University of New Mexico students must now use their LoboCard to enter the Communication and Journalism building.
The announcement was made via email from Jessica Chavez, the C&J program coordinator, on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
The email explained how students have to swipe their card to gain entry: make sure your photo is facing Redondo Drive Northeast as you swipe from top to bottom. If done correctly, a green light will appear — students are advised to enter through the left door.
David Weiss, the C&J department chair and an associate professor, made the decision to use the swipe access after a tumultuous year in a particular area of the C&J building — the bathrooms.
“We started noticing during the school year last year that people would be going in and locking themselves in (the single-user bathrooms) for hours at a time,” Weiss said.
Weiss said he would have to wait for whoever is in the bathroom to come out, and when he went in, what he saw would produce concerns about safety in the building.
“Sometimes we found needles; we found garbage; we found old discarded clothing,” Weiss said. “One time one of my staff members found two people having sex in one of those bathrooms.”
These instances, Weiss said, led to lock combinations being installed to gain access into the single-user bathrooms last year.
Weiss said incidents increased in the summer of 2018. One in the public C&J bathrooms where he “walked in to find an almost naked man basically bathing himself in one of our sinks.” Other instances include people occupying bathroom stalls for five or seven hours at a time.
“The campus as a whole is available to everyone, but it is not available for anyone to do things that are illegal or dangerous,” Weiss said, adding that “(mandatory swipe access) was a tough decision to come to.”
Throughout North, South, Main Campus and branch campuses in Valencia and Gallup, there are 70 University buildings that use a swipe or badge access type of security, said Daniel Richards, a supervisor for facility access control.
Having been installed more than 10 years ago, swipe access is not a new concept for the C&J building, but this is the first time that students entering the building must swipe their ID. Richards said the building was among the first to receive this technology alongside the Student Union Building, the Music Department and Ceria building.
To install one of these security devices, Richards said, could cost either $2,500 or $14,000, depending on what is needed for installation.
A feature of this new security system is the ability to keep a log of who is swiping for entry and how long a door is held for, Richards said.
“It’s a little more secure in the fashion we can track who is going where and into the buildings,” he said.
Unfortunately, Chavez’s email about the swipe entry was not seen by everyone.
Frustrated students were seen pulling on the locked front door and trying to enter through locked doors around the building; some gave up and waited for exiting students and staff to open the door to go in while others walked away.
One student said she “didn’t even have (her ID).”
For students running late like Steven Santillan, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, the swipe access is problematic.
“I’m trying to get into the building, but it’s not working,” Santillan said as he swiped his card every possible way through the scanner. Finally, Santillan gets a green light and he and other students let out a sigh of relief.
“I guess it keeps people safe, I suppose,” he said. “But as you saw, it was kind of a hassle.”
However, for Kaylee Trainum, a junior majoring in Communication and Journalism, the new system means better security.
“The people who are supposed to be here are here and the people who aren’t supposed to be here can’t get in,” Trainum said.
Students and visitors that are unable to enter the C&J building are advised to call the C&J front desk at (505) 277-5305.
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.