University of Utah to spend nearly $1 million to implement safety panel recommendations
Plan includes new chief safety officer, clustering night classes , on-campus ride services
SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will hire a senior-level chief safety officer and cluster evening classes in quadrants and serve those areas with security patrols, courtesy escorts and transportation options that include an on-campus on-demand ride service under new measures intended to enhance safety at the state’s flagship university.
These are just some of two dozen recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety convened by U. President Ruth Watkins last December in the aftermath of the on-campus murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey in October.
The university will spend approximately $925,000 to implement the task force recommendations, which also include making student parking available after 3 p.m. in lots adjacent to the Marriott Library, the Eccles Library and the Student Union.
The task force recommendations are in addition to 30 campuswide improvements made following an independent review of the university’s response to events surrounding McCluskey’s death, university officials said.
McCluskey was shot to death by 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, whom she briefly dated. Rowland, a convicted sex offender, had lied to McCluskey about his name, age and background.
McCluskey’s parents recently filed a $56 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the university alleging it had taken no responsibility for the death of their daughter, who called campus police more than 20 times for help before her murder, according to court documents.
Michele Ballantyne, associate general counsel at the U. and safety task force co-chairwoman, said the chief safety officer will oversee all safety activities and issues on the U.’s campuses, including Health Sciences.
The campus police chief will report to the chief safety officer. Searches are underway for both positions. Dale Brophy, the U.’s police chief and director of public safety since 2015, recently announced his retirement effective Oct. 15.
Chief safety officers are an “emerging trend” on university campuses, with the University of Virginia and the University of Oregon leading out, Ballantyne said.
“We’re the only school in Utah that has this. This is really a cutting edge kind of position,” she said. “We think this will be a really important development.”
Ballantyne said there are multiple facets of campus safety such as students, staff, facilities, parking and Health Sciences.
“What we’d like to have is one entity that can oversee all of these different areas of safety and facilitate communication among those and really continue to be on top of safety initiatives at the university,” she said.
Other recommendations to be implemented include expanding emergency mass communication capability by adopting a system that allows emergency messages to be communicated within buildings, including via desktop and landline telephone systems, and broadcast throughout campus grounds.
Another significant change is members of the university community will no longer be able to opt out of emergency notifications. Currently, 30% elect not to receive the alerts.
Moving forward, overnight guests of students who live on campus will be required to register with Housing and Residential Education by 9 p.m. the evening their visit begins. The registration must include the name and date of birth of the guest along with a close-up photo.
Visits will be limited to three consecutive nights and no more than 10 nights per semester.
The task force recommendations also include enhancing and consolidating to a single platform four independent radio communication systems now in use at the university.
The changes are in addition to approximately $6 million in safety expenditures planned by campus entities in coming years and that the task force has endorsed, such as hiring more security officers for Health Sciences buildings and installing new security systems in older campus housing units.
Watkins, in a statement, expressed her appreciation for the task force members’ time, analysis and research.
“Safety is a top priority for our campus and this committee brought forward many good ideas. We are determined to make this institution as safe as it can be,” she said.
Associated Students of the University of Utah President AnnaMarie Barnes, who did not serve on the task force but will assume that role as part of her presidency, said she believes task force recommendations will continue to improve safety at the state’s flagship university.
“I think they will create a very safe campus and I hope that it will inspire everyone, especially with the new trainings, the new policies and procedures, to really advocate and watch out for their peers, their colleagues and their fellow students and really create a culture of safety on campus, not just a physically safe campus,” Barnes said.
Future recommendations include development of a reverse 911 system on campus and creation of a geo-fence to enable emergency alerts to be sent to cellphones of anyone on campus who is not already enrolled in the alert system.
Other key recommendations include:
• Adding a threat assessment team as an adjunct to the behavioral intervention team, creating a two-team system capable of assessing both threats from outside and inside campus.
• Hiring an additional consultant in the Office of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action and an additional student conduct case manager in the Office of the Dean of Students.
• Increasing self-defense training workshops on campus offered in conjunction with the group Survivors of Assault Standing Strong.
• Expanding the U.’s online training module system to include faculty and staff and add online training modules for students. Plans also call for an update to the campus active-shooter training.
• Contract with a third-party consulting firm to assess all campus buildings and physical surroundings.