Dear President Drake,
Today at about 2:45 p.m., I left my graduate student office in Derby Hall to get lunch. As I left my building, I saw a few men with long-arm assault rifles walk past the building. Feeling genuinely skittish after last week’s act of violence, I ducked away from the group and went back to my building. I immediately sent a message on social media warning of the incident. From a distance, I realized that the men were not acting in a hostile fashion and must have been part of some demonstration. I looked around and did not see any police in the area. I called University Police and reported the incident. Then later, as the men surrounded a woman holding a sign, I approached, took several photographs to report the incident to friends and colleagues. I eventually did find two police officers parked nearly a full campus block away in either direction. During your administration, I have seen far more active police presence for small groups of unarmed, non-violent protestors calling for racial justice than for these 15 heavily armed men.
The policy on open carry on campus seems conflicting, and I am not a legal expert. The most important thing I can say, no matter what the law is, is that I felt very unsafe for myself and my colleagues. After last week’s incident, we know that campus can become a dangerous place in a matter of seconds. As a veteran with extensive firearms training who served our country during 9/11, I am fully aware of what responsible gun safety looks like. But this is not a war zone: this is a university. It was my understanding that our campus is a weapon-free zone, and that our administration takes campus safety seriously. Moreover, I believe that our University Police did a disservice both by failing to provide an adequately visible escort to the heavily armed group, and also by not using the law within their discretion to remove the group from campus grounds.
You have a responsibility to keep everyone safe while they are on campus. You let me down. Not only did I feel extremely unsafe today under your watch, but based on your administration’s lack of initiative to reduce access to weapons on campus, I do not believe that you are taking my safety seriously.
To rebuild trust, I am asking that you make a clear statement about today’s events and about the steps your administration is taking to make sure that assault weapons have no place on campus. Moreover, I’d like your assurances that the police are being assigned in ways that reflect the actual and potential threat to life on campus, and not based on race, immigration status, political ideology or other criteria that have no place in how campus resources are assigned.
I look forward to hearing back from you personally, and to seeing evidence of your leadership in this matter.
GTA Geography Department