Western Kentucky University’s Board of Regents approved Friday a change to the campus weapons policy, a new general education program and the purchase of two properties for new fraternity houses.
Because of a recent Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, WKU updated its weapons policy to allow weapons in cars parked on campus. Previously, no weapons or firearms of any kind were allowed anywhere on university property, said Deborah Wilkins, WKU’s chief of staff and general counsel.
The change comes after the state Supreme Court ruled that Michael Mitchell, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, had a right to store his gun in his car while parked on campus, Wilkins said. Mitchell sued UK after he was dismissed from the university when police found a gun in his car.
The ruling means WKU must also allow weapons in cars on campus, Wilkins said.
Now, people with a concealed carry permit can store a weapon anywhere in their car, while those without a permit can place one somewhere in their car that would take two motions to reach, Wilkins said.
If someone takes the weapon out of the car or has a weapon anywhere else on campus, the person will be in violation of the policy, she said.
Wilkins said she doesn’t think any university administrators are happy about the new policy, but it’s a necessary change to comply with the law.
Wilkins said the new policy is not a cause for concern among the campus community, and she doesn’t believe it will lead to increased violence. As always, she urges people on campus to be aware of what’s happening around them and to report anything unusual.
John Ridley, the newest regent, was sworn in at the meeting. Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Ridley, who is from Bowling Green, to the board Wednesday to replace Regent Jim Meyer, whose term ended this month.
Ridley will serve a six-year term and is serving on the board’s academic affairs and student affairs committees.
Also at the meeting, regents approved a new general education program, called the Colonnade Program. A general education task force has been working for three years to develop a core curriculum that best meets the need of students in the 21st century, Provost Gordon Emslie said. The general education program was last updated in 2001.
The new Colonnade Program consists of 39 hours of course work, broken down into three categories: foundations, explorations and connections. In the foundations category, students must take 18 hours of classes, including English, communications, math and history. Under the explorations category, students will take 12 hours, including classes in arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and natural and physical sciences. In the connections category, students must take nine hours of classes that help them understand individual and social responsibility, including courses dealing with society and culture as well as local and global issues.
The board also approved the purchase of property for new fraternity houses for Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Delta Theta.
In 2005, the university decided to create a Greek Village that would move fraternity houses out of historic and residential neighborhoods along State and College streets, President Gary Ransdell said.
Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Delta Theta will join two other fraternities in the village, located in the area where Center Street meets 13th Avenue and Alumni Avenue, a renamed section of 14th Avenue.
Property at 1324 and 1328 Center St. will be purchased for Pi Kappa Alpha, while property at 330 and 340 Alumni Ave. will be purchased for Phi Delta Theta.
Pi Kappa Alpha’s current house on Chestnut Street is owned by Chris McGee, who allows the fraternity to use his property. McGee has agreed to make a $200,000 donation to the WKU Foundation, which will use the money to buy the property from him and expand the university’s parking lot next to the property once the fraternity has moved to its new location.
The total cost to the university’s reserve fund for the property purchases is $330,000.
Faculty Regent Patricia Minter voted against buying the properties.
“In this financial time, it’s difficult to justify even small draws on the reserves,” Minter said.
The board also approved employment contracts for athletic director Todd Stewart, men’s basketball coach Ray Harper and women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard.