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Senator Ryan Boyle speaks at ASUNM’s last senate meeting Wednesday Nov. 18. Boyle proposed a piece of legislation that would support students' ability to bring pepper spray on campus.

Senator Ryan Boyle speaks at ASUNM’s last senate meeting Wednesday Nov. 18. Boyle proposed a piece of legislation that would support students' ability to bring pepper spray on campus.

ASUNM Senate: Pepper spray should be allowed on campus

Editor's Note: This story was updated on November 24 to reflect legality of pepper spray under New Mexico law. 


At their final senate meeting of the semester on Wednesday, the Associated Students of UNM unanimously voted its support for students carrying pepper spray on campus for their safety, something that might soon be allowed pending a policy change.

Resolution 3F states that the undergraduate student governing body “supports the adoption of a policy to allow pepper spray on campus as a commitment to promoting safety ... and empowering students with the ability to protect themselves.”

Sen. Ryan Boyle introduced the legislation along with student groups Young Americans for Freedom and Young Americans for Liberty and said his main concern when drafting the resolution was for students who find themselves in hostile situations.

“There are students who don’t know if the policy allows it or not, and if they know it doesn’t allow it, they’re really concerned about that,” Boyle said. “They want to be able to have it on campus and (be able to) protect themselves.”

The policy is not ambiguous only to students, however. In corresponding with various UNM departments, Boyle said all he found was inconsistency.

“None of the departments I’ve talked to are on the same page with what’s the actual policy,” Boyle said.

He said a UNMPD representative told him that pepper spray is “absolutely not allowed on campus, and if you get caught with it we will refer you to the Dean of Students for consequences.”

One thing UNMPD is concerned about is training. There is a possibility that students may use pepper spray negligently, according to Boyle.

He then went to the Dean of Students’ office to talk to a representative there—though not Dean of Students Tomas Aguirre – who also said that pepper spray is not allowed, but with a possible exception.

“She insinuated that if it was on a key chain, it might be allowed,” he said. “See how I’ve already talked to two departments and I’m not getting a consistent answer?”

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Boyle said he then communicated with the UNM Policy Office, which said pepper spray is not allowed on campus, whether on a key chain or otherwise.

The current version of the Campus Violence Policy, under section 2.1, states “no person may use or possess a weapon on any part of campus ... (which) include, but are not limited to, firearms, ammunition or other dangerous weapons, substances or materials, bombs, explosives or incendiary devices.”

The policy does not give specific parameters with respect to what should be considered “dangerous.” It was last revised in early 2001, but Policy Office Director Pamina Deutsch said that revisions are being considered by the department.

Deutsch said that the policy has actually been under review since at least February 1, 2012—the date she became director of the policy office.

She said that last year a committee met to inspect the policy and suggest possible revisions, one of which is the creation of a threat management assessment team.

The policy does not explicitly say pepper spray is not allowed, and Deutsch said carrying a small amount is legal under state law, but she would like to see changes that make that more clear in the policy.

“I’m anxious to have the policy revised and starting efforts again,” she said. “I do think it would be worth specifically mentioning pepper spray and what’s allowed and what is not.”

Boyle’s resolution supports carrying one canister of pepper spray not exceeding 4 fluid ounces, which is a recommendation that Boyle got from Deutsch based on FAA policy.

Deutsch said that because the policy in question is administrative in nature, any revisions would have to be signed off by University President Bob Frank. If that happens, UNM would join a group of universities allowing pepper spray that include University of California, Berkeley; the University of Texas; and Colorado Fort Collins.

According to the resolution, UNM is the eighth most dangerous university in the nation, with the number of reported sexual assaults and stalking crimes increasing from 2013 to 2014 by six and 23, respectively.

ASUNM senators were overwhelmingly in support of Resolution 3F, including Sen. Gabe Gallegos, who called it a “common sense” notion that students should be allowed to protect themselves with pepper spray.

At end of the meeting, Sen. Bisaan Hanouneh said the effort put into the resolution by Boyle was “amazing.”

Boyle got his senate seat for part of the semester due to an ex-senator’s resignation and will not be returning in the spring. However, in his closing comments at the meeting’s end, he encouraged senators to support students being able to carry guns for their safety.

“For the last two years I’ve done a lot of (pro-concealed carry) events with my group, Young Americans for Freedom,” Boyle said. “We’ve said that gun-free zones aren’t necessarily working, and so we’d rather have students be able to defend themselves (with firearms), and we hope that that’ll be the better alternative.”

David Lynch is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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