An audio version of this article is available:
Speakers at the monthly Board of Education meeting discussed ways to build safe and strong communities last Wednesday Oct. 7, 2015. Youth development, new athletics programs and gun safety were among the topics discussed.
The question of whether Public Safety officers should be allowed to wield firearms has resurfaced in the wake of the recent school shooting at Umpqua Community College on Oct 1.
Safety concerns were paramount, though speakers had divisive opinions on whether arming public safety would help or hinder students feeling safe on campus. “I am more afraid by public safety officers having guns than I am of a school shooting,” Tasha Briquet, ASLCC Senator, said.
Another student said they didn’t feel fully protected since Public Safety was not armed.
A board policy prohibiting both the actual or perceived possession of dangerous weapons on campus has been in effect since 1998. Despite this, individuals who have a concealed weapons permit are allowed to carry guns on campus property, according to Oregon law.
An exception in the law allows the Board to ban lawful carry to Lane employees while they are performing work activities, which includes Public Safety officers. No motions have been brought forth to change this policy.
Lane has been building a strong sense of community through the Rites of Passage summer academies that provide young students of color in Lane County a chance to immerse themselves in their culture during a five-week summer program. It is geared towards building positive self-image and self-esteem in middle- and high-school students.
“This is kind of a lonely place for people of color, in Eugene and in Oregon in general” Herb Pendleton, parent of a student in the African American Rites of Passage summer academy, said. “It’s hard to find role models.”
The Rites of Passage academies include the African American, Asian Pacific American, Puertas Abiertas Latino/Latina and the Bridge of the Gods Native American programs. The African American Rites of Passage program is going on it’s 20th year.
The Board approved adding Volleyball and Men’s Soccer teams to Lane’s athletic programs by a vote of 6-1. Chris Hawken, Division Dean of Health and Physical Education, said that adding these programs will “help increase one of the main goals of campus: increasing diversity.” Lane Athletics currently has 26% of participants identifying as “non-white” with the addition of Men’s Soccer hoping to increase that percentage, according to materials prepared for the Board.
Board member Matt Keating voted against the motion in protest of adding new programs less than six months after the Board cut the Electronic Technology and Auto Collision and Refinishing programs.
The meeting closed with a message urging people to not walk away from difficult conversations the Lane community will face in the wake of this recent episode of gun violence.
“We have to look at gun violence as a domestic violence issue, as a racial violence issue, as a drug violence issue, as a mental health issue,” Board Chairman Tony McCown said. “If we stop the conversation on any one of those points we’ve failed.