Are we safe in our university?

By Ashley Vincenty Acosta

From left to right, Marcus J. Ramos, Gustavo G. Cortina, Carlos Marrero, and Lieutenant Barbosa at the campus security press conference.

From left to right, Marcus J. Ramos, Gustavo G. Cortina, Carlos Marrero, and Lieutenant Barbosa at the campus security press conference.

A panel including University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez student leaders and staff discussed the security issues on campus at a press conference on October 7th in the Chardón Building.

Marcus J. Ramos, Student Representative of the UPRM’s Administrative Board, Gustavo G. Cortina, Director of the Quality of Life Office at UPRM, and Carlos Marrero, Director of the University Guard at UPRM, accompanied by Lieutenant Barbosa, addressed issues such as the new security policies established at UPRM this semester, and the proposal to install security cameras on campus.

Other concerns such as the maintenance of current security equipment and illumination throughout the university were also discussed. New safety strategies were remarked and conclusions for future security plans were determined.

As mentioned, security in the university premises is fragile. Unfortunately, because of this, on August 10th, a professor was attacked in the Stefani Building of the university. In response, Dean of Administration Lucas Avilés Rodríguez said in an interview on August 19th that various gates will be closed starting at 8 p.m. to have better control of the people who access the premises.

Mr. Carlos Marrero admitted that students would have to modify their schedules which could be inconvenient to the community. However, “comfort can never be above security” and the public would have to adjust.

Another strategy to better security, that is trying to be implemented by Mr. Gustavo G. Cortina, is to alert quicker the students, via text message, the criminal acts that have occurred recently.

Cortina explained, with the support of Lieutenant Barbosa, that his office is in charge by federal law to report alerts in 48 hours after being notified by the University Guard Office. With these alerts, they later publish statistics to create and develop prevention strategies that can be useful for students and university personnel to be more cautious of their surroundings.

This year there have also been comments from students about robberies and rapes in UPRM. They mostly express their fears in the popular Facebook page “Confesiones UPRM”. Because of the concerns that all of these happenings have brought up, the option to implement security cameras in the university is under consideration.

Marcus J. Ramos said that a procedure to install the security cameras was not being held. He clarified at the conference that there were public hearings taking place to see the benefits of a future installment.

However, due to budget issues, the possibility of this is very slim. Ramos added that there were mixed opinions about this strategy according to an online student poll completed by 1500 students, and the public hearings.

Lieutenant Barbosa agreed with the cameras “as long as they are used correctly” because with the installation they can identify much faster the criminals that step foot in the university.

On the other hand, Cortina said that in his opinion, “which does not represent the Quality of Life Office”, he believes we should emphasize in other problems first because “cameras do not guarantee a safer campus.”

Regarding the illumination issue in the university, Mr. Ramos commented that this is one of the biggest situations on campus. He said that he has studied areas in the university with the General Student Council and the dean, and reported that more than 300 light bulbs are currently broken.

Cortina added that there is a federal law that states that a person should be able to read the newspaper outside in campus to see if the illumination is appropriate. The university, however, has some areas where this is not possible and therefore demonstrates the seriousness of this matter.

It was concluded at the conference that a concrete comprehensive security plan at UPRM does not exist, but should be worked on because “life doesn’t have a price…and every day we have 20,000 people on campus…every day we have to think of the price of that”, said Lieutenant Barbosa.

The university had installed totems to improve security measures, but because of lack of maintenance these strategies failed to work.

The university had installed totems to improve security measures, but because of lack of maintenance these strategies failed to work.

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