With a little more than a month under his belt, University of Idaho President Scott Green already has spoken on the issue of student and faculty safety, a direct result of two recent mass shooting that took at least 31 lives and injured dozens more.
Green is one of thousands of people in positions of authority who should feel compelled to do something to prevent the spread of gun violence throughout the nation.
Green should — and no doubt does — want to keep the UI safe for everyone.
“We are committed to having the best experience possible for our students on campus, regardless of where they are coming from, or what their race is, or what their religion is,” Green said Monday.
Green also echoed a refrain of parents, teachers, law enforcement, clergy, counselors and anyone else with an ounce of common sense and compassion.
“The gun laws we have on the books just aren’t helping,” he said. “We are not preventing some of these shootings, so I think we have to think about doing things differently. I can’t tell you what (that would look like) because I don’t know.”
Passivity has been the default response for too long. Legislative lip service is given to the gun-violence problem with the “thoughts and prayers” mantra, which only adds to the pompous puffery offered in appropriately sober tones.
Green provided no details on what the process of creating a safe and sane environment on campus will look like. That probably will involve hundreds of hours of meetings and myriad stakeholder groups.
The State Board of Education and the Legislature will necessarily be included as they control the purse strings. And those elected officials will undoubtedly protect, at all cost, the rights of those who wish to carry open or concealed small arms on campus.
For starters, we suggest using a mechanism already in place.
In August 2011, a horrific crime was committed off campus. A 22-year-old UI graduate student, Katy Benoit, was shot multiple times and killed by a professor with whom she was romantically linked.
The murder rattled Moscow just as the killing of three people by Jason Hamilton did in 2007.
In both instances, the response was to create a public event to honor the victims and to offer advice and instruction on staying safe. The Lee Newbill Safety Fair and the Katy Benoit Safety Forum are the results.
Newbill, a Moscow police officer, was killed by Hamilton.
Both events had strong starts. The Newbill event continues to be an annual presence, however, the Benoit forum lost significant steam after a few years and in 2018 was held in conjunction with UI’s annual Take Back the Night.
A full resurrection of the Benoit event would certainly make sense as it lends itself to the direction Green hopes to take with his leadership.
The Benoit legacy — and the return of a focused, annual event dedicated to the lessons learned by her death — would effectively underscore the importance of safety on campus.
— Murf Raquet, for the editorial board