University officials said a decision on the proposed campus perimeter fence isn’t coming anytime soon. In addition, the group set to review the proposal doesn’t have all of its members.
President Garnett Stokes told the Daily Lobo that the newly announced Campus Safety Council would recommend action on the proposal, but not until the fall semester.
“[A barrier] was just one piece of everything we needed to think about, but it got out there as something imminent, and no way is it in that category,” she said.
When asked if UNM is taking the proposal seriously, Stokes told the Daily Lobo the decision is still a long way from being made.
“This story got out before we were even seriously considering any of it,” Stokes said.
Last week, the Albuquerque Journal reported that an eight to 10-foot tall wrought iron fence encircling Main Campus was being considered by UNM. The estimated cost for the proposed barrier would be $1.6 million dollars, and it was laid out in a 45-page report commissioned by the University.
When asked what the direct concerns a barrier fence would prevent, Stokes said they had not developed a specific risk assessment, but she had heard a lot of feedback about the ease of accessing campus.
“Our students have expressed concern about their perception of safety when walking on campus,” she said. “The ease of people coming onto campus and frankly, getting off of campus.”
According to the University the study cost $53,000. It was performed by Safeguards Consulting, a Greenville, S.C. firm. The bid went out to four firms in fall 2018, but according to University officials, only Safeguards Consulting provided a quote.
Stokes said the study cost was worth it.
“It’s a good investment in understanding what perimeter fencing could look like and what role it would play in securing the campus, and I don’t want to dismiss the value of that study,” she said.
The money for the proposal study was not a part of the $1.79 million set aside for safety after the 2018-19 tuition increase, according to Cinnamon Blair, a UNM spokeswoman. She said those funds went for additional lighting near the duck pond and new cameras.
Stokes made an announcement last week in the President’s Message about the Safety Council which is co-led by Patricia Young from UNM Police department and Nasha Torres, dean of students. The council is broken into two groups, according to Torres.
The smaller group is Torres, Young, UNMPD Chief Kevin McCabe, Terry Babbitt, chief of staff for Stoke’s office and Byron Piatt, the emergency manager for the University.
The full council is comprised of 12 people including representatives from student governments, Staff Council and the Faculty Senate. Torres said the student members will not be picked until the start of the fall semester, but the presidents are stepping in for now.
Torres said they hope to host their first meeting by the end of June, and possible reports by late in the fall semester — which could include requests for funding, recommendations and reports on current safety organizations on campus.
She said that work would be broken down by subcommittees to interview groups and people on campus, collect data and create reports.
- Training and prevention
- Communication and awareness
- Community policing/outreach
- Policy and procedures
Torres said that her first priority will not be evaluating the perimeter fence proposal, but the focus is on organizing existing safety groups and eliminating the overlap in their work.
“When you don’t have communication you have lots of people approaching the issue simultaneously without coordinating and being collaborative to serve the campus and best use our finite resources,” she said.
The current groups she said they are cataloging include Security Operations Taskforce, private security officers, Sexual Misconduct and Assault Response Team and Care Program.
Torres said the work on developing safety becomes personal because she spends so much time on campus.
“This is my home, I would say it’s felt different, and nobody would deny that,” she said. “I think anyone who lives in Albuquerque has felt the difference in crime. I think it would be impossible for it not to affect campus.”
Danielle Prokop is interim news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.