Shock stemming from the violent rampage that left 33 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech dead is reverberating through college campuses across the country. In New Jersey, legislators drafted a bill that would require colleges to submit security plans to state administrators.
The bill, announced April 20 by acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, asks colleges and universities to submit security plans to the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness by the end of May.
Matt Golden, director of Communications and Public Relations, Media said the College has had a plan in place since 2000.
Recently, Golden placed critical incident plan information into one page on the College’s Web site that details how to report critical incidents and what methods of communication the College would use.
“The hope is . that for a lot of colleges (this bill) won’t be a change,” Derek Roseman, deputy director of communications for the Assembly Majority Office, said. Roseman added, “You can’t always just hope for the best.”
Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt, representing Camden County, said the plan each college drafts must reflect the needs of that individual school. Lampitt introduced the bill with Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan in January.
Lampitt, a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s administration, said at her school, which is in an urban area, Plexiglass doors exist across campus that only open with a swipe card and the last four digits of the student’s social security number.
One reason for the bill, Roseman said, is that college campuses are constantly changing and crisis plans must be able to adapt. An alumnus of Trenton State College’s class of 1996, Roseman used the College as an example of how much construction can alter the layout of a campus.
Lampitt said while New Jersey has tough gun laws, that alone doesn’t make colleges safe.
“What’s to stop someone from going to Pennsylvania (where gun laws are looser) and buying a gun?” she said.
New Jersey got an A-minus rank in terms of gun laws by the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence. While Lampitt sees this as encouraging, some are pushing for looser gun laws.
On April 19, N.J. Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman responded to claims by author Ann Coulter that students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.
“The reason schools are consistently popular targets for mass murders is precisely because of all the idiotic ‘Gun-Free School Zone’ laws,” Coulter said in the article, “Let’s Make America a ‘Sad-Free Zone,'” in the April 19 edition of frontpagemagazine.com.
Coulter said Virginia Tech was wrong to prohibit students with concealed-carry permits from carrying their guns on campus.
“People advocating a simplistic solution of more guns at a time like this lack compassion and credibility,” Watson Coleman said in a press release. She quoted a newspaper columnist who said if the gunman at Virginia Tech tried to buy his weapon in New Jersey, he would probably have been unsuccessful in doing so.
“It would be irresponsible to allow students to carry a concealed weapon on campus,” Jason Nothdurft, sophomore political science major at the College, said. “It is an irrational reaction to the tragic events that occurred at Virginia Tech.”