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Marina Herrera asks students to support their petition for students to be able to carry stun guns on campus Wednesday afternoon. The organization, Students for Self-Defense, was formed, in part, after ASUNM rejected a pro-stun gun resolution in February.

Marina Herrera asks students to support their petition for students to be able to carry stun guns on campus Wednesday afternoon. The organization, Students for Self-Defense, was formed, in part, after ASUNM rejected a pro-stun gun resolution in February.

ASUNM, UNMPD hold Safety Day to open discussion about campus security

Associated Students of UNM, in collaboration with UNM Police, held Safety Day on Wednesday, an opportunity for the student government to directly reach out to students about their most pressing concerns regarding security on campus.

ASUNM officials said the initiative was something being planned for a few months as a chance for students to have their voice heard.

“It’s been one of the bigger outreach events we’ve had all semester,” said ASUNM Legislative Coordinator Noah Michelsohn. “I don’t think many students know about UNMPD, so it’s good to get students talking to them as well so that they know what their actual purpose is.”

Participants filled out surveys about their thoughts on campus safety, and some had Polaroids taken of them. Those pictures were then put on a board with that individual students’ dominant safety concern written on them, which included “sexual assault,” “lighting” and “breaking into cars.”

ASUNM was able to get input from 157 students. According to the preliminary results, almost 80 percent say they tend to be on campus late at night. 60 percent of those students say they feel safe at night.

The results also show that students “overwhelmingly” suggest UNM does more in collaboration with the local community, where the campus is tightly integrated.

Better lighting and a higher police presence were also popular recommendations from students.

ASUNM Vice President Alex Cervantes said the event was an effective way of realizing the biggest safety holes on campus, rather than ASUNM simply guessing.

“We wanted to have a really tangible way of saying this is the main concern of students,” she said.

Cervantes said feedback will go towards planning and drafting future resolutions centered around campus safety.

Improved lighting, particularly on South Lot, is ASUNM’s ongoing safety initiative with the most momentum, thanks to funding being approved.

ASUNM wasn’t the only group on site concerned about student safety. Also present were members of Students for Self-Defense UNM, a young student organization just a few weeks into its existence.

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Members of the group stood near ASUNM’s table, talking with students and gathering signatures from those supporting the use of stun guns on campus.

Earlier in the semester, ASUNM rejected a resolution supporting use of the devices by students, a move which led to outcry and protests by conservative students and groups on campus.

Despite the ongoing effort to build a pro-stun gun petition and present it to ASUNM in the hopes that it changes its stance, Students for Self-Defense members said their overarching focus on Wednesday was standing in solidarity with ASUNM for increased awareness of safety concerns.

“We don’t want to be out here in opposition to ASUNM, that’s not at all what we’re doing,” said Michael Aguilar, a member of Students for Self-Defense and also president of Young Americans for Liberty UNM. “Any method of self-defense for students, especially non-lethal, should be allowed on campus.”

Aguilar and other group members carried Nerf guns to portray what he called the limits of what students can currently use to protect themselves.

“Since we can’t have pepper spray on campus, we can’t have stun guns obviously...literally showing that this is all UNM allows to defend ourselves with,” he said.

Aguilar said the group’s petition has 475 total signatures, almost 100 more than they began the day with. It can be viewed at UNM.S4SD.org.

New Mexico State does allow its students to carry stun guns for self-defense, says NMSU Police Chief Stephen Lopez, but it isn’t recommended.

In fact, Lopez said it is strongly discouraged, because it is virtually ineffective.

“(Stun guns) are totally not like Hollywood portrays them,” he said.

NMSU police holds demonstrations on the use of devices like stun guns and pepper spray, and Lopez said it’s typical for people to end up shocking themselves when learning how to use it.

Nonetheless, he said, they are legal for students to carry if they so desire, so long as it isn’t for nefarious purposes.

UNMPD Detective Michael Gonzalez said Safety Day allowed the department to communicate with the campus community on a level they don’t get to experience very often. Officers tend to only see people one-on-one when they are at their worst, he said.

“Usually when we’re dealing with people, it’s in a bad way, because you don’t call the cops if everything’s good,” he said.

Gonzalez said UNMPD plans to absorb students’ foremost concerns and suggestions to see what they could possibly improve on.

The tendency for Central Avenue’s homeless population to wander on campus was one of the most brought-up concerns, Gonzalez said, as well as students wanting more officers on bike and foot patrolling campus.

Marina Herrera, co-founder of Students for Self-Defense UNM, said that the group’s driving mission is promoting students’ ability to defend themselves.

In the short-term, Herrera said the group is primarily working on getting its bearings and building membership. She said that ASUNM rejecting the stun gun resolution was only a contributing factor in starting the group.

“Really our main goal is promoting student safety,” Herrera said. “(And) starting a discussion.”

David Lynch is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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