U to invest millions in safety

University of Utah President Ruth Watkins has approved the hiring of a chief safety officer to coordinate and oversee safety initiatives on campus.

The new chief safety officer position is one of more than two dozen recommendations made by the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety, which the president reconvened in December to look at general safety practices and resources. Watkins has accepted all the proposals from the task force, whose members represented a cross-section of campus entities.

The university will, over time, invest approximately $925,000 to implement the group’s recommendations. These actions are in addition to approximately $6 million in safety expenditures that will be made by other campus entities over the next several years and which 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.

The task force recommendations also are in addition to 30 campus-wide improvements made following an independent team’s review of the university’s response in the Lauren McCluskey case.

“I am very appreciative of all the time, analysis and research task force members dedicated to this effort,” Watkins said. “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.”

In addition to hiring a chief safety officer, other task force recommendations being implemented include:

  • Make student parking available after 3 p.m. in lots adjacent to the Marriott Library, the Eccles Library and the Student Union.
  • Cluster evening classes in “neighborhoods,” with corresponding alignment of campus transportation systems, courtesy escorts and campus security patrols.
  • Expand 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.
  • Add 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.
  • Hire 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.
  • Increase self-defense training workshops on campus offered in conjunction with Survivors of Assault Standing Strong.
  • Expand the online training module system used by the U to include faculty and staff and add additional online training modules for students.
  • Contract with a third-party consulting firm to conduct a phased security assessment of all campus buildings and physical surroundings.

A complete list of task force recommendations follows below.

“These actions will advance our efforts to build a culture of safety at the U,” said Michele Ballantyne, who co-chaired the task force with Barb Snyder, former vice president of student affairs. “Most important, they will result in tangible changes that benefit everyone, especially students.”

The task force met between December 2018 and July 2019. The co-chairs and some task force members also met with various groups on campus to gather additional information about helpful safety measures. Students advocated specifically for centralizing evening classes on campus and for parking options located close to buildings in use at night, such as libraries.

Former U President David Pershing first commissioned the task force in January 2017 to look at measures to improve campus safety. That year, the university invested nearly $400,000 in safety-related actions.

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

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.

In the neighborhood

The Office of the Registrar has worked to consolidate evening classes into five “neighborhoods” where key buildings are located. Commuter Services is coordinating shuttle bus schedules and the new SafeRide on-demand transportation service with class start and stop times in their areas. Courtesy escorts also are available to students upon request. The neighborhoods are:

  • Business Loop Neighborhood (SAEC, GARFF, SFEBB, CRCC, ART, ARCH, BU C)
  • Gardner Commons Neighborhood (GC, CTIHB, LNCO, UNION)
  • Health Sciences Neighborhood (HSEB)
  • Marriott Library Neighborhood (Marriott Library, SW, BEHS, FMAB)
  • University Street Neighborhood (DGH, Building 72, Building 73, ASB, HEB, ST, LS, CSC)