President’s Corner: Guns on Campus

President Sean Burrage

By Dan Hoke

President Sean Burrage

Sean Burrage, President

In light of the increasing number of school shootings over the past few years, “guns on campus’’ has become a controversial topic, whether you’re a student, parent, government official, law enforcement officer, or school administrator.

I can assure you that nothing causes more sleepless nights for a school administrator – at all levels – than worrying about the safety of students.

Sadly, in today’s world, we know random violence can strike anytime, anywhere – not just at schools, but in movie theaters, shopping centers, restaurants, and even churches. No one is immune from this type of event.

So now we face an ongoing national, state and local debate as to whether we should allow school administrators, teachers, and in some cases, even students, to be armed with guns to protect themselves from such horrific violence.

When we examine this issue at Southeastern, it is important to understand how governance works regarding higher education in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, created in 1941,is comprised of 25 colleges and universities – including two research universities, 10 regional universities (including Southeastern), one public liberal arts university and 12 community colleges – and 11 constituent agencies and two university centers.

The State System is coordinated by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE).

In an effort to address the topic of safety, The Campus Safety and Security Task Force was established by OSRHE in January 2013. This task force is charged with reviewing and promoting security on college and university campuses in Oklahoma.

The 38-member task force – comprised of University officials (including presidents), and representatives from mental health agencies, public safety and law enforcement — meets six times a year and also holds an annual summit.

After gaining input from the task force and others, the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education has adopted the following public stance concerning guns on campus:

“A top priority at our public, private college, university and CareerTech campuses is the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff and visitors and we have the responsibility to do everything that we can within our authority to make our campuses as safe and secure as they possibly can be.

“The State Regents, all 25 institutions, all governing boards and law enforcement agencies believe that there is no scenario where allowing guns on our campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for our students, our faculty, our staff and our visitors.

“Higher Education does not oppose the 2ndAmendment or gun ownership.’’

Our institution concurs with the philosophy as stated above by the State System. As a University, we must do everything within our power to provide a safe and secure campus. This includes, but is not limited to, funding and maintaining a highly qualified campus police force, utilizing emergency notification systems such as “SE Alert,’’ and providing safety training opportunities for students, faculty and staff. This is an ongoing process and one that we are constantly reviewing.

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