Gun sparks campus controversy

Rachel Christian

Sophomore elementary education major Molly Swihart said she was surprised at the way the Office of Public Safety handled an incident last week involving a gun on campus.

It made her feel unsafe, she said.

The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office was informed at around 2:50 p.m. Feb. 18, that a woman on the third floor of the Science Center had a handgun.

The distance education student had the gun in a holster.

A Public Safety officer questioned the woman, and when two sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene, she was escorted willfully back to her truck.

Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications Kindra Strupp said the woman came to campus to take an exam and was unaware of the policy.

Strupp said the student was cooperative and no arrest was made.

But some students, like Swihart, said the university should have done more.

“It’s scary to think that somebody brought a gun to campus and all they did was escort her out,” Swihart said. “I feel like bringing a weapon to campus is a serious offense even if it’s not used.”

Swihart said the university should have released a Rave Alert, informing students about the incident.

“I pay a lot to go to school here and I got Rave for a reason,” she said. “They have a responsibility to not only keep us safe, but to keep us informed.”

It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus in Indiana, even if the owner has a permit.

A bill was introduced to the Indiana General Assembly in January that would make significant changes to the state’s gun regulation laws if passed, including allowing concealed carry of firearms on college campuses.

The legislation prohibits any state agency or state-supported property from regulating the concealed carry of weapons by individuals with a proper permit.

Strupp said USI’s policy regarding firearms is stated in the student handbook.

According to the handbook, the transfer, possession, use or sale of weapons – including firearms – are not allowed on any university owned or controlled property.

Strupp encourages all students to look through the handbook so they are aware of the policies in place.

She said the sheriff’s office was called “as a precautionary measure,” though it was established that the student was non-threatening and compliant.

Because the student didn’t pose a threat to the safety of others, Strupp said the university decided not to issue a Rave Alert.

Freshman chemistry major Mackenzie Moore said USI handled the situation “in an appropriate manner.”

“Alerting students would have caused unnecessary panic,” Moore said. “If the incident had escalated to where students were in immediate danger, that’s when they should have been notified.”

Martha McBride said she thought the situation was handled well, but agreed that students should have been notified.

“I think it was kind of weird that students weren’t told about it so people knew to stay where they were,” McBride said. “Isn’t that the whole point of Rave?”

Follwing The Shield’s breaking news coverage of the incident, social media flooded with responses.

Blake Richey tweeted at The Shield, “Why is this ‘breaking?’ No law was broken. She was polite and complied with the policy.”

Emily Walker retweeted the story adding, “this is ridiculous.”

She then tweeted, “Am I the only one upset about this?,” and later added, “They sent out an email and a RAVE Alert about the sexual assault when it was reported.”

Sherriff Dave Wedding said no lawful action was taken while officers were there.

“It seems like an honest mistake,” he said. “USI security followed their protocol and notified us.”

The woman is currently undergoing disciplinary action by the university.

Bobby Shipman contributed to this story