Students are concerned about campus safety after the assault of a young woman at the University of Utah in early February.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 women enrolled in college will experience an on-campus assault. In 2018, Utah garnered national attention in the case of Lauren McCluskey, a student murdered by her ex-boyfriend at the University of Utah. The university settled the case, acknowledging changes need to be made regarding campus safety.
“I bought myself a defensive keychain for when I have to walk around campus,” said Shawnee Johnson, an employee at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine. “I also make sure to park where it’s well-lit, and where other people will be.”
The director of public safety at Salt Lake Community College, Shane Crabtree, said he and his office regularly review campus safety protocols and believes the school performs well.
“After a few incidents at the University of Utah, we really evaluated what we were doing,” he said in regard to services offered on campus, including after-hours escorts to school parking lots. “We have a lot of things we do that maybe students aren’t aware of.”
The University of Utah reported 650 on-campus safety incidents in 2019, according to College Factual, a database for college statistics around the country. Of the almost 4,000 colleges in their database, only 90 reported more incidents than the U.
The U. plans to enlist the help of students as they launch the SafeU Ambassador program, a year-long paid opportunity allowing students to focus on safety projects throughout campus. Students may begin applying online with the program set to start in the fall of 2021.
“Safety is a really important topic, and a lot of students are especially interested in understanding campus safety and being a part of shaping the future of safety moving forward,” said Annalisa Purser, a spokesperson for the university’s Chief Safety Officer. Purser said she and the school’s safety officers understand the importance of bringing student voices and perspectives into the work they do. Not only will the program improve campus safety, but it allows students to gain work experience.
Crabtree said community-oriented policing – which includes student input through forums, meetings, and luncheons – works well at SLCC. He wants students to feel comfortable seeing law enforcement regularly without questioning their presence.
Crabtree said he suggests students familiarize themselves with the school’s SLCC Safe webpage and follow the “see something, say something” motto.