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University Of Utah Students Say Campus Doesn't Feel Safe In Light Of Latest Assault

Updated 6:00 p.m. MDT 3/26/19

Several University of Utah students stated that they are concerned about campus safety after a sexual assault was reported early Tuesday morning.

The assault reportedly occurred around 10:30 p.m. Monday west of the Marriott Library, university police Lt. Brian Wahlin told reporters during a Tuesday press conference. Investigators met with the female victim at a hospital and believe the suspect may be a male, Wahlin said.

Wahlin would not say whether either of the people involved are students on campus.

“We’re following all information and all leads that we have, utilizing technology and other means here on campus to track down leads and see what we can do to determine who's responsible for this assault,” he said.

Monica Delgado is a junior studying psychology and a student employee at the campus library. She said she is often on campus late at night and early in the morning, and she feels fear and impotence after learning about the incident.

“That makes me not want to stay here,” Delgado said. “I know the U offers some security systems, but it doesn’t take me all the way home so it’s not really a safe place right now.”

She thinks sexual assault is a problem on and off campus that is not often talked about, she said, as two of her past roommates have experienced sexual assault.

Monday's incident is the fifth sexual assault reported this year, the university said. Fifteen confirmed rapes and 17 fondling incidents were reported by University of Utah students on and off campus last year, according to a September 2018 report.

The university sent out an alert about this latest incident early Tuesday morning, hours after the assault reportedly occurred. The alert was part of the university’s effort to share information on incidents that may have far-reaching impacts, said University President Ruth V. Watkins in a statement sent out to the campus community.

The alleged incident comes as the university is ramping up campus safety after the October 2018 slaying of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey and resulting investigations.

Over the past several years, the university has installed additional lighting and security cameras, increased resources for campus police and hired additional staff for the Victim-Survivor Advocates, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action offices, Watkins said in the statement.

University police have increased patrols around campus in response to the Monday incident, Wahlin said. Additional courtesy escort resources are also available for individuals who request them.

Other students said they appreciated the alert that went out this morning, but are still concerned about their safety on campus.

Juniors Talee Noorda and Victoria Matthews both transferred to the U last semester from Salt Lake Community College.

Matthews, who’s studying marketing, said she felt timid about coming to school Tuesday. Noorda felt safer at her previous college, but noted that it was a smaller campus. It also troubled her that this incident comes months after McCluskey was killed, she said.

“It’s definitely scary,” Noorda said. “It makes me a little less happy to go to the U and I would definitely not want to be here at night.”

Cullen O'Brien is a sophomore studying business and marketing. He said he would like to see more security presence on campus at night and more lighting, especially in the area where the attack was reported.

“I am pretty confident that I could run away or fend off an attack personally… but I feel empathetic to female students who are out late at night and there is no one around,” he said.

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