Missouri considers guns on college campuses

Guns may be coming to campuses all across Missouri in the near future. Senate Bill 731 and its identical House Bill 1910 would remove the current ban on conceal and carry weapons on college campuses. This means that anyone aged 19 and above who completes the required courses and registration associated with conceal and carry in the state would be legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon onto college campuses. Risk Manager for Missouri Western, Tim Kissock, said that the university is content with current laws, but would follow any new laws if the university had to. “We will certainly do whatever the legislature requires us to do and we’ll do it in good faith,” Kissock said. “We do feel that guns are a complex issue and right now conceal and carry weapons are not allowed on campus, and we are certainly not pushing for any changes to that legislation. We’re happy where we are right now.” Kissock also said that special operations of colleges and universities warrant them being protected against conceal and carry laws. “It’s an education setting,” Kissock said. “There are a lot of debates; there are a lot of young people, people living in the dorms. The reality is that there is drinking and some amount of drugs on every campus. To throw guns into that situation, on balance, we think would not make the campus community a safer place.” Besides allowing guns into classrooms, one of the major things that this legislation would do is allow guns to be brought into the homes of those who live on campus. Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts said that the training provided to Resident Assistants would not change despite the change to guns laws in the state. “From our perspective, I don’t think we would do anything differently in how we approach our business of student programming or student conduct violations and those types of things,” Roberts said. “I don’t think it changes how we do business. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I think that’s going to be determined on how the student population is and how they manage it.” Resident Assistant and Shotgun Club President Matt Scholz said the training provided to those with a conceal and carry license would prevent some problems with guns from happening. “It would probably affect my position for the fact that there would be firearms on campus,” Scholz said. “Now, to tell you the truth, I don’t know if it would be for the worst or the best as an RA. Some situations that do happen in residential life could involve an RA being at the wrong end of a firearm in some situations and other situations could end up being just fine. I would assume that nothing would go wrong, considering you have people who would have taken CCW classes.” The bill does allow for universities to opt out of allowing the conceal and carry access if it can provide a safe environment. This includes installing metal detectors in building entrances and having guards scan people as they come into the building. For universities like Missouri Western, Kissock said, the exemption is not possible. “It’s really not feasible. It’s cost prohibitive. I think we’ve done some estimates on it and the cost was in excess of $10 million dollars,” Kissock said. “My understanding is that if you don’t want to allow concealed weapons to be carried on campus, then you have to set up those security procedures and quite frankly, it wouldn’t work here. We don’t have the money to make it work.” The exemption would also require the same requirements of the residence halls. Residential Hall Director Roberts cited the same burden of cost as Kissock. “I don’t see those as real feasible depending on what type of circumstance you’re in and certainly not for the residence halls,” Roberts said. “That’s not something that we would have the money or the staff to do.” If the legislation was put into effect, it is unlikely that Missouri Western would qualify for exemption and would be required to allow conceal and carry on campus. Despite some concerns with the legislation, Kissock said that things would work out and MWSU would comply with state law. “It certainly won’t be the end of the world. We’ll make it work,” Kissock said. “I anticipate initially there will be a lot of people that will maybe be afraid or concerned to be sitting in classrooms and have people carrying guns. I think it would certainly keep our campus police a little more active, going around and making sure people who have the weapons are properly licensed. I don’t know. It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future and I guess that’s one reason why we’re not crazy about changing, is that we don’t know what will happen.”

Sanders, Trump win New Hampshire primaries by double-digits

The first primary of the 2016 U.S. presidential race saw defeats for establishment candidates. New Hampshire was feeling the Bern Tuesday night as its Democratic Party overwhelming voted for the Vermont senator in the primary. At press time, Sanders had 59.9 percent of the Democratic vote of the state. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton staked out 38.4 percent of the vote. The Republican primary in the Granite State was also a good night for Donald Trump, who beat back multiple competitive candidates. Trump won with 35.3 percent of the vote, at press time. Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second with 15.9 percent, followed by Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush. Politics Club Vice President Brad Stanton said he was not surprised by the primary results. “I think they’re about what we expected,” Stanton said. “Democrat-wise, Bernie was the expected winner because New Hampshire is more liberal and borders Vermont. On the Republican side, Trump shows that he has supporters that will turn out and Kasich shows he has the support of more moderate conservatives. I think the big loser is Rubio, who was surely expected to do much better.” Meanwhile, Maddie Marx , President of Women of the Future, felt differently about the results. “I’m kind of shocked,” Marx said, “Seeing that the margin between Hillary and Bernie was so wide, when it usually is very thin. Also, Trump won, so general sadness ensues.” The next presidential primary is in South Carolina on Feb. 20. Missouri’s primary is on March 15.

