Oregon's higher education board unanimously adopted a policy that will ban guns from most corners of campus life at the state's seven universities.
The university system's top priority is campus safety, said Jim Francesconi, member of the State Board of Higher Education, which met Friday for a regular meeting at Portland State University. "That is our job. We are just doing our job."
No one spoke against the policy, which will immediately ban guns from classrooms, buildings, dormitories and sporting and entertainment events.
People who enter business relationships with state universities must agree not to carry guns on campus property. Those include students, employees, contractors, people buying tickets to university events or people renting university property. The policy blunts the victory for gun rights advocates a day earlier in the state Senate, which narrowly rejected Senate Bill 1594, a measure to bar people from carrying guns on a school or college campus.
Continuing coverage of efforts by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education to keep guns off Oregon college campuses.The state board policy, however, would not prevent people with concealed weapon permits from walking across a state university campus with a gun. They just couldn't enter any building or arena.
The policy also makes exceptions for police, military programs such as the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, residents in noncampus housing and hunting or target shooting clubs.
Punishment for violating the policy will vary, said George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System. Student violators, for example, would be subject to the conduct code, employees to disciplinary action and contractors to breach of contract.
Phillip Zerzan, public safety director at Portland State University, testified in support of the policy, arguing that guns raise the stakes when students are suicidal, angry, under mental strain or drinking at parties.
"I've witnessed the finality that firearms bring," said Zerzan, who formerly commanded an Oregon State Police area that included Oregon State University. "There are no policies, therapies or do-overs that can repair the damage caused by a gun shot wound."
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in September that the board did not have authority to regulate guns through the use of an administrative rule. But the court also said the board has broad control over its property. So the board turned to the policy to keep guns off its campuses.
The board also voted to extend Pernsteiner's contract through June 30, 2014, but is still negotiating terms. Pernsteiner, who has not had a pay raise in four years, earns $280,900 a year plus $12,720 in deferred compensation.