WALK: University of Utah students walkout to demand campus safety Monday

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News)- Students at the University of Utah walked out of class Monday, a year after student Lauren McCluskey was murdered on campus.

The student formed group, “UnsafeU” planned the walkout to “show the U administration we are serious about our concern for the lack of accountability for safety,” the Facebook event page states.

The walkout started at 11:30, followed by a protest at noon.

The group says they will be demanding the university to establish accountability, create transparency, reform and build resources.

A petition called “Demand a safe University of Utah campus for all students” has already been signed by over 330 students.

At 3 p.m., a vigil, hosted by a group unrelated to the walkout, will be held at the Post Chapel in Fort Douglas located at 120 Fort Douglas Blvd.

They’re calling it a “community reflection”. It’s a time to ” grieve, reflect and honor those who have been affected by interpersonal violence,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

University officials react:

University of Utah officials met with a small group of students Monday to discuss concerns they have raised about safety.

Statement from Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, and Lori McDonald, vice president for Student Affairs, on student petition

“This morning we met with students who helped author a petition requesting safety-related actions. We all share a commitment to a healthy, safe and productive environment.

We appreciate the students’ willingness to discuss both their concerns and to provide a thoughtful analysis of safety-related actions they believe will be helpful on our campus. As we shared this morning, we want and welcome feedback from all students on what we can do to improve safety at the University of Utah.

We agreed this morning to carefully review the students’ suggestions, which groups requested actions in three areas: accountability, transparency and resources. We agreed to a follow-up meeting with the students to respond to the petition in full, but immediately identified three of their suggested actions that can be implemented quickly. These are:

Creation of a campus safety oversight board that includes students, staff and faculty. This board will be directed by the Chief Safety Officer, once that individual is hired. Candidates are currently being interviewed for this position and we expect to fill this new position before the end of the year.

The Office of the President has already begun work on a separate, but similar, request that we create a Student Advisory Committee. This committee will be comprised of a cross-section of the student population and will meet with and advise President Watkins on student interests and concerns. This committee will complement feedback already provided to the university’s administration through the Associated Students of the University of Utah.   

Creation of a safety data dashboard that aggregates crime statistics, OEO/Title IX reporting statistics and other safety metrics. This dashboard will be added to the SafeU website.  

We agree with and are acting on items related to the University of Utah Department of Public Safety, including increased coordination across campus and with other law enforcement agencies, additional training and a new, improved facility that better serves their needs and those of students.

A zero-tolerance policy for officers who repeatedly fail to take appropriate, effective action in cases, as requested by the students, is already in place. We plan to review and act as appropriate on other police-related requests listed in the petition.”

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