Utah Senate Trims Student Input from Campus Safety Bill

Last week, the Utah Senate passed a bill aiming to improve campus safety at colleges around the state. However, a provision for a student-led commission that would have helped provide input and recommendations to lawmakers was removed from the bill before its approval.

The bill, SB163, was originally inspired by the on-campus murders of several Utah students in recent years, including Lauren McCluskey and ChenWei Guo.

“This was something our students really wanted,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay. “We were all excited about the positive impact of this.”

During discussion, several Republican senators commented that they were worried a student commission would be “too liberal” and “shut out conservative voices.” Iwamoto conceded and removed the provision for student input entirely. The bill passed 22-6 and now moves to the Utah House of Representatives. Iwamoto also said she hopes to revive the provision for the student commission next year.

The commission in question would have allowed students from any college or university in the state to submit ideas on how to improve campus safety. Iwamoto said that the portion of the bill in question was written by local students reacting to a series of crimes in recent years. She also expressed disappointment regarding the pushback against including student input. “Our Utah students have endured unspeakable events and tragedies on campus,” she said.

University of Utah graduate student Devon Cantwell, one of the bill’s authors, had also urged the Senate to include an outlet for student voices. “For students to feel safe on their campus,” she said, “we must feel like our input is being heard and action is being taken from that input.”

Cantwell serves as a leadership member of Unsafe U, a student group founded after the 2018 murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey. She said the goal of the commission was to have a place to discuss issues like stalking and groping on campus, as well as police policies regarding handling evidence.

As passed, SB163 focuses on the availability and sharing of campus crime statistics. It would require college campus police to communicate and share data with city police.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at MJones@1105media.com