University of Utah to invest nearly $1 million in campus safety; parents of Lauren McCluskey call for accountability

SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah announced nearly $1 million in investments toward greater campus safety Thursday.

A press release from the university states they will hire a chief safety officer to coordinate and oversee safety initiatives, which is one of more than two dozen recommendations made by the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety.

University President Ruth Watkins accepted all proposals from that task force, which reconvened in December.

Other highlights noted in the release include more student parking at night near key buildings, clustering evening classes in groups and coordinating those schedules with transportation and security services, expanding mass communication resources, and adding a Threat Assessment Team as an adjunct to the Behavioral Intervention Team.

The full list is included at the bottom of this story.

The changes come amid a lawsuit from the parents of Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah student who was shot and killed on campus last year, and a month after the university's chief of police announced his retirement. 

Jill McCluskey released a statement in response to Thursday's announcement, continuing her call for greater accountability and a change of culture around the response to victims.

"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."

The release states the university will invest about $925,000 over time to implement the recommendations. Those changes are in addition to an approximately $6 million in other future safety expenditures campus wide.

The changes are also in addition to 30 campus-wide improvements made after a review of the school's handling and response to McCluskey's murder.

The full list of changes from the press release is reproduced below:

Estimated cost of task force recommendations: $925,000
Estimated expenditures by other university entities endorsed by task force (indicated by *): $5.9 million

Personnel

• 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.*

Training

• 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.*

Facilities

• 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.

Technology/Communication

• 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.*

Policy

• 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.

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