Students discuss concerns of armed Public Safety at NovaChats



Emily Servodidio

Photo Courtesy of




On March 21, CAT and SGA sponsored a NovaChat discussion about Villanova’s decision to arm and deputize public safety officers on campus. The discussion took place in Café Nova and was facilitated by George James. A Presidential Scholar and graduate of the class of 2001, James studied Psychology and Africana Studies at Villanova before earning his Masters in Family Therapy from Drexel University. James is now a licensed marriage and family therapist and nationally recognized speaker and workshop leader. James has appeared as an expert guest on many radio, television and online programs, including TedX. In 2012 James gave a TedX Talk entitled “The Power of Relationships.”

Students attended the NovaChat event, and some faculty members also attended. Along the border of the room there were several poster-boards with the words “protection,” “profiled,” “fear and anxiety,” “change” and “safety.” To begin the discussion, James asked everyone in the room to write what comes to their mind when they read those words. James then opened the floor to the audience. Participants raised their hands to voice answers and opinions, but also had the option of texting their responses. These messages appeared anonymously on a screen, and James used them to further the discussion. 

A major concern among participating students is the Catholic model of the University. Many feel that introducing guns onto our campus would challenge the values and standards of the Catholic Church. Also, students wondered if guns would truly provide more protection in the end. An underlying theme of the discussion was atmospheric changes. Several noticed a level of fear that could linger between student-public safety officer relationships if the student knows an officer is carrying a gun. Students also noted the high rates of police profiling and unjust killings that have been occurring over the last two years throughout America, and how this decision poses a potential threat for their lives.

Students not only expressed anxiety over the decision to arm officers, but frustration as well. Many felt like their voices hadn’t been heard through the decision making process. Liam Hoover and Patrick Flynn, both freshman, attended the town hall forum with Father Peter earlier this year, but were not satisfied.

 “Father Peter kept saying ‘I hope,’” Hoover said. “He didn’t have any definitive answers about safety on campus, even though they said we’ll address the student concerns.”

Flynn echoed these sentiments. “The process is backwards” he said. “The decision is made, then we have the forums. It seems too late.”

Current juniors and seniors had the opportunity to complete an online survey in 2014 when the decision was first being deliberated. Students expressed frustration at never hearing the results of the survey. The survey also did not include the sentiments of the current freshman and sophomore classes, who were not yet a part of the community.

James finished the discussion by asking students for suggestions to make the transition smoother. Some raised their hands, saying they do not know the public safety officers and thus could not trust them. Others called for a better representation of minorities in the force. Students also learned of the establishment of an Oversight Committee. According to a flyer distributed at the event, “This committee will act as a liaison between the Public Safety Department and the University Committee.” It will “receive and review suggestions, complaints and concerns from the community.”

The committee will be comprised of two students, three faculty members, one staff member, a University administrator who will serve as committee chair and one other member of the community. The group is designed specifically to hear the voice of the student body, intended to act as the mediator between the student and authoritative voices.