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Mace and pepper spray ban lifted from Scot’s Key

Claire Montgomery

Senior News Writer

The Conduct Committee of Campus Council (CC) has decided to remove the ban of pepper spray and Mace from the Scot’s Key. On page 40 of the Scot’s Key under the section, “Firearms and Other Weapons,” it reads, “Under no circumstances are other weapons or objects carried for the purpose of injuring or intimidating others permitted on College property … Other weapons or objects include … Mace/pepper spray.” This ban will now be removed. 

When asked how the issue of removing the ban came up, Dean of Students Scott Brown said, “A Campus Council member raised the question last spring, stating she and other people carried Mace/pepper spray to increase their feelings of personal safety (particularly when going on runs, etc.).” Originally, the ban of Mace and pepper spray was included because “Mace and pepper spray are designed to temporarily immobilize another person, defensively. The College has generally banned anything which may cause harm to another person,” Brown explained. He continued, “Our Code of Conduct is an expression of our community values and outlines the rights and responsibilities to be a part of this special community. It is very important and requires us to always reflect and review to make sure it does so. When we stepped back and considered the goal of the policy, it was clear that the original concerns never materialized, and we have ways of addressing them in the Code of Conduct. It is legal, and we want our students to feel safe. In that light, this was an easy item we all agreed to update.”

“This discussion began last year and was never resolved,”  said Myra Praml ’19. “It was something that Nick [Shiach ’20, co-chair of the Conduct Committee] and I really wanted to re-address. It is no secret that students carry pepper spray with them as a personal safety item. When it was time for me to move in as a first-year, my mom gave me pepper spray. This is a story that a lot of students share. We were concerned with the idea that students, knowing that possession of pepper spray/Mace was an actionable violation of the Scot’s Key, would decide to not carry these items and, as a result, feel uncomfortable and unsafe while on campus. We also noted inconsistencies; Nick and I had never heard of anyone being sanctioned for [possession] of pepper spray or Mace, yet students had undoubtedly been found with these objects before. If SPS [Security and Protective Services] is not enforcing this policy, then why does it exist? More importantly, SPS has not been enforcing this policy and there has, subsequently, been no aggressive or harmful misuse of pepper spray or Mace, meaning that strict enforcement is not necessary.” 

Additionally, Brown added, “The main issue was the potential for improper or malicious use of the pepper spray. However, in discussions with SPS, there has not been a single instance in 20 plus years of such an incident. If someone did, there are other ways under our Code of Conduct that hold a person accountable,” 

Assistant Director of Campus Access Becky Frybarger continued, “There have not historically been any issues with either of these items on campus. If there are issues, those will be addressed under a different section of the Scot’s Key.”

Shiach added, “We asked Director of SPS Steve Glick and Associate Director of SPS Joe Kirk to come to our meetings to discuss both removing the pepper spray and Mace ban and the living spaces search and entry policy … On Nov. 28, Joe Kirk made an official recommendation to Conduct Committee to remove the ban. Later that day, Campus Council voted to approve the policy change.” Shiach continued that Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Mitch Joseph will update the Scot’s Key online after the approval of the minutes on Dec. 6, making the change official. 

Commenting on the ultimate decision to lift the ban, Kirk said that he reviewed his 22 years of service in security at the College, saying that they considered “how has this ban be handled and, how many cases have [the College] had to deal with of malicious or misuse of Mace or pepper spray, as well as how [the College] address the overall safety issues for those students who feel it important to have these items. Also, there were other measures and/or policies already in place to address what was believed to be the initial reason for the ban.  Review[ing] any and all policies we have is important and to have the ability to update policies to address the needs of the community should take place, and we felt this was an issue that we could address.” 

“We want our students to feel safe, and allowing this ban to be removed could provide another avenue for that,” said Joseph. “We regularly take a look at College polices to find areas to improve the student experience, and this was one of those areas.”

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