Health and safety issues at UNM-Taos

By Bill Knief

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One of Rudy Baca’s many responsibilities as director of the physical plant at UNM-Taos is to serve as head of security. Last week we had a talk about safety, swine flu and smoking at the community college.


“We have been very lucky here at UNM-Taos,” Baca said. “Even though we have 7 or 8 different locations around town and the number of students is increasing, our crime rate is practically zero. We’ve had no rapes, no robberies, no aggravated assaults, no burglaries, no motor thefts, no liquor law violations on campus. We haven’t had any drug violations. Vandalism has been down completely. We’ve had a couple of incidents of altercations between students, but they were very minimal. In the 16 years I have been associated with this campus I can’t think of any real crime that has happened.”

Baca said that in addition to his regular security staff he used student monitoring to keep things running smoothly. “Students have a lot of respect for their colleagues. They like to be policed by their own, so we have a paid work study monitoring staff that fills in and often helps diffuse situations. If a student is here late for instance, maybe his ride is late, they can contact one of our monitors and they’ll hang out with them till their ride shows up. Classes are over around 9 p.m., but my staff stays till 10. If a student feels uncomfortable going out to the parking lot because it is dark we will walk them out there and make sure they get in the car and leave the campus safely. We have a program where if someone gets a flat in our parking lot our maintenance staff will help them get going again. I feel that students are really comfortable with their learning environment.”

“We fill out a crime report for the federal government every year with help from our safety and security taskforce, and this report is available to the public. We look carefully at our policies, and I think we have all our bases covered.”


“The flu is definitely going to be a challenge for all of us this year,” Baca said. “Our staff will be especially involved in preventive measures. We will be installing Purel dispensers in all the buildings along with flyers that will keep students and faculty informed as to how they can avoid getting the flu. We will be wiping down areas such as computer keyboards, door knobs, desks and the like with disinfectant.”

Kathy Falkenhagen, Director of Nursing, added that people are most susceptible to the flu through the nose and mouth. “The best thing you can do is wash your hands and stay informed as to the progress not only of swine flu but the regular varieties as well. Be aware of the symptoms, and if you become ill don’t endanger those around you by continuing to work or go to class while you are contagious. We will be providing free inoculations to prevent it from taking hold on campus, but the vaccine will not be available until October and we won’t know how much vaccine will be available locally through the Public Health Department.”

Falkenhagen recommended that concerned citizens keep track of the flu situation this season by logging onto the Center for Disease Control website.


“Not a problem,” Baca exclaimed. “I thought the total ban on tobacco anywhere on college property would be very hard to enforce. It turns out it’s quite the contrary. The few people we’ve had to advise about the new rules have been very understanding—most of them just didn’t realize the ban had gone into effect. I think the timing is right for this move. People are ready to accept the fact that smoking is not a right, and it’s time we gave it up in order to live, work and study in a healthier environment.”

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