OPINION | SUU’s lockdown was a reminder to enhance campus safety procedures

SUU’s recent lockdown sparked campus-wide discussions on safety procedures, and students reflected on the need for updated protocols. With initiatives like a safe meeting place and a new messaging service in the works, Utah Tech’s police department is striving to ensure student safety. Abigail Byington | Sun News Daily

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Southern Utah University went on lockdown last Thursday due to an active shooter threat. SUU was in lockdown for three hours, which got me thinking about safety on our campus.

There are many current safety procedures in place to keep our campus safe, but these procedures need to be updated often, and many students don’t know where to find them.

While our campus has not had any recent threats, I still worry that something may happen on campus. I also fear a situation where I wouldn’t know what to do if something did happen.

SUU’s lockdown scared a lot of students, including myself. The whole morning, my Instagram page was covered in posts updating what was happening at SUU.

While I have full trust in our campus police, I feel like there’s still a lot of work to do to keep students safe.

Wes LiCalzi, Utah Tech’s interim chief of police, has been devoted to maintaining a safe campus for students. Recently, they set up a safe place for students to buy and sell things online.

“If you’re meeting someone you aren’t sure of, I want this to be a place where students can come and park or come in the lobby and meet them,” LiCalzi said. “Everyone’s safety is paramount in my mind.”

This is a really big step to ensure students stay safe, and I hope more things like this keep coming.

The meeting spot was initially set up so that students wouldn’t have to give somebody their address if they bought something from Facebook Marketplace or even meet somebody they met online for a date. This way, students can stay near the officers on campus and meet where multiple cameras can record.

Another change that should be made is an active shooter drill. We have an emergency plan for every type of emergency, including a map; however, the map is really hard to read and needs an update.

The one place that I don’t necessarily feel safe, however, is in the Holland building. It’s not because it’s an unsafe building, but because every room is made of glass. I constantly wonder what would happen if we were in a lockdown.

Recently, high schools around St. George have had quite a few active shooter threats similar to SUU’s.

Snow Canyon High School had quite a few active shooter threats during the fall semester, and a student was arrested recently for calling in the hoaxes.

Hurricane High School had an active shooter threat April 1 serious enough that multiple police departments responded, including UTPD. It seems like these threats have become a trend in our community, making me fear that our school could be next.

Because of these threats, LiCalzi said he hopes to create more safety drills for students in the event of an active shooter.

I feel safe on campus knowing that the police department is dedicated to our safety and is constantly changing and learning new ways to stay safe.

Staying vigilant and prepared for an emergency can keep students safe. LiCalzi said even small incidents should be reported because you never know if it’s related to a bigger issue.

Another way to keep campus safe is through communication. Currently, the only way to contact UTPD officers is through dispatch, and many students don’t feel comfortable with that.

”I want people to feel like this is a home, not a castle,” LiCalzi said. “If they feel like something is weird, even if there isn’t necessarily a reason or if they just need somebody to walk them to their car, I want them to feel like they can call us.”

LiCalzi said he is currently working on a messaging service that may connect to the myUT app. He also hopes that this could be a way for students to easily message and get an officer to them faster in non-emergencies.

This is a great addition to safety on campus. It could allow students to feel more comfortable reaching out to the police, and having it right on our phones would make it much easier to stay safe.

The current changes to campus safety are a safe meeting place and a messaging service. LiCalzi said he has more ideas in the works, and I’m really curious to see what those will be.

With these changes, students including myself, could feel a little safer on campus knowing that there are multiple actions in place to prevent lockdowns that schools around us have had.

Aside from these, I do feel safe on campus. I feel confident that the police department will continue to make changes that keep us safe.