The University of Utah Announces New Safety Team to Respond to Threats

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THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH — The University of Utah is taking extra safety measures following the murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey last year. Officials are creating and planning to implement a new safety team to handle all threats on campus. 

Brian Burton, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct, said staff, faculty, and students — every level from the President on down — is committed to this. 

While the threat assessment team is in its early stages, it’s an idea that’s been in progress over the last year. Why? Because this October marks the one year anniversary of Lauren’s death on campus. Several students and community members were disappointed in how the university police handled the tragic situation. 

Henry Crandall, a student at the university, said, “I think the evidence that came out was fairly eye-opening, and it seems like there’s a lot of steps that could’ve been taken to avoid the incident.” 

Because of this tragedy, the university is doing everything they can to ensure safety and regain trust with the student body. 

“After the murder of Lauren last year, there was an external review committee that President Watkins organized to look at campus and how we can make it more safe,” Burton said. 

President Watkins organized the Presidential Safety Task Force last year, but staff felt like it still wasn’t enough. That’s where the need for a threat assessment team came into play. 

Burton said, “We’re moving towards keeping behavioral intervention teams and adding these threat assessment teams.” 

The real question is: will a group specifically designed for responding to threats make students feel safer? 

“At a university level, it’s probably quite helpful. I mean, will it affect me personally in my individual life here at school? No. I feel safe on campus,” Crandall expressed. 

Others have lost their trust in the institution. Burton admitted it’s going to take time to rebuild that trust and will definitely take some relationship building. 

In implementing this team, the U hopes this action will rebuild that lost trust. But first, the team needs an official leader as each situation will vary. Burton said, “That’s the general idea to have a single point of contact — someone who’s ultimately responsible to oversee safety efforts on campus.” 

Currently, the U is in the process of hiring a Chief Safety Officer. Once that position has been filled, the plan should take effect at the beginning of next year. 

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