An Open Letter to the University of Utah

I would like to start by listing some statistics, which you are most likely aware of; within the past year, there have been 4 individual instances of violence on the University of Utah campus, including a murder. In 2017, there were multiple instances of on-campus violence, including 1 murder, 20 rapes, 16 fondling cases, 6 aggravated assaults, 28 burglaries, 34 motor vehicle thefts, 1 arson, 28 domestic violence occurrences, 19 reports of stalking, and 3 hate crimes. All of this is to say that the students of your university do not feel safe on their campus. We understand that you have taken steps to improve the safety of your campus, including implementing the Campus Alert System, which provides timely messages regarding safety-related issues on campus, and 40 POST-certified police officers and 75 security personnel who are employed by the university. We appreciate the hard work that you and these Officers do every day to keep the students safe – we understand that there is only so much the Officers can do, and only so much money to put towards security. However, we feel our safety deserves more dedication on your part, that the measures you have taken are not enough, and the entirety of campus security needs to be re-evaluated.

There are a large number of students who are on campus late into the night. The Theatre Department has rehearsals almost every night until 11:00 PM, sometimes later. All of these rehearsals are held on campus and are mandatory for students in the productions. That number can get to as big as 50, and as small as 10. However, there is almost never a security presence in those buildings at that time, despite the fact that this is a regular occurrence. When students leave the buildings to go home, they walk in groups as far as they can, before parting ways and hoping for the best. When the campus was under lockdown this past October, students were left alone in University buildings for hours until the lockdown was lifted, and then left to walk alone to their cars, with no information about how safe the surrounding area was. This isn’t only true for the Theatre Department; there are students all across campus who are leaving buildings late at night, alone, and on alert. In addition to feeling completely isolated at night, there is an incredible lack of lighting on campus. In parking lots, on sidewalks, within buildings; campus at night is almost pitch black. Walking to our cars once the sun has set almost always requires a flashlight; and in the winter that can be as early as 6:00 PM. There has been an increase in lighting on campus, however, it is still not nearly enough.

The lack of parking for students makes this even more dangerous. People will frequently park their cars wherever they can find parking and leave their vehicles there for the entire day, no matter how far from their classes. Students will walk from one end of the campus to the other and back in order to not receive a ticket. Sometimes this means walking clear across campus at midnight or later, or arriving at the University incredibly early in order to get a spot and make it to class on time. With limited lighting and a limited security presence, this leaves a large number of students vulnerable to violence.

I have experienced multiple incidences where I have been left questioning the security of buildings on campus. On multiple occasions, specifically in the summer, a colleague at the summer school I work for has entered our building to find an individual inside. Twice in my memory, this colleague has been physically threatened, and the police have been called. Luckily, no one was hurt, and no children were present for these incidences. But what if I, a 5’3” 21-year-old with no combat training, had been the first person to enter, rather than the tall, experienced older man who was? Or a young child? If I am working late in a University building, the Security Officer locks up the building and leaves, with me still inside. In contrast, if I am working late at Kingsbury Hall, the Security Officer cannot leave until I leave. I think about these instances every time I am alone in that building, whether it be in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. My safety, as a student and as an employee, should be taken more seriously, no matter what building I’m in.

I want to emphasize that the student body understands that the University cares about our safety; we know that the recent monetary donation to the stadium cannot be applied to security and that the administration has taken steps to improve our safety on campus. We understand that being a public institution makes taking certain security measures more difficult than it is for private ones. However, we also understand that there are steps that could be taken that aren’t. I studied in Boston for a year and a half; my dorm was across the street from the Boston Common; there were multiple stabbings and a shooting, but I still felt safer in my dorm than I felt walking across the University of Utah campus because of the security measures that were in place. That’s why we are asking to make our safety the University’s number one priority; we want you to take a hard look at every aspect of campus security. We want you to tell us what improvements you’re making, we want to be able to tangibly see what is changing. We want more than 29 Security Officers, we want our place of education to feel safe.

Finally, I want to reach out to my fellow University students. We need to make it clear to the University just how much our safety is in jeopardy. I know that using the escort services isn’t necessarily something a lot of people do; I know that I have only tried a couple of times, whether that be because I just want to get home as fast as possible late at night, I feel like it’s going to take too long, or I’m nervous about who is going to pick me up. But if the University doesn’t have the numbers of just how many students need safety escorts, or even just how many students are on campus, they can’t justify increasing the budget for that department. So, if you are on campus late at night, or feel unsafe at all, please call (801) 585-2677 to get an escort to your car. Every. Single. Time. And, if you would like to show the University that you believe that student safety should be their number one priority from now on, please join me in demonstrating at President’s Circle on Monday, April 22 at 11:00 AM.

 

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