The Massachusetts College of Art and Design Board of Trustees voted against a request from its campus police officers to be armed in an 8-2 vote on Tuesday, deciding that the officers should remain unarmed to ensure a safe and inclusive environment. The school is the only four-year state college in the nation with an unarmed police force.
The Board of Trustees at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) voted 8-2 on Tuesday to keep the school’s campus police officers unarmed, according to a report by the Boston Herald.
The school had made the decision after students and members of the community signed a petition last November, demanding that the Board see to it that police on campus remain unarmed.
Tuesday’s decision will mean that MassArt will also remain the only four-year state college in the country with unarmed police officers.
“It is not only unnecessary but unwise to change our current policy,” said MassArt President David Nelson before the vote, “To be clear, our current policy is that officers remain unarmed — and that remains my position today.”
James Durkin, a legislative director from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) trade union did not agree.
Durkin told the Board that the decision to keep officers unarmed is unrealistically utopian, as it insulates the campus community from the “real world” while putting the lives of officers, staff, and students at risk.
MassArt Police Sargeant Matt Hurley concurred with the AFSCME director’s assessment.
“The MassArt community has been done a disservice, as it has presented a false sense of security,” said Hurley to the Board, “Parents have an expectation that when they send their child off to school — that since there is a police department there, they have nothing to worry about.”
Hurley also mentioned that MassArt acknowledges that its campus police officers “face danger and may end up being shot at while in the performance of our duties.”
“However, here we stand today to try and rationalize why we would need to be equipped with a firearm,” added Hurley.
Officer William Goldman stated that there would be “nothing to gain but everything to lose” in keeping MassArt campus police officers unarmed.
“It’s our students’ and staff’s lives you are gambling with,” said Goldman.
MassArt alumna Brianna Florio told the Board that unarmed campus police officers are “walking targets in uniform.”
“Think for a minute about what would happen if we had an active shooter,” said Florio, “Our cops would be our frontline, and it would be a bloodbath. Everyone would die.”
A faculty member, who was not identified by the Boston Herald, admitted to being “a sensitive person” who does not “feel safe” around guns.
“I felt the need 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,” said the faculty member.
After what was reportedly a heated exchange in a packed public meeting, the Board voted 8-2 to keep its campus police officers unarmed.
MassArt president Nelson told the Boston Herald that he supports the Board’s decision.
Nelson added that while some individuals may have different views about what it means to ensure safety, he is grateful that everyone shares “the common goal of making our campus a safe and inclusive environment.”