BSU: Adapting to guns on campus law costly

Like Boise State, ISU and CWI are considering arming officers; U of I is leaning against it.

broberts@idahostatesman.comJune 8, 2014 

  • ABOUT BILL ROBERTS

    Bill covers education for the Idaho Statesman. He covered the guns-on-campus bill as it made its way through the Legislature, talking with students, professors and lawmakers.

Boise State University says it needs an estimated $500,000 for the upcoming school year to initiate a three-year security ramp-up that likely will include expanding and arming its college police force.

The state's largest university says the added security is needed under a law the Legislature passed and Gov. Butch Otter signed to allow concealed weapons on campuses starting July 1.

Boise State also is considering ways to check people coming into venues such as the Morrison Center, the newly renamed Albertsons Stadium, Taco Bell Arena and the Student Union Building. Concealed weapons aren't allowed in them under the new law, because each is an entertainment venue that holds at least 1,000 people.

Among the questions the university seeks to answer are when it would be appropriate just to do a bag search, and when would metal detecting wands be advised, or metal detectors.

The school will have to balance public safety and ways to move large crowds efficiently, said Kevin Satterlee, Boise State's vice president for operations and general counsel. "We want to do it the right way," he said.

CAMPUSES TALK SECURITY

Boise State, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University have been holding campus security discussions since the Legislature overwhelmingly approved the gun bill in this year's session.

The law will allow retired police officers and people who earn an enhanced concealed-weapons permit to carry hidden guns on campuses. The permits require special training and background checks.

Leaders of all three universities argued against the bill, saying it would increase safety risks.

The universities are expected to present preliminary budget estimates for enhanced security June 18-19 at a State Board of Education meeting in Idaho Falls. Universities will be expected to present preliminary security plans by August.

The board also will consider adopting a statewide policy banning all other guns on campuses. Universities currently have individual policies.

MORE OFFICERS

Boise State University is considering nearly doubling its full-time security force to about 18. The new hires would be armed, Satterlee said. The school also has about 15 part-time security officers.

BSU hopes to get the new guards trained in weapons through the state Peace Officer Standards and Training program. The security force would not be armed until the fall of 2015.

Boise's State's estimated annual price tag for security enhancements actually totals around $1 million, including the cost of adopting other security practices unrelated to the new law, school officials said.

The university also plans to post signs at the big venues indicating that weapons aren't allowed and that visitors could be subjected to searches via metal detectors or wand scans by security officers, Satterlee said.

Much of the time, entertainment acts coming to venues such as Taco Bell Arena already require people to undergo extra security checks as part of their contracts.

ISU: LIMITED GUN VENUES

Idaho State University is discussing arming security officers on the main campus in Pocatello, although no decision has been made.

ISU hasn't totaled the cost for improving security, said Adrienne King, director of marketing and communications. She said it could be "significant."

ISU expects to keep concealed weapons out of three facilities:

• The Meridian Health Science Center, in a building at 1311 E. Central Drive in Meridian that is shared with the Meridian School District's Renaissance High School and other high school programs. Weapons are still prohibited in public schools.

• The Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering Complex on ISU's Pocatello campus, which houses radiation sources covered by federal rules that prohibit the presence of firearms.

• The Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a joint project with other universities and Idaho National Laboratory. It is exempt under federal rules.

ISU's Meridian campus, with 652 students, shares a cafeteria, library, exercise room and hallway with 600 students at Renaissance, said Eric Exline, Meridian School District spokesman. Students from both schools also use a common hallway. The district houses an additional 600 professional-technical students in the building.

FEW CHANGES AT U OF I

A 13-person task force working on security at the University of Idaho likely won't recommend arming security officers or making any major changes in security for people at venues such as the Kibbie Dome, said Matt Dorschel, executive director for public safety and security. It might not ask for any additional money, either.

"I don't think the law necessarily makes the university less safe," he said. "We don't think we need to ramp up our security measures."

The school relies on the Moscow Police Department if problems occur, and the department has done a good job, Dorschel said.

His task force will produce a report for Chuck Staben, U of I president, who will decide, Dorschel said.

Dorschel said it's a safe campus. That safety was rocked in August 2011 by the off-campus slaying of Katy Benoit, a graduate student from Boise who was killed by her psychology professor, Ernesto Bustamante. Bustamante then killed himself.

"It was a relationship that went tragically wrong," said Bruce Pitman, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students. "We have learned a number of lessons about how to help students and others who feel threatened ... to use resources (and) to make sure our resources are deployed appropriately, so students and faculty and staff will feel comfortable in coming forward and reporting circumstances where they are uncomfortable."

CWI SEEKS MONEY

The College of Western Idaho has submitted a preliminary budget request of $245,000 to the state board for fiscal year 2016.

The community college, which serves Ada and Canyon counties, is considering arming its security force, increasing lockdown capabilites for several of its classrooms and providing training. No final decisions have been made.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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