Laid-off IT technician barred from large parts of UCR campus

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Former UCR IT professional Robert Newman has been prohibited from entering extensive areas of the university campus, per a letter sent Dec. 4 from UCR Chief Campus Counsel David Bergquist. The letter alleges that, after his sudden termination on Oct. 2, Newman had entered university property and behaved in a disruptive manner. The letter claims that Newman’s presence on campus would no longer be tolerated and that violation of this cease-and-desist order could result in prosecution.

Newman received the letter just over two weeks after he spoke at length with the Highlander about a series of layoffs of senior staff within ITS under questionable circumstances. In emphasizing the extent to which students would be negatively affected by the understaffed state of ITS, Newman provided the Highlander with pictures of campus computer labs in various states of disrepair and lack of maintenance. Among these were computers that had not been serviced in over a month due to lack of available personnel.

In an email to the Highlander, Newman connected the letter he received with his contributions to the article. “I believe that my ban was punishment for the previous article which included a photo of the out-of-service computers in the Sproul 2225 lab,” said Newman. “I did not think that permission was needed to take a photo in the general usage computer labs on an open campus.”

The legal letter informs Newman that he is barred from a variety of locations on campus, including Watkins Hall, Sproul Hall, the Arts Building, INTS and Olmsted Hall. Should Newman be found in these areas, the letter claims that he will be subject “to arrest and constitute a misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine and imprisonment, as identified in the statute.” The cited statute is section 626.6 of the California Penal Code, which lays out regulations for trespassing on public university campuses.

“I did not think that my actions warranted such a response from the institution, nor I did think that my actions created any degree of confusion on the part of the student employees,” Newman said in response to the letter’s stipulations. “During the time I was a staff member, we would occasionally receive visits from past staff members and previous student employees of the computer labs.”

Newman’s surprise with the letter was compounded by the personal impact he feels the ban could potentially have: “It created significant concerns for my wife that UCR would go to such lengths to address their concerns. My wife has been an employee of the University for over 11 years, and I regularly drive her to campus. She was significantly distressed that UCR would ban me from being able to drop her off in the mornings and pick her up after work. She also felt the ban would hinder my ability to find other job opportunities on campus. My wife did not want to experience a situation that would result in me having an encounter with campus police or the possibility of being arrested.”

Mr. Bergquist did not personally respond to requests for comment. John Warren, UCR Director of Media Relations, explained in an email that, “the University does not comment publicly on specific personnel or security matters regarding current or former employees.” Warren added, “The University remains committed to providing safe learning and working environments, free from unwarranted disruption.”

Newman explained that he will comply with the letter. “For the moment, I do not have any plans to return to any of the ITS facilities on campus,” he shared. “However, should I need to return to one of the computer labs in the future, I will request permission first.”

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