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U Changes Focus On Preventing Sexual Assault, Providing Resources To Victims

Whittney Evans

University of Utah administrators are taking steps to make the campus safer. The changes include mandatory sexual assault awareness training for students, faculty and staff.

U President David Pershing convened the Presidential Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault back in December when campus safety and sexual assault dominated news reports locally and nationwide. This week, Pershing approved nearly $400,000 in funding for the group’s recommendations. They include more lighting on campus, additional staff, mandatory safety and prevention training for everyone and a new website that Barb Snyder, vice president of student affairs says will be a resource for crime victims and people who have safety concerns. 

“How to report if something has happened to you,” Snyder says. “Making students feel like they can report, not just crimes but a light that’s out at night or they’re walking across campus and they feel, this doesn’t feel like a safe part of campus to me. They’ll be able to more easily report that as well.”

U employee Sheri Jardine thinks the sexual assault awareness course is a good idea.

“Especially students coming in who are young and maybe haven’t experienced a lot of life yet,” she says. “And then they get here and they’re on their own and I think it’s easy to miss where that line is.”

Zach Putnam is a sophomore. He agrees.

“Awareness always helps,” Putnam says. “But is it a massive problem here? I don’t know anyone personally but I hear stories all the time. Like in the news more than anything.”

Turner Bitton is with Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. He says a safe campus can be defined in two ways. 

“There’s a recognition by staff and faculty and students, really the entire campus community that sexual assault will not be tolerated and that the university is committed to eliminating it,” Bitton says.

The second, he says is having systems in place to properly investigate reports of sexual assault. He says the U is well on its way to achieving both.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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