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Looking forward on campus safety

March 7, 2019

Dear West Virginia University Faculty, Staff and Students,

Life is a curious adventure of action and counteraction. No matter how much we might prepare and plan, sometimes circumstances occur beyond our control that require us to change course, reconsider options and then, move forward.

Each new strategy delivers new knowledge that over time becomes wisdom.

And the wisdom displayed by the West Virginia State Senate to end the consideration of HB2519 Campus Self Defense Act – otherwise known as Campus Carry – led to a vote that was one of both courage and common sense.  

In all my years as a University president, this has been one of the most contentious and challenging issues I have ever faced. I deeply appreciate the perspectives brought forward over the past few weeks.

I value and believe in the constitutional rights tendered to us by our forefathers. However, I also value and believe there are decisions best made by those who govern locally. To that point, I am grateful the leadership of our institution – our Board of Governors – will retain that authority to make critical decisions for the West Virginia University system.

I am cognizant, however, that not everyone will agree with the actions taken by the Senate. As I wrote earlier, this is a deeply personal issue – one often fueled by emotion and rhetoric. So, as we look toward the future, I am buoyed by the gift we have been given – the gift of time.

I believe we can use the days ahead to come together as a campus to truly understand each other’s viewpoint. The topic of safety will remain a critical and necessary discussion on our campuses, and we will need objectivity to make informed decisions.

My fervent hope is that our campus serves as a model for our nation on how those with differing opinions can agree to disagree while developing solutions. This is a complicated issue that sparks passionate debate. However, passion does not provide an excuse for incivility and acrimony. I believe if we lean on our Mountaineer values, we can approach future discussions with curiosity, appreciation and respect – and arrive at decisions that embrace all perspectives.

For it was the perspectives of many that guided us through this journey. From the State legislators who held fast to their convictions to the faculty, staff and students who raised their voices – opinions influenced conversations. The partnerships forged with fellow colleges and universities created a united front. And the steadfast leadership of our administration – particularly that of our government relations team – allowed us to be nimble and adjust quickly to the ever-changing landscape.

There have been many learning moments during this legislative session. But I believe the lesson that has left an indelible impression is how today’s society craves the tangibility of safety.

We are a diverse community who approaches the topic of personal safety from a variety of vantage points. Someone who participated in elementary school fire drills has a very different concept of safety than someone who has participated in elementary school active shooter drills. The times have changed, and we have a responsibility to understand concerns, attend to fears and implement solutions.

So, at this critical juncture, let us prepare and plan. We must follow our curiosity and be moved to action. Let us use our knowledge and talents to address concerns and explore ideas. And let us apply our collective wisdom to build an even stronger campus community free to pursue the greatest of aspirations.

Signature of E. Gordon Gee

E. Gordon Gee 
President, West Virginia University