Story and video by Tiffany Martinez
As the fall semester draws to a close, many students are contacting university advisers to plan out their schedules for the upcoming semester. Students in need of completing physical education requirements however, may have a few less courses to choose from this spring.
James Helvey, head coach of the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Cameron, has taught various shooting sports courses in the gun range at the basement of Burch Hall for the past 20 years.
According to Coach Helvey, he received information that an administrative decision had been made to close the gun range and replace it with classrooms in mid- September. This decision would be implemented in January of 2013. Having taught the courses accident-free with favorable student reviews for the past two decades, the decision came as a shock to him.
“I can’t recall having a student that didn’t enjoy their time in my class,” Coach Helvey said, “or have a better and more knowledgeable perspective of the firearms world upon completion of the class.”
Coach Helvey currently uses the gun range to teach four different courses: Archery, Introduction to Shooting Sports, Introduction to Handguns and Basic Riflery.
“I like to look at this range as a learning facility. It’s a classroom within itself,” Helvey said. “They say they want to convert it into classrooms, but it is already a classroom — the education offered in the range is very valuable.”[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/58140279[/vimeo]
CU Provost, Dr. John McArthur, who oversees academic affairs, made the recommendation to close the range.
“My responsibilities are the facilities we use for academic instruction — how many students are in a given space, at what time in the day and what specific days — and then making sure we are using that space appropriately,” Provost McArthur said.
According to Provost McArthur, the decision to convert the gun range was reached when he realized that the university was in dire need of classroom space.
“Enrollment has grown so much, particularly in the last three years,” Provost McArthur said. “We were looking at the largest number of students we could serve, and that was really the primary driving condition for us looking at repurposing that space into classrooms.”
Though the shooting sports courses are not listed under the physical education course listings for the upcoming semester, Provost McArthur said they are exploring ways to still make them available to students.
“Changing space is always a difficult decision,” he said. “We are looking at ways that we can continue to offer those courses, we just won’t have them here on the main campus.”
Coach Helvey, however, said that relocating the shooting sports courses may be an inconvenience to CU students in more than one way. On top of the time it takes to travel to and from off-site classes, he said that many students may lack the transportation to reach a range away from CU.
“A lot of people also lean toward the possibility of moving the courses to Fort Sill,” Coach Helvey said. “Since Fort Sill became a closed post after 9/11, it is a little more difficult to get through the gates. Shooting sports is typically offered around lunch time as well, and getting through the Fort Sill traffic at that time can be quite the task.”
Provost McArthur is hopeful that the courses, though tentatively switching locations, will remain popular among students.
“The enrollment in the off-site courses right now is quite good,” Provost McArthur said. “I’m not worried about the enrollment of the courses going down if we were to teach it elsewhere.”
Coach Helvey feels that destroying the gun range may also affect people who are not enrolled in his classes.
“The Boy Scouts of America come use our range to have pellet gun or basic rif le competitions, which is how they earn badges,” he said. “The National Archery in the Schools Program will also hold competitions there. I know our campus police occasionally work on a firearm or test a firearm in our range. ROTC has used the facility in the past and intended to start using in again next semester,” Coach Helvey said.
While Coach Helvey acknowledges being an advocate of Cameron, its administration and its rulings, he admits hesitation in saying goodbye to his on-campus shooting sports classes.
“This is a beautiful facility right here on campus that is specifically designed for the students here,” Coach Helvey said. “I just have a hard time trying to understand why we would want to destroy something like this.”
The new Open Carry Gun Law, which was implemented state-wide as of Nov. 1, has made gun safety and usage a hot topic among Oklahomans.
“I think educating our children on weapons of any kind is important and should occur,” Provost McArthur said. “Whether that needs to occur at a college or a technology center or in the home — I think there is a wide array of options there.”
According to Provost McArthur, five classrooms, in which education requirements will be taught. are to replace the gun range.