures, conducting extensive research and consulting national experts in college campus safety.”
“After taking all perspectives and facts into consideration, they cast their votes, with the common goal of making our campus a safe and inclusive environment,” Carr said.
But a union rep from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees said the board ignored the recommendations from their own consultants, the Boston Herald reported.
“We’re extremely disappointed. Clearly, the board is ignoring longstanding, accepted safety practices, putting the lives of staff and students in danger,” James Durkin said. “Even their own consultants are recommending their officers are armed. They’re going against their experts.”
Durkin warned the MassArt Board of Trustees that “continuing down this path of delay, by striving for some dreamlike, utopian campus insulated from the real world, you are placing the lives of these officers, the staff, and most importantly the students in jeopardy,” the Boston Herald reported.
Officers who spoke at the meeting told the board that they have the same training as officers from any other police department, but that they know the campus layout and so are better positioned to respond quickly in an emergency.
MassArt Officer William Goldman told the board they were gambling with the students’ and staffs’ lives, and recent graduates agreed.
“[Campus police officers are] walking targets in uniform,” said Brianna Florio, who graduated from MassArt in 2017. “Think for a minute about what would happen if we had an active shooter. Our cops would be our front-line and it would be a bloodbath. Everyone would die.”
Students and staff who opposed arming the MassArt Police Department collected 550 signatures demanding they remain unarmed in November of 2018, according to the Boston Herald.
Several spoke against giving the police officers guns at the board meeting, bolstering the argument that their opposition was based on feelings rather than facts.
“I don’t feel safe around guns,” one faculty member told the Board of Trustees. “I felt I needed to speak because I’m a very sensitive person and there are many other sensitive people on campus and I wanted to speak for me and for them.”
A student who spoke seemed to think that if the officers were given guns, they would go rushing out into the nearby community to shoot children and the elderly.
“My biggest fear is that when our officers are patrolling the surrounding area, a community that we are already infiltrated and a gentrifying force, we will hurt their children and elders,” one student opined.
The college’s president was pleased with the outcome of the vote.
“It is not only unnecessary, but unwise to change our current policy,” MassArt President David Nelson told the Boston Herald before the board voted. “To be clear, our currently policy is that officers remain unarmed… and that remains my position today.”