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U statement regarding Sept. 3 UnsafeU protests

Safety is a top priority for the University of Utah.

The University of Utah welcomes the advocacy of its students. Safety is a top priority for the university and changes on campus over the past three years reflect this commitment. President Ruth Watkins and members of her leadership team invite representatives from UnsafeU to discuss their concerns and address several issues raised in recent online postings.

Additional background:

University processes

Federal law, as reflected in the university’s policies and processes, protects the privacy and autonomy of victim-survivors who report crimes. These are designed to support victim-survivors as they decide whether (and how) to address those crimes. We support victim-survivors as they consider options and the best course of action for their individual needs and situation. We recognize that many victim-survivors need time to decide whether and when to pursue the adjudication of the crimes committed against them.

Over the past several years, we have taken steps to ensure that when a member of the campus community comes forward to report an incident or crime, university offices move swiftly to take appropriate action and provide support. In addition to the University of Utah Police and the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), victim-survivors are connected to support from the Center for Student Wellness (including victim-survivor advocates). Victim-survivors may also seek assistance from the university’s Counseling Center, Women’s Resource Center and LGBT Resource Center.

Campus policing

The Utah legislature (via SB80) has tasked the Utah Board of Higher Education with evaluating public safety services, including law enforcement, at state universities. The university is fully supportive of that evaluation and believes the results will show that it is the best practice for universities of our size to have their own police departments.

Under the leadership of our new chief safety officer, the U is restructuring its public safety infrastructure and rethinking the way police services will be provided on campus. As part of that restructure, a community services division staffed by social workers trained in crisis response has been created to work in tandem with the police and other campus offices to support victims of any crime, including sexual violence. The university disagrees with the idea that eliminating its police department would make campus safer.