For the second time in my 16 years at Ohlone College, the issue of arming Campus Security has been broached. Now, as before, I am concerned about the effect that such a major change in policy might have on the overall safety of our students and staff, myself included.

I have great respect for our staff in the Campus Security office, and have called upon them countless times to assist with various situations. We are fortunate not only to have found such well trained officers (those who are sworn police officers, as well as those who are non-sworn safety officers), but also that they are individuals who understand the unique needs of a college campus, which can be quite different from the needs of the community at large.

Rob Smedfjeld recently sent out a survey to collect opinions and input on the issue of arming Campus Security. The beginning of that survey asks whether the respondent has read Information about Sworn Officers, an online document that sets forth the description and definition of a “non-sworn” Safety Officer and a “sworn” Police Officer, among other such positions. The document also describes the sorts of training and expertise gained by sworn officers at a police academy, as well as the hiring process involved. (I will save a discussion of the pseudoscience of the “polygraph” or “lie detector” mentioned in the document for another occasion.)

Since so much of the aforementioned document would appear to serve the purpose of making the case for a YES vote, I would like to add to the discussion some points that I think are important in determining your position on arming Ohlone College’s Campus Security. It seems to me that the questions we need to ask ourselves are not simply those that regard the training of “sworn” or “non-sworn” officers working at Ohlone College. Our discussion should also include such questions as:

1.      What overall effect might the presence of weapons on our campus pose to our safety?

2.      What evidence establishes the need for a change to our policy on weapons?

a.       What are the crime statistics for the Fremont and Newark campuses?

b.      What are the crime statistics for the city of Fremont, overall?

Below are some answers to these questions for you to consider before taking part in the survey.

 1. What overall effect might the presence of weapons on our campus pose to our safety?

                                 “Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it as well.
                                  The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be
                                   pulling the finger.”
                                                            — Leonard Berkowitz, Emeritus Professor
                                                                 of Psychology, University of Wisconsin

In 1967, Berkowitz and LePage introduced the term The Weapons Effect to the field of psychology. According to their study, "Weapons as Aggression-Eliciting Stimuli" in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the mere presence of a weapon serves to increase (not decrease) aggression in humans.

In the original study (Berkowitz & LaPage, 1967), the researchers recruited 100 male university students and randomly assigned them to receive either 1 shock or 7 shocks from a peer. Following this, the researchers gave the students the opportunity to administer as many shocks as they wanted to a Targeted Peer. For about one third of the students, a rifle and revolver were on the table near the shock key; half of these participants were told the weapon belonged to the Targeted Peer and the other half of these participants were told the weapon did not belong to the Targeted Peer. For the other two thirds of participants, there was either nothing on the table near the shock key, or there were two badminton rackets on the table near the shock key. The outcome measure was how many shocks the participant administered to the Targeted Peer.

Results showed that the greatest number of shocks were administered by the students who had initially received 7 shocks and then were in the presence of the weapons, regardless of whether they were told the weapon belonged to the Targeted Peer or not. As such, the authors believe this was evidence for their original hypothesis that an aroused person would act more aggressively in the presence of weapons. They named this phenomenon The Weapons Effect.

Since that time, their findings have been replicated by many researchers and under numerous conditions. For example, Turner and Leyens (1992) published the results of a real-world application of the Weapons Effect in a study on car horn honking as aggression. They recruited a student to pull up to a traffic light and refuse to drive through it after it turned green. The measured variables were measurements of horn honking by the person who happened to be behind them at the light (e.g., whether they honked, how quickly they began honking, and how many times they honked). Two conditions were run, one using a pickup truck with a firearm fully visible in the back window, and one without a firearm. Results showed that, contrary to folk wisdom, people were more aggressive (as measured by horn honking) in the presence of the weapon than without it.

The results of these and other studies involve relatively safe and somewhat mundane behaviors, but it requires little imagination to understand their real-world implication. They suggest that the Weapons Effect is real, and that it should be taken into consideration in a cost/benefit analysis of gun ownership and use. In other words, one must consider whether a situation or an environment is dangerous enough to justify the risk that aggression is being increased by the presence of a weapon.


Berkowitz, L., & LePage, A. (1967). Weapons as aggression-eliciting stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7, 202–207.
Turner, C. W. & Leyens, J. (1992). The weapons effect revisited: The effects of firearms on aggressive behavior. Psychology and Social Policy. Suedfeld, 201–221. Washington.

2. What evidence establishes the need for a change to our policy on weapons?

Although it’s easy to say, “We live in a dangerous world, so we should be prepared to defend ourselves,” this overly-simplistic thinking can also lead us down a dangerous path. In the past few years, several high-profile cases on university campuses have made the headlines. This includes the decision at Northeastern University to arm campus officers with semi-automatic weapons, a move that sparked controversy as well as protests by students and others, concerned by what they saw as an over-reaction to highly publicized (but rare) incidents on college campus in the U.S.

This escalation in armament followed similar changes at Boston University, M.I.T., Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Protests by students and staff followed, as did the subsequent indictment of a now-former University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tensing, for the murder of an unarmed man during a routine traffic stop (the victim was not a student).

Some colleges have even taken the radical step of introducing policy changes that would allow students to carry weapons on campus "just in case." Just this week, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed such a bill. In his dissent he wrote, "If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result."

My fear is that this change may be, at least partially, fueled by what psychologists call a Deterrence View (the belief that any sign of weakness will be exploited by opponents, and that leaders need to show willingness to use military-like force to prevent it). Since college campuses are comparatively safe environments (often much safer even than the neighborhoods and cities where they are built).


2. A.  What are the crime statistics for the Fremont and Newark campuses?

The Jeanne Cleary Disclosure of Campus Security Police and Campus Crime Statistics Act (better known as the Cleary Act) requires that all colleges and universities make available and publish reports of crime on, and near, their campus. Ohlone College’s Campus Security office makes these reports readily available on our website, and I have prepared a summary (attached) from screen shots for the Fremont and Newark campuses. Please note the number of ZEROS in each column. Given these statistics, it is necessary to ask ourselves whether firearms would add to the safety of our campus.


2. B.  What are the crime statistics for the Mission San Jose District in Fremont?

According to AreaVibes, in their Reported Annual Crime in Mission San Jose, our neighborhood received an A+ rating. This means that it is not only one of the lowest crime areas in the Bay Area, but also ranks as one of the lowest in the state of California.

Law Street Media recently released its 2015 list of Safest Cities in America. These rankings were based upon listings from the FBI crime reports for each city, as well as other demographic factors.

The city of Fremont came in 3rd safest city in the nation!



In summary I have great respect for, and trust in, our Campus Security staff. They serve an important role in keeping our campus safe, and our ensuring that staff and students (as well as visitors) conduct themselves according to basic standards of law and safety. However, the decision as to whether we allow the arming of staff on our campus is one that must be made without regard to our personal feelings for the people involved.

My vote will be NO, and I encourage you all to do the same.