Editorials, Opinion

WVU faculty get to keep gun-free office spaces

It seems like a strange time to be talking about campus carry, what with spring classes already finished and the law not taking effect until July. But between summer courses and year-round administrative duties, WVU never really shuts down, which means campus carry will be a concern long before the fall semester starts in August. So it’s a good thing WVU is addressing it now — and making sure faculty know what boundaries they are allowed to set.

Despite numerous objections from campus communities, the West Virginia Legislature passed, and Gov. Jim Justice made law, the Campus Self Defense Act. It sets the parameters for people with concealed handgun permits to carry on public college and university campuses and includes directives for weapons storage in dorms and other buildings, and exceptions where the schools may still prohibit weapons. Those exceptions include large events at places like the stadium and CAC and in “sole-occupancy offices.”

The latter was the focus of Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting. Professors were presented with a statement they can include in their syllabus: “This statement serves as notice that my office is a sole occupancy office, and concealed pistols and revolvers are prohibited in it. Students visiting my office, whether scheduled or unscheduled, are required to appropriately secure any firearms in their possession before entering the office premises.”

The statement serves as an official notice from the first day of classes that firearms will not be permitted in that professor’s office. In addition, faculty were shown a sign they can choose to post outside their offices: On it, a gun is depicted inside the “forbidden” symbol — the red circle with a diagonal line through it — with the words “NO CONCEALED CARRY” in all caps on the bottom and a QR code that links to WVU’s campus carry guidelines webpage.

As we’ve said in previous editorials, we have concerns about campus carry, especially given the prevalence of mass and school shootings. We’re glad, however, that faculty have to option to keep their offices gun-free spaces. Given that this law was essentially forced upon them, it’s important that professors be allowed to have some control over their own work spaces and to set and enforce boundaries that make them feel safe.

Would a line in a syllabus or a sign on the door stop a determined shooter? No, almost certainly not. But it might prevent a spur-of-the-moment act of gun violence and save someone’s life. And that will have to be enough for now.