INDIANOLA, Iowa -- A decision to boost a growing program has caused outrage from alumni at Simpson College.
Opponents say it not only promotes guns on campus but it’s against the same religious beliefs that the college was founded on. But the school is moving forward anyway.
Over its brief five-year history, Simpson College President Jay Simmons says the shooting sports program is gaining popularity.
“We’re hopeful this might be one factor that makes Simpson a more attractive option in the future,” Simmons said.
A proposal aiming to hire a full-time coach for the program with over 30 members has sparked frustration from alumni who believe school funds should go towards academics and not the shooting sports program.
“We have a great group of alums and friends of the college who are concerned that the college always makes the right decision,” Simmons said.
The online petition began Jan. 27 and has garnered nearly 200 signatures, including former Iowa U.S. Senator John Culver, for whom the college’s public policy center is named.
A statement from petition co-creator and 1977 Simpson graduate Rebecca Bentzinger said the petition urged the college to not “sanction a program that proposes to add shooting to the curriculum with the hiring of a coach.”
They also questioned a recent $10,000 donation to the club from a gun lobbying group called the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“We believe that this would place Simpson outside of the beliefs of the United Methodist Church,” Bentzinger said in a statement. "Unfortunately, those who signed the Petition for a Weapons-Free Simpson have been accused of not supporting the U.S. Constitution and its second amendment ... We created our petition to address an issue at the college we support and love. It is a petition that is solely concerned with the best for Simpson College, its students, alums, friends and faculty."
Despite the petition, the board of trustees voted to go forward Friday.
“We reviewed the relevant parts of the book of discipline and the resolutions of the United Methodist Church. We felt as though those resolutions were keeping with what some of our fellow colleges are doing with similar programs," Simmons said. “Given the fact the same program is available at 150 colleges and universities including Harvard, Yale, Middlebury and a half dozen other United Methodist-affiliated colleges, we decided there was no real conflict."
He also said he believes the program will not put students or staff in harm's way.
“What we are talking about is a very controlled environment, where the equipment is stored off any of the academic areas of the campus and any of the residential areas of the campus,” Simmons said.
While the move to go forward may anger some, Simmons said it just shows that people care.
“We have a group of alums that are very passionate about Simpson College and we are grateful for that passion and that interest,” he said.
Simpson College expects to hire a full-time coach soon.
A petition in favor of the Simpson College Shooting Sports Club began Feb. 1 and has already received more than 2,200 signatures.