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Editorial: UNM building’s no toilet, bathtub or no-tell motel

It’s a sad commentary on the state of affairs in Albuquerque, but David Weiss, chairman of the University of New Mexico’s communication and journalism department, was right to close off public access to the department’s building at Central and Yale, near a city bus stop.

Weiss chronicled a host of problems students, faculty and staff have dealt with in the public building:

⋄  People locking themselves in bathroom stalls for hours on end, or leaving behind needles.

⋄  A nearly naked man washing himself at the sink in one of the bathrooms.

⋄  A couple having sex in one of the building’s more remote hallways.

⋄  Non-students hanging out in the student lounge area, sleeping in the chairs.

⋄  Strangers in the building verbally hassling staff.

The department initially attempted to address the problem by installing combination locks on the first-floor single-user bathrooms. It didn’t work.

So late last month, Weiss made the call to keep the building locked at all times. In order to access the building, individuals must now swipe a valid UNM identification card or use one of the keys assigned to faculty members, staffers and graduate student teaching assistants.

According to a university spokesman, it’s now the only classroom building on campus that’s locked around the clock. Weiss said his department met with UNM police and facilities personnel before implementing the change.

No, the public shouldn’t have to be barred from a UNM building, and those with business there shouldn’t have to seek out or fumble for a key. But neither should students and UNM employees have to share their halls and bathrooms with the ravings of random strangers, the detritus of junkies and the vision of hobos bathing in sinks. And they shouldn’t have to worry about walking down a remote hall because all this and more is likely lurking there.

Some have criticized locking the building, but the bottom line is students, faculty and staff safety must take priority.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.