A new campus safety bill looks to improve the response times when violent crimes, mainly assault, occur on college campuses.
The murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey last October spurred lawmakers to write SB 134. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill March 29.
McCluskey was killed outside campus dorms by a man she briefly dated. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that McCluskey had spoken to campus police about her ex-boyfriend, but her tips weren’t taken seriously by police.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, was motivated by the death of McCluskey and the outcries from her constituents.
“It’s for stalking, sexual assault, and domestic violence,” says Iwamoto, adding that, “One of the big things is making sure that any school sponsored organization would have special training in these kind of bystander issues.”
Iwamoto went on to say that the city police force, Utah Highway Patrol and schools with campus police would have better coordination between them when dealing with crimes like this.
The newly-signed bill is a planted first step in a growing issue. Unfortunately, the bill can only do so much when it comes to training officers, but changing the culture of violence and assault on college campuses is a more difficult task.
“I just hope that there is a cultural shift,” says Iwamoto. “I had heard how more victims felt more comfortable with their own peers, and so that to me contains culture.”
Rape culture on college campuses around the country has been brought into light as it is discussed more and more. While many argue that this doesn’t exist, the Office on Women’s Health reports one in five women experience sexual assault on college campuses.
The dialogue over the last decade concerning sexual assault has become more common. A case like Brock Turner, a Stanford athlete who raped an unconscious girl and only served three months, shows what appears to be a culture of privileged individuals doing as they please.
The Turner case caused outrage from the whole country and helped spark awareness of what has been happening on campuses. McCluskey’s death had similar results, considering it brought a lot of change to Utah schools.
McCluskey’s parents worked tirelessly with Iwamoto in forming the bill. Lauren’s father, Matt McCluskey, said at a committee hearing that, “this bill is, in some sense, written in blood.”
“Lauren and her life will impact people in the future — she’s made a difference,” says Iwamoto.
Iwamoto ended by saying she feels good about it and that it had overwhelming support.