After the rollercoaster ride that was the 2022-23 school year at Southern Utah University, President Mindy Benson and her cabinet have made changes to help bolster student, campus and faculty safety.
“This is a high priority for President Benson and her cabinet,” said Tiger Funk, vice president of operations. “Campus leadership is committed to continuing to improve the systems, information, staffing and resources dedicated to campus safety.”
President Benson is credited for the newly formed campus operations division of SUU administration. The new division is tasked with providing a new emphasis on campus safety, security and emergency response.
Although the division is only six weeks old, there has already been a reorganization of assignments to provide greater efficiency of collaboration and improved use of resources. Also, policies are being reviewed and areas of need are being identified and prioritized.
“With each event, officials with reporting responsibilities make sure the issues are communicated to those with a need to know,” stated Funk. “From there, strategies are developed, and solutions are put into place.”
SUU officials are doing everything they can to make sure that campus is a safer place for everyone, and this is the first step towards that movement. But there are prior regulations that students should be updated about.
Reminder of the guidelines
— Improving campus communication: SUU is consistently working to refine messaging that can be shared with stakeholders on and off campus. These messages are intended to communicate in a transparent manner the issue at hand, relevant facts, recent developments and recommendations on what individuals can do to keep themselves safe. Most recently, the university has been evaluating new software that will help with the communication process by allowing for faster messaging, targeted recipients and more complete lists of students, parents, faculty, staff and community members that are participating.
— Pedestrian safety: SUU, the Utah Department of Transportation and Cedar City have been evaluating the roadways around campus. Recently, SUU added a new crosswalk on 800 W., a four-way stop at 1150 W. and University Boulevard and flashing indicators to the crosswalk on 300 W., as well as improved crosswalk signaling at the library and P.E. building crosswalks. The three agencies are also working to install a four-way stop at 1150 W. 200 S., and the university is in the planning stages to install a roundabout at 1150 W. University Blvd.
— Campus education by the SUU Police Department: The SUUPD continues its outstanding engagement in providing crime prevention education opportunities to campus audiences. Each year, officers instruct groups on subjects such as active shooting scenarios, self-defense and dealing with intruders.
— Fire drills at University Housing: Each year, SUU conducts two fire drills for students living in on-campus housing. These drills help inform students about the best ways to stay safe in an evacuation situation.
— Strong web resources: Emergency response, safety resources, pertinent data, planning information and training material are just a few of the things that can be found on the SUU website to help people be safe on campus. SUU Emergency Management and the SUU Police Department are quick links to those resources.
— Campus planning documents and policy: SUU has a wealth of information documented that guides responses to various events and provides resources and instruction to our campus community. These documents, with the goal to keep their information current, are currently under review and will be updated as needed.
— Technology upgrades for building security: Every year, SUU dedicates hundreds of thousands of dollars to install and upgrade electronic access control devices and surveillance systems on campus. The goal is to continue growing the systems in the coming years as resources allow. A recent example is the authorization of a million dollar project to update electronic access control systems that serve on-campus student housing facilities.
— Blue light emergency phones: At a time when many universities are removing emergency phones from their campuses, SUU instead continues to build its network. These units connect with a 24-hour monitoring system for voice communication. Additionally, the units have cameras that serve to deter crime and provide evidence when events occur. Over the summer of 2023, the university added two additional blue light emergency phones on campus and have another in the planning phase.
— Automated external defibrillator: The university now has an AED in virtually every building on campus, and some buildings have one on each floor. AEDs have been proven to save lives, and many at SUU are alive today because of the AED network.
As SUU continues to prioritize student, campus and faculty safety, there will be changes made that students need to be aware of. This is the most recent update to those guidelines.
Story by Chevy Blackburn
Photos courtesy of Chloe Copeland