UNM reels from violence on campus

Zimmerman Library. Photo by cmh2315fl, Creative Commons.

By Joey Wagner

Students at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University are still in shock after a shooting outside a dorm Nov. 19 that left one UNM student dead and an NMSU basketball player with a bullet wound to the leg.

Police said Brandon Travis, a 19-year-old UNM student, shot Aggies’ power forward Mike Peake after luring Peake to campus in a plot to avenge an earlier confrontation at a game in Las Cruces.

Most college campuses are relatively safe, especially those in rural areas. But UNM faces challenges common to schools in big cities, and it has struggled with issues including drug addition and homelessness in surrounding areas.

UNM is not the only school to experience gun violence on campus this year. Shootings have happened at Temple University in Philadelphia and the Universities of Washington, Virginia and Denver.

But the violence rattled the community, students and parents. One UNM women’s volleyball player cited the shooting as the reason she left the team and withdrew from school.

That lead the Journal to editorialize about safety concerns on campus, writing: “If ever there were an example of the tangential fallout of violent crime in Albuquerque, Brooke Berry is it. It took just a few months of living in the Duke City for her to feel so unsafe she wanted out. How many other students feel similarly unsafe on campus should be a great concern to UNM leaders.”

Ethan Presley, a UNM senior, is one of many students impacted by the event.

“I feel like, honestly, a little more scared than usual after that shooting,” he said. “I just want to be sure I can go around campus and not have to worry.”

There are several resources on campus for students who are anxious about safety and want to talk, including Student Health and Counseling, the Women’s Resource Center and the LGBTQ+ Center. 

the UNM Women’s Resource Center

“Remember that self-care is caring for our community, and you’re not alone in these struggles,” said Frankie Flores, Director of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center. He encouraged students to “find those communities that you feel could uplift you.”

the UNM LGBTQ+ Resource Center

The shooting has raised questions about gun laws in New Mexico and on campus, the Las Cruces Sun News reported. Carrying guns on campus is illegal, except for law enforcement officers, University security and ROTC members.

But should there be other restrictions? What else could be done to improve the campus climate?

UNM is currently working on an Integrated Campus Plan, driven by the UNM 2040 plan, an extensive 20-year effort to upgrade, renovate and implement needed resources and materials for the future of the university. 

According to the UNM ICP webpage, the plan “will guide the University’s decisions on the physical environment, including the character of each campus, safety, access, mobility, and sustainability, and will provide a ‘road-map’ to guide future development of UNM’s various campus landholdings and help facilitate decision-making around UNM’s physical assets.”

University Planner Rosie Dudley encouraged members of the school community to share their ideas, saying “We request engagement as we develop a campus plan for tomorrow.”

On the ICP website, there is an option for students, faculty and staff to give suggestions and feedback on this plan, as well as the 2040 plan. 

Jason Wingard, the president of Philadelphia’s Temple University, recently wrote about his school’s struggle with crime and the solutions they’re exploring.

“While we have committed to increasing our police force, launched a new campus safety app and taken several other immediate steps, we’re also keeping our eye on the long game,” he said, pointing to community crime-reduction efforts. “We continue to look at gun violence through a different lens,” he added. 

UNM may be doing the same in the coming weeks and months.

Follow Joey Wagner on Twitter @JdwUnmCj