Anti-censorship bill passes through House committee

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A proposal to strengthen the press rights of student journalist has passed the first step in the legislative process: passing through committee. H.B. 2058 passed through Committee on Emerging Issues unanimously Wednesday with a 9-0 vote. The legislation, so called the "Walter Cronkite New Voices Act," was proposed by Missouri Western alum Rep. Elijah Haahr Jan. 6, the first day of Missouri's legislative session. The senior representative explains that his inspiration for the bill comes in part from a 2015 video taken during a protest at Missouri University-- Columbia, where a faculty member physically prevented a journalist from documenting student protests. "In the context of what happened in Missouri, the protests and the Tim Tai situation was something I was somewhat interested in," Haarh said. "It seemed timely... something that would more quickly gather interest and kind of get a movement behind it." That movement gained media attention Feb. 1, when ten witnesses testified during the bill's first committee hearing in support of the act. Chief among them was Cathy Kuhlmeier, one of the plaintiff’s of the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. If passed, the New Voices bill would overturn the 1988 decision that previously set the national bright line for student journalist rights. Kuhlmeier believes that giving high school students enhanced first amendment protections is the first step in advancing journalism on the national scale. "You have to have a foundation to start and learn things; if you don't have that to start with, how are you going to all of a sudden pick it up in college?" Kuhlmeier said. "It's gonna make the difference in the world if we can continue to express our opinions and talk about what we believe in." If Missouri were to overturn Hazelwood by legislation, student press rights campaigns across the nation could use Missouri as an example for their state legislators. The New Voices campaign, led by the Student Press Law Center, is one of the largest national programs against student journalist censorship. Frank LoMonte, director of the SPLC, explains that the bill is likely to continue moving through the congressional process. “I think that realistically the only political concern is the school administrators and their lobbyist. That’s been the one source of friction in states that have attempted this in the past,” LoMonte said. “But, I’m kind of encouraged that that is softening as well.” The bill must pass through the Committee on General Rules before it can be voted on by the entirety of the House. If the House approves the legislation, then it will move on to a Senate committee and potentially to the Senate floor. If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon, the bill will become law for the state of Missouri.

