We saw a campus shooting nearly every week in the Fall Semester of 2015. As policymakers at all levels of government consider interventions, Student Body Presidents are also taking a lead. Kathryn Edmunds, Student Body President at Florida Atlantic University, spoke with us about how she’s approached the issue with her student government at FAU and across Florida.
Name: Kathryn Edmunds
Campus: Florida Atlantic University
Major: Communications; Minor: Business Administration
Graduation Year: 2017
Student Population: 30, 808
Q1: Can you give us a synopsis of what was going on, and explain where you saw an opening to get involved?
In 2015 a campus carry bill was introduced in the Florida Legislature, which sparked conversations back on campus. When we found out about this specific bill, our SG convened, and we realized that our student body really wanted to be part of the conversation. We put together a town hall meeting and brought in members of the campus safety team, professors who were on both sides of the issue, lobbyists on both sides of the issue. We tried to provide a forum where the students could engage with the issue and make up their minds.
Then, as a student government, we met to decide if we thought guns should be allowed on campus and to discuss our reaction to the proposed legislation. We wanted to continue the conversations we were having on campus with our legislators in Tallahassee. We went to the State House earlier this year and met with Representatives to get their take the bill. We wanted to share what our student body had said.
Q2: What were some of the challenges you encountered?
Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to take the feedback we were getting from students and deliver it to our Florida lawmakers. We worked closely with our university’s Government Relations office, but as students who don’t practice law, it was a challenge to figure out how to get these legislators to listen, and we had to figure out how to convey to them what we believe is important.
Q3: What were the results?
Last year the bill died in the committee process, but we remained engaged on the issues. In 2016 the same bill was reintroduced and we again expressed our opposition to the legislation. We are continuing to track the bill this year and are hopeful that it will again stall in committee. However, it is important to stay engaged and continue to communicate on issues of importance.
Q4: How would you recommend others get involved in this issue?
- It’s really important that student leaders engage with the professional staff in their university. This way, you can find out if you’ll get support, or if you need to have more conversations.
- Meet with your local officials. This helps gauge what the political climate is, and this is helpful when working at the state level.
- Write a resolution. Writing on behalf of your student government is extremely beneficial. It helps gather consensus among the campus and offers a tangible, concrete platform to give legislators.