Kent State trustees request changes for university deadly weapons policies

Alexander Wadley / The Kent Stater Ray Oak, Truck Driver, 37, inspects his Stag AR-15 rifle in preparation for the Open Carry/Firearm Education Walk at Kent State Sept. 24, 2016. “I believe anyone should be able to carry at any time. If you’re an adult and you’re able to go to war you should be able to carry a gun on campus. Just because you walk on campus doesn’t make you a criminal and mean they can take away your rights.” said Ray Oak.

Mitch Felan

Kent State’s Board of Trustees Finance and Administration Committee moved to make changes to the university’s deadly weapon policy and end a conflict with state concealed carry laws during a meeting Friday.

The trustees met to discuss changing the policy from an administrative policy to a university policy.

The policy changes will now be sent to the full board for review.

“We just wanted to make sure that our policy was consistent … (and) clear,” said Kent State Police Chief Dean Tondiglia, who is also serving as the university’s interim dean of public safety. “It was really important, we thought, to elevate it from an administrative policy to a university policy, (and) give a statement that the university takes it seriously. We think it’s a very important topic.”

Board member Stephen Colecchi said the change will give the policy the “board’s endorsement.”

Colecchi said that he is aware of recent changes to Ohio law, and wants the university’s policy to be clear of confusion for future policy discussions.

“We wanted to make sure that this got in front of the board for full discussion so we understood, and that our policy had the highest level of endorsement,” Colecchi said.

This will also allow for fewer conflicts between university policy and state law. Tondiglia said current university policy creates a few of those conflicts.

“We needed to clarify our policy so it didn’t conflict with state law. We didn’t have any provision in the current policy that allowed for what the state law provides,” he said. “We wanted to clean the language up a little bit, as to what’s acceptable outside of buildings and inside of buildings.”

One of those conflicts is with Ohio’s concealed carry law.

According to Tondiglia, Ohio concealed carry laws allows gun owners to secure their weapons in their vehicle. University policy, however, doesn’t allow this.

“So that’s one of the areas we’re trying to clear up because it puts (Kent State police) in an awkward position. Whenever we get a call and go out and look at that, we have to ignore our policy,” he said.

These changes also took place a week after open-carry advocates held a gun walk on the Kent State campus last Saturday.

The walk, which was attended by nearly 30 advocates, was mentioned several times in the meeting.

Mark Polatajko, senior vice president for finance and administration, said the walk allowed the university to reflect on campus gun policies.

He said while the event was a “wonderful collaborative effort,” it did show some faults with gun policies.

“(The event proved) there is a lot of confusion, to be quite frank, between concealed carry, open-carry, Second Amendment right,s and the ability to exercise those rights in a lawful way on campuses of public institutions of higher learning,” Polatajko said.

However, as Tondiglia and Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations, were quick to point out, the walk had nothing to do with the board’s vote.

“It’s just a coincidence,” Mansfield said. “This stuff is put together months ahead of time.”

Additionally, while the advocates last weekend were in support of open carry, it seems that Kent State is still far from taking action on that.

“I think we’ll see continued discussion,” Colecchi said. “Some of the proposed changes would basically allow boards of trustees to allow open carry in buildings. Obviously, we’re not at that point.”

Mitch Felan is the safety and transportation reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].