‘People’s college,’ let CCRI decide on arming campus security

Posted 4/27/23

To the Editor,

An open letter to the House Judiciary Committee,

It is with respect and concern that I am compelled to write today in opposition to H 5299, proposing to arm campus security at …

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‘People’s college,’ let CCRI decide on arming campus security


To the Editor,

An open letter to the House Judiciary Committee,

It is with respect and concern that I am compelled to write today in opposition to H 5299, proposing to arm campus security at our state colleges (CCRI RIC).

My comments will be confined to CCRI, since I have been a tenured professor there for 29 years.

The central issue in question would be why are legislators involved?

Why is this august body looking to undermine the college’s autonomy?

Why are these sponsors of this highly divisive bill wanting to undermine the community unity at public institutions of higher learning here in our great state?

And why would legislators get into the business of mandating anything at the state colleges without speaking with experts in education, campus security, and mental health?

My ardent and unyielding opposition to this highly inflammatory, senselessly draconian knee-jerk legislative reaction stems from the glaringly lack of evidenced-based research regarding the efficacy of arming campus police. There must be careful deliberation and honest debate for this body to even consider undoing the college’s ability to set its own policy.

I am sure most primary stakeholders at CCRI welcome rigorous debate about armed police, and dare I say, many of our campus police might not want that responsibility of carrying a firearm as well?

All I hear coming from specific state politicians is nothing more than moral certainty that suppling firearms will keep us safe and protected.

From whom? From what?

I recently heard a bill sponsor on talk radio say this issue isn’t about politics but one of safety. Oddly, this state representative offered nothing to support his claim except red meat platitudes to NRA loving gun-toting listeners.

Has any sponsoring legislator conducted any form of due diligence by offering empirical data?

All that is offered and pointed to are the rare shootings at high schools and colleges as justification to provide weaponry to CCRI campus police. It is all speculative, “What if” doomsday scenarios. However, armed security will not stop any determined person from causing harm. So now the rationale shifts to lives could be saved if there are armed guards.


Since this legislation seeks to arm campus police, are legislators granting weapons of war to the guards as well?

Setting aside the lightning strike-type events, what about the day-to-day interactions?

Several studies have shown faculty and students are opposed to seeing armed guards on campus because it has a distinct chill on free speech. Having armed police patrolling the hallways would dictate people to behave differently.

It is the people’s college not some military installation.

Has any bill sponsor taken time to learn how this arming issue could do more harm than good?

Again, did anyone conduct any research at CCRI regarding how having armed security might create a less secure environment for students, especially minorities.

Did any legislator consult all college constituencies for their thoughts on how the college should be protected? I know of no such contact.

In fact, the only safety and security review I know about took place around 2011, when CCRI commissioned the Summit Report. I suggest the sponsors of H 5299 obtain a copy because no sentence in that report recommended active surveillance or firearms.

Across the nation, we are seeing a de-escalation of campus policing and yet here in Rhode Island we have some legislators looking for a problem in search of a potentially violent solution.

Did any legislator study CCRI’s Clery Report? If anyone had, they might glean the lack of any crime on any campus to warrant armed guards.

As scripted, H 5299 “mandates” CCRI police carry a firearm and declares them law enforcement officers to provide liability protection under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. If I am correct, this bill seeks to create a newly minted CCRI police force while waiving liability!

So this police force gets full liability waiver and would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, even though they would act as an agent of state government?

In my opinion, legislators are in the weakest position to assess and mandate anything at CCRI pertaining to health and safety needs.

What’s next, mandating campus carry for students, staff, and faculty?

 Speaking on behalf of Guns For Everybody, the loquacious Archie Bunker once said in relation to the rash of airline hijackings, “All you gotta do is arm all your passengers, and then your airlines, they wouldn’t have to search the passengers on the ground no more, they just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip, and they pick ‘em up again at the end. Case closed.”

Steven F. Forleo

(A concerned professor at CCRI)

letter, letters, CCRI, guns


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