COC hosting talks about having ‘armed presence’ on campus


Amid a renewed national discussion on gun policy, College of the Canyons officials are holding a series of conversations about an “armed presence” on campus — if there should be one and what that might look like.

“One thing I should point out is, it’s not a new conversation,” said Barry Gribbons, deputy chancellor for College of the Canyons, who’s been facilitating the discussion. “Campus safety and security has been an ongoing issue that we’ve been evaluating for years.”

There have been three meetings so far with different groups of stakeholders, Gribbons said. At this point in the conversation, he was reticent to mention any options as he did not want any of the options being discussed to seem as the preferred choice, he said. Currently, the college’s security guards aren’t armed.

“We’re collecting feedback from our different campus constituent groups,” Gribbons said, “which is important in forming our plans moving forward — but safety and security is of paramount importance to us.”

A representative for campus faculty said the teaching staff largely favors having an armed presence on campus, but how that might look is still very much being discussed.

“I think there’s general support for that,” said Wendy Brill-Wynkoop, president of COC’s Faculty Association, although she also noted that wouldn’t address safety as much as it would response time.

“It would simply shorten response time if and when a tragedy occurs,” Brill-Wynkoop said, “not prevent a tragedy.”

To that end, Brill-Wynkoop said she wanted to see more discussion on expanding the campuses’ mental health resources, and support for things like a behavioral intervention team.

The issue is a complicated one, regardless of what side you’re on, said Phil Gussin, a political science professor at COC.

“There are very strong feelings on both sides of this issue. The professors who support having armed security feel very vulnerable,” he said. “I think many of them are more worried less worried about their own safety than the safety of their students.”

Recent campus shootings, such as the recent murders in Florida that left 17 killed at a high school, have renewed fears in many of a worst-case scenario. Professors (seeking an armed presence) are imagining “the horror of waiting for local law enforcement to show up as students and colleagues are slaughtered,” Gussin said.

“Some of the professors who oppose the idea are worried that armed security will make some students, especially students of color, feel less safe,” he added. “For these professors, too many guns is the problem, not the solution.”

The student body has been involved in the process, but saw it as too early to discuss endorsing options while things are still being discussed.

Campus officials did not yet have a date and time for a fourth stakeholder meeting as of this story’s publication Monday.

However, there has been unofficial discussion that’s indicated the topic might be in front of the  Santa Clarita Community College District Governing Board this spring.

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