Arms don’t equal safety, said Villanova students protesting a recent decision by the administration to arm campus security officers.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 100 students and faculty Friday, junior Matt Zarenkiewicz read from a letter from students to the Rev. Peter Donohue, university president, earlier this week.
“We are deeply troubled by this recent decision, as it is not in keeping with the core values of our community,” the letter stated. It was signed “Concerned Villanovans.”
The group, many dressed in white, gathered on the steps of St. Thomas of Villanova Church for a prayer led by the Rev. Joe Cardone.
“Guide us in the way of nonviolence,” he intoned. “Disarm our hearts, and we shall be your instruments to disarm other hearts and the world.”
Students said there was no formal student organization behind the event, simply a loose affiliation that included concerned faculty. In 2013, the faculty Senate recommended against arming guards.
Communications professor Maurice Hall said their concerns were never formally addressed.
The administration “listened and they collected that report … but we never had an opportunity to see what the results were,” he said. The report included a survey of community stakeholders and the recommendations of an independent security consultant.
Hall and student Kinjal Dave both said they were worried about the possibility of guns bringing about “unintended consequences.”
“As soon as you put guns on campus, you have the possibility for something to escalate to fatality,” said Dave. She said she believed municipal police from Radnor and Lower Merion were more than capable of responding quickly.
One of the university’s official reasons for the security upgrade is response times. At the end of their letter, the “Concerned Villanovans” asked Donohue to meet with them.
“It is our hope that this even sparks thoughtful participation and dialogue among all members of our community moving forward,” it read, before requesting a response from the president. As of this writing, none had been received.
“We’re demanding the repeal,” said junior Brendan Carchidi. “If, for instance, we don’t get what we’re demanding … we at least would like to have the transparency of this matter released. We want to understand.”
The school issued a three-sentence statement, in support of students’ right “to assemble and engage in dialogue on differing opinions,” but university representatives declined to answer specific questions.
Villanova’s own crime reports for 2014 include three rapes; nine incidents of stalking; three cases of domestic violence; two robberies; two assaults; four burglaries; two arsons; three motor vehicle thefts; and 25 drug or alcohol-related cases. There were also 729 disciplinary referrals for drugs or alcohol.