Published on November 19th, 2011 | by Matthew Mamo5
Security on Campus: The Inside View
In the wake of reports of animal abuse and vandalism at the University of Malta, Matthew Mamo met with two of the people responsible for safety and good order around the University campus, to discuss the problems that they face on a daily basis.
“The recent story of the killed and tortured cats is just a minor issue with regards to university”, a University messenger tells me as we start talking. He explains that some years ago, three huge dogs used to visit the university at night on a daily basis: “They would come running. We were afraid because they were huge and you could hear them running like a stampede. They came from a farm near the sports complex and ate a cat almost daily!”
He argues that the real issue is access to campus. “It is unacceptable that everyone is allowed to enter the premises of what is supposed to be one of the top institutions in Malta and are free to do whatever they wish.”
The messenger mentioned a number of cases where items were stolen by outsiders who he claims roam the university during the day, masquerading as students.
“A lecturer had his InFocus [projector] stolen as he went to the toilet for a few minutes, and this happened at 11 a.m. A cleaner’s bag was stolen when he left it alone for a few seconds. Even a pair of new curtains were stolen during evening classes! They follow us, they know every movement of ours.”
When confronted with the fact that the university is closed by gates, he tells me that “the old entrance’s gate near the chapel is useless, it can easily be avoided. Apart from that, every other side of the university is open to all.”
With regards to the CCTV cameras, he replied that “the CCTV cameras are not a detriment to any wrong doing. Some time ago, a personal bag was stolen from offices near the Rector’s Office and the Office of the Registrar; an area which is fully protected by CCTV cameras. CCTV footage showed a guy taking the haversack but was never caught; all he had to do was cover his face with a hood.”
Asked whether the skaters and bikers are to blame for these episodes, the messenger stopped me instantly and claimed that the problem is much more widespread. “It might be the skaters’ fault that the vending machines situated are constantly vandalized. We find their glass smashed and their padlocks broken during the night. But the skaters and bikers steal chocolates, [they don't] spend the whole day roaming the campus and stealing cars from the parking areas.”
He claims that vandalism and cases of cars being stolen is an everyday story. “They can be drug addicts coming from areas around the university. But some cases of vandalism come from students. Why are [freshly-graduated students] allowed to enter the university’s premises? They have every right to celebrate, but coming here, drunk, and disrupting classes is not something the university should be proud of. Last year some tables were even broken as they jumped on them in celebration during an English lecture!”
A security guard who spoke with me confirmed everything I had just heard. “I am part of the university’s maintenance department by day and a part time security guard at night” he adds. “It is not the first time that I find a bench I had painted that same day already broken or full of engraved names on it.”
The security guard tells me that it is unthinkable that “three security guards, or two because one of us is kept in an office by the entrance, have to control the whole area of the university.” The messenger looks at me and asks what two guards can do when faced by gangs 30-people strong, which sometimes trespass on campus.
According to the messenger, the university has “to catch the bull by its horns” and implement an idea which he has been proposing for years. “A wall should be built around the campus” he tells me “and every person who wishes to enter should show some sort of unique identification that confirms they are approved by the university.”
“The problem is widespread and is difficult to control. The strength of a university is not just ministers inaugurating new faculties or projects; it also includes the safety and security of its students and employees, because it is unacceptable that classes planned to hold 30 people or so are being filled with more than double the amount! “
(Names have been withheld to protect the identity of our sources)