South Carolina State University will be adding a gun-sniffing dog over the next month to beef up campus security, the university’s president said Friday.

“My number one responsibility to the students and to the parents is a safe environment,” SCSU President Alexander Conyers said during a Friday afternoon press conference in front of the university’s administration building.

“I am committed to ridding the campus of anyone who may want to bring a weapon on this campus. The students know that. I owe that to our students and our parents and that is my number one priority,” he said.

The security measures were announced three days after an on-campus shooting led to the arrest of a former university student. The shooting occurred in Hodge Hall. There were no injuries though the campus was placed in lockdown.

Conyers said gun-sniffing dogs are currently used across the state and country at larger universities.

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“It is very, very effective,” Conyers said. “I am very familiar with the capabilities of this dog.”

Conyers said a gun-sniffing dog will be brought to campus within the next week and its capabilities will be demonstrated to students, faculty and staff.

“I don’t want this to be a surprise to our stakeholders,” Conyers said. “This isn’t about trying to make arrests. This is about keeping everybody safe. This capability is to serve as a deterrent so that no one gets arrested, so that no one goes to jail.”

“We are here to provide an education to the young men and women who have chosen South Carolina State and every single day we are looking for new capabilities to ensure that we can do that in a much safer environment,” Conyers continued.

Conyers said the university hopes to have its own gun-sniffing dog within a month and that appropriate training and certification will be done for personnel.

Conyers said searches will be random and before the dog is used, a university policy will be implemented. The policy will be put together with the assistance of universities that already have used gun-sniffing dogs, Conyers said.

The university will initially have one gun-sniffing dog and will look to increase that as the student population grows. The dog will be on campus full-time.

Random checks will done on an as-needed basis.

“Certainly we don’t want to get into what our exact employment will be,” Conyers said. “We certainly don’t want to give anyone any reason to think they can out-think the system.”

Prior to Friday’s press conference, Conyers met with male students at the university for about 1-1/2 hours to inform them of the new security measures the university is taking and safety expectations of the university.

“Today was the start of an education for our male students,” Conyers said. “We will do the same for our female students as well, because they have different challenges. I see the need for a more programmatic system for educating our students. This isn’t new, trying to ensure our students get to graduation.”

Conyers said the university has taken on a number of security measures in recent years.

“This is absolutely a gun-free campus,” Conyers said. “Absolutely zero tolerance for guns. Students understand that. Parents understand that, I hope. Every student on this campus knows that this is a gun-free campus.”

“Every student on this campus knows that if they are caught with a weapon, they will not sleep in their bed that night,” Conyers said. “Every student on this campus knows if they are found with a weapon on this campus, it is out of my control and it is in the control of state law enforcement.”

Conyers said security cameras are throughout campus at entrances, gates and around dorms.

“We have cameras throughout this entire campus,” Conyers said. “We have 24-hour monitoring of those cameras.”

A new guard shack will be built at Gate 5 and a television will be mounted at the station, Conyers said.

“We want our visitors to know that they are being watched,” Conyers said.

Currently, the university has about 700 security cameras and 27 emergency call boxes across the campus.

“Cameras don’t prevent incidents but they help us solve them in a much, much faster way,” Conyers said. “This campus is not much different than many other campuses of this size with issues but we are working hard every single day to mitigate those.”

In addition to cameras, the university has added more campus safety officers to assist campus police and upgraded lighting and security technology around residence halls and classroom buildings. Conyers said the campus has 14 sworn police officers and contract security.

The university also has three sirens on top of three buildings across campus. He said the sirens will be activated in the event of an active shooter or a campus lockdown.

There are also guest policies.

Conyers said guests can come on campus and visit, but guests must sign in after a certain hour.

“The university is open to guests, always. We just ask the guests to follow our rules and if they don’t, they will be held accountable as well,” Conyers said.

Conyers said the university provides services to students struggling with mental health counseling and telehealth, and also offers faculty and staff the same type of service.

S.C. State sophomore Jah Allen said security has improved on campus since last year.

“On and off campus, it is a little hard to get on if you don’t have a valid student ID,” Allen said.

Gates have been fixed, helping better limit campus access, Allen said. “It is getting better. We are not all the way there yet as secure as we need to be, but we can get there.”

Allen described the gun-sniffing dog measure as “heat.”

“I didn’t even know they could go that far as to sniff out gunpowder,” Allen said. “They need that here to bring the dogs here. Hopefully they will sniff out what they need to sniff out and get it off the campus.”

Freshman Zane Prioleau said the university’s security plans will help.

“It is definitely going to change the stigma around State and how like it looks and what people think of State,” Prioleau said. “It is going to make it a safer environment for everybody to have fun, especially since the HBCU is giving us space to grow.”

Prioleau says he feels safe on campus.

Conyers encouraged students to report any illegal activity on campus to campus police. Conyers said tips will remain anonymous.

This week’s shooting is not the first incident at the university just over the past year.

Two months ago, an 18-year-old Denmark man was charged with attempted murder, trespassing after warning and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

That shooting took place on Dec. 1 in Building F of Hugine Suites, an on-campus co-ed housing unit for S.C. State students.

There were also two shootings in March 2023, also near the Hugine Suites. A student was treated for non-life threatening injuries in the early March shooting. There were no injuries in the second March shooting.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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