What do we think about armed safety personnel on the Valencia and Canyon Country campuses?
That was the question College of the Canyons (COC) students, teachers and staff considered and discussed during the first of three Deliberative Dialogues about campus climate and safety Wednesday.
“What we hope to have at the end of this dialogue is that we’ve worked to find common ground,” said Patty Robinson, COC’s faculty director of civic engagement and community engagement initiatives. “We want there to be a mix of viewpoints and have dialogues in all areas of this.”
At COC, security officers only carry a Taser and pepper spray as they patrol the campus grounds, making them a minority compared to schools across the state and country.
In California, 80 percent of the University of California (UC) schools have armed personnel and 100 percent of the California State University (CSU) schools have armed personnel.
The two-hour dialogue acted as a way to discuss differing opinions on the topic and bring together diverse views to ultimately develop a shared understanding of the issue with the help of a moderator in a confidential setting.
“My job is to act impartially and be a moderator in whatever way I can be,” said Kim Bonfiglio, a Deliberative Dialogue moderator and sociology faculty member at COC. “In terms of what you’re saying, I suggest you focus on the issues and what is presented and not the person saying them.”
After reviewing U.S. statistics on campus crime and school crime, reading a guide from the Kettering Foundation on Safety and Justice, watching a video on campus crimes and discussing ground rules of the dialogue, attendees broke into two groups to have a closer dialogue on the topic.
During the two-hour dialogue, the groups addressed three potential options regarding armed personnel on campus: allowing safety personnel to have guns, not allowing safety personnel to have guns and exploring local alternatives for safety on campus.
Attendees shared their own experiences with armed personnel, their concerns as teachers and students, feelings of uneasiness on campus and beliefs about guns on campus during their discussions.
Common concerns included race relations, drug involvement, COC’s open campus and risks from the community.
To promote safety on campus, the attendees suggested attending ongoing safety training, adding more cameras on campus, addressing mental health concerns, increasing the number of security people on campus and adding measures to better secure the campus facilities.
No real solution was determined at the end of the discussion, but the group seemed to be swaying toward supporting armed personnel on campus if it is the current officers that they know and trust.
“With this discussion you have tapped into how complex this conversation is,” Robinson said to the group.
Attendees agreed that it is naïve to assume there is no threat to COC’s campuses and that everyone wants to feel safe and be safe while they are at school.
The group plans to run two additional Deliberative Dialogues on the subject in the summer and fall. They hope to include input from COC students, faculty and staff, as well as Santa Clarita community members.
“As the momentum builds, we want to make sure we include all voices in the discussion,” Robinson said.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_