Cruz and Clinton Win Iowa Caucus

Missouri’s presidential primary may not be until March, but its neighbor to the north voted Monday night and the votes are in. In the 2016 Presidential Iowa Caucus, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won his party’s caucus with 28% of the vote. Finishing in second and third place for the Republicans was Donald Trump with 24% of the vote and Sen. Marco Rubio with 23%. Meanwhile, Democratic voters supported Hillary Clinton by a very narrow margin in a close race over Sen. Bernie Sanders, ending with essentially a tie. Clinton received 49.9% over Sanders 49.6%, according to the Associated Press. In fact, it was so close, the Iowa Democratic Party released a press release the following day to confirm the results. “The results tonight are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history,” the Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire said. “Hillary Clinton has been awarded 700.59 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 696.82 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.61 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents.” As mentioned, former Maryland Gov. O’Malley received 0.6% of the vote and suspended his presidential campaign Monday night. Assistant Professor of political science Dr. Jonathan Euchner is a native Iowan and participated in Monday’s caucus and explained the process. Essentially, the caucus is a neighborhood meeting for the two national parties, Euchner said. Once the meeting starts, the caucus-goers split into preference groups for presidential candidates where the goal to form a “viable” group. The total amount of people attending the caucus determine the percentage of supporters needed for a candidate to be considered viable. “[The caucus starts and] Everyone starts walking around and it’s kind of like a party,” Euchner said. “Eventually the room is divided up into however many candidates for president there are out there, who have supporters at the caucus site... Then, where it becomes really interesting is if you’re in a group that may be a couple people short, say you need 15 people and you only got 12, so then what happens is people start walking around to the groups with a lot of people and tell them ‘c’mon, join us’... People start kind of horse-trading.” The preference groups are eventually decided and then report back for a final tally. Delegates to the two parties’ national convention are then assigned to each candidate based on the percentage of supporters at each caucus site. While Iowa casts the first votes for presidential candidates this election cycle, Euchner said that this election has a long ways to get yet. “I think, heading into the Democratic race, it’s a long slog,” Euchner said. “I think Sanders could be in it for the long haul, and Clinton is not going anywhere... With the Republicans, boy, I think we need to see what New Hampshire does before we know for sure. New Hampshire may eliminate some establishment candidates, like [Jeb] Bush and Chris Christie.” With all the attention on Iowa now shifting to New Hampshire where the country’s first primary will be held, it appears like Missouri will largely be overlooked during this presidential election year. This, however, was not always the case, Euchner said. “The biggest reason Missouri is increasingly irrelevant is that it used to be a really competitive, ‘bellwether’ state,” Euchner said. “Missouri used to always pick the winner of presidential elections... But in recent years, Missouri has been becoming, for a presidential voting, a pretty safe Republican state, which means that Democrats generally ignore Missouri.” There is still a ways to go before the Missouri primary. The next primary is in New Hampshire on Feb. 9. Super Tuesday, when the most delegates are up for grabs across the nation, is on March 1. The Missouri presidential primaries, meanwhile, are on March 15.

Western Cracks Down on Sexual Harassment

In compliance with upcoming federal changes to Title IX, the university has implemented new policies regarding discrimination. Title IX discrimination refers to sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, gender identity, and failure to conform to stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity. Legislation Today Title IX refers to a section of the federal Educations Amendments of 1972, which states (in part) that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Except for a renaming of the bill to Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002, the wording of Title IX has not changed since its creation. Title IX currently has normally been used in cases of gender equality in sports and other state-sanctioned activities. However, activity in Congress has begun to question whether Title IX can be expanded to regulate any cases of sexual misconduct are handled on college campuses. Upcoming Federal Mandates A bill co-sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri would strengthen existing Title IX language to include all cases of sexual misconduct on campuses. Known as S.590 and H.R.1310, informally known as Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the legislation would: - Require schools to survey students about sexual misconduct, and publish those results - Mandate minimum levels of training for school staff - Prevent athletic departments from handling complaints about athletes - Create financial penalties for school non-compliance Though the legislation is gaining traction in Congress, the bill is not yet federal law. Despite this, the university has implemented multiple policy changes in response to McCaskill’s efforts. Specific Policy Changes First, the university has begun the hiring process for a Title IX Dean of Students Coordinator. “We are searching for a new Title IX Dean of Students Coordinator,” said Shana Meyer, vice president of student affairs. “It’s a nation-wide search and we’re really looking for someone to fill that spot and concentrate on our Title IX efforts.” Three candidates for the position will be on campus within the following two weeks. Second, Western employees are now mandatory reporters. If a student approaches a faculty or staff member regarding a case of sexual misconduct, the employee must report it to the Title IX coordinator. “With the exception of the counseling center, there is no confidentiality [in cases of Title IX discrimination],” said Edwin Taylor, assistant professor of political science. “So, if someone comes to us and says, “Hey, I need to talk to you about something that happened at this party off campus, but you’ve got to keep it private,” we have to start off with, “I have to report it.” Though the university must launch an investigation into reports of sexual misconduct, for the time being, students still maintain the final say as to whether charges are to be pressed. “The university has to investigate any cases, but if a student doesn’t want an investigation to continue, they maintain autonomy over that decision,” Executive Vice President of SGA Brad Stanton said. Third, students and staff are required to complete online Title IX training. Though Western staff and student employees have already received the information to complete the online course, students have not been given access to the course. However, once students receive the email information regarding the online training, it must be completed within 30 days.