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Students Call For University Of Utah President’s Resignation And Abolition Of Campus Police

UnsafeU Protest Abolish Watkins IM.jpg
Ivana Martinez
On Sep. 3, 2020, around 40 people rallied at the University of Utah, demanding that university President Ruth Watkins resign. Rebecca Hardenbrook (center), a Ph.D. student and organizer with the group UnsafeU, led supporters from Rice-Eccles Stadium up President’s Circle to the Park Building, where Watkins’ office is.
UnsafeU Protester IM.jpg
Ivana Martinez

Sofía Alcalá, a first-year University of Utah student, showed up in support of the UnsafeU protest. Over the course of the summer, she has led demonstrations bringing attention to the case of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, who Salt Lake City Police killed in May. The protests also happened amid a national movement for police reform.

UnsafeU We Dont Trust IM.jpg
Ivana Martinez
UnsafeU Park Building IM.jpg
Ivana Martinez

A protester taped posters onto the Park Building, where Watkins’ office is.

Devon Cantwell (not pictured), an organizer for UnsafeU, said the U’s response to student-athlete Lauren McCluskey’s murder in 2018 catalyzed the group’s formation. Since then, the group has voiced concerns about safety on campus as well as the university’s handling of other Title IV, or sex discrimination, cases.

“What happened to Lauren McCLuskey was not a one-time thing,” Cantwell said. “It's really emblematic of a disturbing pattern that the university has exhibited over a period of time.”

UnsafeU Abolish Police IM.jpg
Ivana Martinez

Among demands for Watkins’ resignation and more transparency around campus safety issues, UnsafeU is also calling for the abolition of the University of Utah Police Department. They say students would be better supported if the U put police funding toward other resources, such as mental health and legal services.

In a statement, the university said it disagrees that “eliminating its police department would make campus safer.”

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