VILLANOVA, Pa. (CBS) — On the campus at Villanova University, not all students are comforted by the decision to transition the existing Public Safety Department into an armed University Police Force.
More than 100 students gathered on the front steps of Saint Thomas of Villanova Church to show their opposition, then they marched to the Kennedy Ellipse (otherwise known as the Oreo – because of the sculpture there) and held a silent protest by holding hands in a big ring around the grass circle.READ MORE: Mother Of Cheltenham Township Single-Car Crash Victim Speaks Out After Incident Left 1 Person Dead, 4 Others Injured: ‘It's Horrible’
“Our silence represents our sincere belief that our voices have not yet been heard.”
One of the organizers, Matt Zarenkiewicz, a junior, believes arming police will create a negative atmosphere on campus.
“There’s not been an uptick in reported crime on the campus. Generally speaking, I think people feel safe on this campus.”
Students sent a letter to University President Father Peter Donohue, which reads in part, “resorting to armed protection in response to fear”…”is neither a viable or desirable solution to gun violence on campuses.”READ MORE: Cooling Tower Malfunction Caused Fire At Center City High-Rise, Source Says
The University points out there have been more than 100 shootings on campuses around the country since the 2007 deadly shooting at Virginia Tech.
Villanova officials also say as an academic community, it’s supportive of the right of students to protest.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, in the first Villanova police officers will be in place. The University anticipates about 20% of the 75-member department will be police officers, all of whom will undergo the same police academy training as those in public law enforcement.
Current public safety officers are unarmed, and their vehicles don’t have lights or sirens for an expedited response in an emergency situation. Nor do they have access of 911 dispatch or to crime databases, to communicate with other agencies in the event of an active shooter.
The University says nearly 70% of colleges and universities have police officers on campus, and 94% of those officers are armed.MORE NEWS: Amtrak Forced To Reduce Service Along Northeast Corridor Due To COVID-Related Staffing Shortage