No place for violence

Violence has no place on our campus. Monday’s report of a student sexually assaulted at gunpoint has prompted understandable feelings of vulnerability and anger, especially for survivors of sexual assault.

This incident remains a high priority for our campus. Campus police have engaged additional officers to continue their investigative efforts and have asked anyone who has relevant information to provide it to them. While we have had no similar reports on or near campus, patrols have been increased and security camera feeds are being monitored. I want to assure everyone of our continued commitment to your safety and to fostering an environment free from violence or harassment of any kind.

In the aftermath of news like this, media and the public tend to focus most on risk reduction, that is, what can women do to prevent being raped? Although our Department of Public Safety has undertaken many efforts on campus to keep it safe, we must ask, how can we confront a culture of rape that exists almost everywhere in our society?

On Nov. 2, the university co-sponsored a panel discussion with legal experts, victim advocates, media and students to discuss this very question. Conversations on how we can discuss sexual violence and consent are ongoing, but here are a few of the initiatives and resources underway:

  • The Center for Student Wellness, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Title IX coordinator and victim advocates work together to provide trainings at all new student orientations, for the university’s athletics teams, and with sororities and fraternities, faculty and staff and other groups, such as students who are being placed in internships. The trainings provide an overview of sexual assault prevention, consent, reporting procedures and support resources.
  • The U provides bystander intervention trainings to student leaders and resident advisors and other interested students through its Center for Student Wellness. The next training will be held Nov. 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Interested students can register to participate by calling 801-581-7776 or emailing
  • The University of Utah Center for Student Wellness added a second full-time victim advocate. Victim advocates help survivors of sexual and relationship violence navigate resources and find support so they can thrive after experiencing trauma. Their services are free and confidential.
  • The Academic Senate formed the Senate Advisory Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention to develop a campus climate survey on sexual assault. The survey found that more than half of respondents did not know how or where to report complaints or where to find support resources. Victim advocates are available to provide support throughout the process even if a victim chooses not to pursue a complaint or report. Victim advocates can be reached at 801-581-7779. Reports can be made to the University Police Department at 801-585-2677, to the Office of Equal Opportunity (Title IX Office) 801-581-8365 or the Office of the Dean of Students at 801-581-7066.

It is also important that I share with you other work to protect campus safety:

  • The University Department of Public Safety has 34 trained law enforcement officers and 79 security guards, and campus is patrolled around the clock.
  • There are 1,459 security cameras on campus and roughly 500 more at University Hospital. Feeds are monitored in real time. There are plans to install another 450 cameras within the next six months.
  • On Nov. 2, faculty, staff and student volunteers organized into teams with maps and light meters as part of an annual Walk After Dark event to assess lighting levels and other safety conditions on campus. Their feedback is being gathered via mobile app, and this data, along with student surveys conducted by ASUU in September about parking habits and participation in night classes, will be used to prioritize a variety of safety improvements across campus.
  • U Heads Up! mobile app allows students, faculty, staff and even visitors to upload photos or comments about safety concerns around campus. Police, facilities or other departments are then notified for a timely response.

Our conversations on sexual assault prevention will continue, because this problem is so central and important to all of us. Thank you for your attention to this information and your dialogue with me on what we can do next.

David W. Pershing
President, University of Utah