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Decision to hire private security to monitor COVID-19 compliance angers some UA faculty, staff

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TUCSON - The University of Arizona has hired private security to make sure students on campus are following COVID-19 protocols.

The decision has upset some faculty and staff who wonder why students did not get those jobs.

The university said its hiring campus security from the company that patrols UA large sporting events and other large gatherings on campus.

“The A-Team has been part of our Wildcat community for a very long time,” UA Vice President of Communications Holly Jensen said Friday afternoon. “They are trained to understand our community and it’s a very small number of people we’ve chosen to hire.”

Jensen told News 4 Tucson currently that number is eight.

This move by the university shocked longtime professor and member of the Coalition For Academic Justice at UA, Gary Rhoades.

“You’ve got to be kidding me?, Rhoades said describing his first reaction to hearing the news. “This is what we’re doing. We’re hiring security people for compliance?”

Rhoades questions why undergraduates and graduate students who were laid off during the pandemic weren’t hired for these positions.

“It would make a lot more sense to employ those people who are part of our community, who’ve lost health insurance, who’ve lost benefits,” Rhoades said. “To be re-employing them, not to be outsourcing to a private security firm.”

“The university is always looking to hire students first,” Jensen said. “But to be quite frank with you, there is not a willing population that is readily available to come and say I would love to sit inside your dorm and possibly get COVID.”

According to Jensen, the university hired almost two dozen student ambassadors who will also monitor for COVID-19 compliance and make sure students across campus are masking up.

“They also are the students who were losing hours in our bookstore and our student union,” Jensen said.

Rhoades argues bringing on private security in this capacity is doomed to fail.

“Doomed to fail in terms of actually changing student behavior and doomed to fail in terms of enraging the campus community,” he said.

The next campus reentry briefing with UA President Robert Robbins and Dr. Richard Carmine is set for Monday at 10 a.m.

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Eric Fink

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