A student campus climate survey and improved safety measures at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus are some of the things students should see in the coming semesters as a result of the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
The plan, created in 2017, has several safety items marked as “in progress,” meaning work needs to be done to reach each item’s goal. These items concern the 2016 recommendations made by the Texas Department of Public Safety after the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser, comprehensive campus climate surveys and the Police Oversight Committee, according to the action plan.
In 2016, Texas DPS made recommendations after performing a safety audit of the University after Weiser’s homicide. While the action plan states the recommendations had a targeted completion date of 2018, the University plans to use the DPS funding until Aug. 2020, said Jimmy Johnson, assistant vice president for campus safety.
Completed recommendations on main campus include increased lighting and reduced vegetation along walkways, increased security cameras and emergency call boxes and new building access security systems, