Students demand safer campus

N-Rape-Culture Colby Patterson
A chalkboard put up by Team Unite is available for students to write their opinions. The board is located outside the Social and Behavioral Sciences building. Photo by Dane Goodwin.

A chalkboard put up by Team Unite is available for students to write their opinions.
The board is located outside the Social and Behavioral Sciences building. Photo by Dane Goodwin.

On a campaign chalkboard, a student asked Team Unite to “end rape culture.”

In the wake of two sexual assaults on campus since December, the message resonates with some students who feel increasingly unsafe on campus.

“I never feel safe walking across campus, ever,” said Valerie Velarde, a senior in gender studies and psychology.

She agreed with the chalkboard request and said she would love to see a campaign addressing rape culture, which is the linking of sexual violence to the overall culture of a society.

Sam Rowden, a freshman in the Actor Training Program, said she brings mace with her at night for protection.

Team Unite has already taken in the response and has a contingency plan if its officers are elected to ASUU.

“We want to be able to create awareness for students on campus by partnering with places like the Women’s Resource Center […] and allowing resources already on campus to be successful,” said Mike Bird, presidential candidate for Team Unite. He added that helping students understand what resources are available to them is crucial.

The Center for Student Wellness on campus offers services for both prevention of sexual assault and recovery, such as workshops on sexual violence and healthy sexuality and classroom presentations, as well as what Marty Liccardo of the center calls a “comprehensive support system.”

“I don’t believe the threat to students is any greater or worse than it was two weeks ago,” Liccardo said. “But the safety and security of our students is our priority, as well as their perception of safety.”

Bird said helping students understand what resources are available to them is crucial.

While there have been more sexual assaults at the U in the past two months than in the past year, Liccardo said this is a problem on every campus.
“I think rape culture is always here,” said McCall Izatt, a senior in social work.

Tanner Hagio, a sophomore in mathematics, said he feels safe walking across campus and didn’t think anything of the email alerting students of the first sexual assault.

“When I got the second email, I was like, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?’ ” he said.

Liccardo said that people are “good about knowing how to keep themselves safe,” but he still encourages students to talk to the center if they’re feeling unsafe.

Matt Halverson, a senior in linguistics, said the attacks have made him more aware when waiting for the bus but not scared.

“I think I feel safer than I would if I was a woman or were perceived as a woman, but it still makes you uncomfortable, right? I mean, someone is getting assaulted,” he said.

Liccardo said the Center for Student Wellness is open to suggestions about what they can do to reinforce student safety.

“We want people to know that wherever it happens that it is not the victim’s fault,” Liccardo said.

The Center for Student Wellness, the Women’s Resource Center and the Counseling Center all welcome students who are victims of sexual violence or who want to help with prevention of sexual assault.

k.johnson@chronicle.utah.edu