SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News)- The University of Utah will invest nearly $1 million in campus safety efforts.
As part of the efforts, University President Ruth Watkins will hire a chief safety officer that will coordinate and oversee safety initiatives on campus.
The idea of a chief safety officer was one of 24 recommendations made by a task force installed to evaluate every aspect of campus safety after the murder of a student on campus last year.
Lauren McCluskey, 21, an athlete on Utah’s track and field team, was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend as she was leaving an evening class.
Lauren’s mother Jill and her husband sent ABC4 the following statement saying the university needs to hold people accountable:
Matt and I applaud investments in campus safety. However, the University’s principal problem was the lack of response from the campus police to a female student’s multiple requests for help. One of Lauren’s friends told me, ‘On the Thursday before we lost Lauren she asked me to come to the library to meet her because she needed help. She said the police didn’t believe her about her scary ex and she didn’t know what to do.’
None of these investments in safety will change the culture. For real change to occur, the University of Utah needs to hold people accountable. They must take responsibility for what happened.
In June, Jill and Matt McCluskey formally announced a $56 million lawsuit against the University of Utah. They say Lauren’s death was “preventable” and that the murder occurred because of the university’s failure to respond to Lauren’s repeated complaints against the man accused of killing her, Melvin Rowland.
Watkins responded to the lawsuit by saying in part, “We share the McCluskey family’s commitment to improving campus safety,” highlighting the university’s efforts to build a culture of safety.
“Safety is a top priority for our campus and this committee brought forward many good ideas,” Watkins stated Thursday. “We are determined to make this institution as safe as it can be.”
Watkins said she has accepted all recommendations from the task force and over time the university will invest $925,000 to implement them. That’s in addition to the $6 million already planned for other measures such as hiring more security officers for Health Sciences buildings and installing new security systems in older campus housing units.
A complete list of task force recommendations follows below:
Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety 2019 recommendations
Estimated cost of task force recommendations: $925,000
Estimated expenditures by other university entities endorsed by task force (indicated by *): $5.9 million
• Hire a chief safety officer.
• Hire a support person for chief safety officer.
• Restructure the University Health and Safety Committee, or similar committee, under the leadership of the chief safety officer, to assume work of task force and address ongoing issues of campus safety.
• Create an institutional emergency communication and mass notification committee.
• Establish Threat Assessment Team.
• Hire an additional OEO/AA consultant.*
• Hire an additional student conduct case manager.
• Hire additional security officers for every patient care building, human resource and information technology buildings on the Health Sciences campus.*
• Make situational awareness/defense training in conjunction with Survivors of Assault Standing Strong more broadly available on campus.
• Expand the online training module system for faculty and staff.
• Purchase additional online training modules for students.*
• Create an online video version of the U Center for Student Wellness’s bystander intervention training to supplement in-person workshops.*
• Develop new active shooter online training module.*
• Make student parking available near the Marriott Library, the Eccles Health Sciences Library and the Student Union after 3 p.m.
• Centralize evening classes with a campus security officer assigned to each quadrant.
• Coordinate transportation and courtesy escorts between the Marriott Library and the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot and with centralized locations of evening classes.
• Contract with an outside security consulting firm to conduct a phased physical security assessment of all campus buildings and physical surroundings.
• Assess all safety apps and critical safety applications currently in use and identify the best technology and the best way to standardized and unify these applications.
• Continue the current awareness and education efforts through University Marketing & Communications.
• Expand emergency mass communication capabilities.
• Consolidate/expand the four independent radio communication systems now in use at the U on a single, unified platform.*
• Fund new security system for older housing units as recommended by the task force and by the independent review team.*
• Upgrade Behavioral Intervention Team database as recommended by the task force and the independent review team.*
• Request that Human Resources and other entities, as appropriate and advised by the Office of General Counsel, develop a university policy regarding mandatory training for students, faculty and staff.
• Revise and standardize policies and protocols of the Behavioral Intervention Team.*
• Strengthen communication between the U’s Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies.*
• Revise Housing & Residential Education’s Overnight Guest Policy.*
• End the ability of campus members to opt-out of alert notifications.
Recommended Future Actions
• Develop reverse 9-1-1 system.
• Create geo-fence to enable emergency alerts to be sent to cell phones of anyone on campus who is not already enrolled in alert system.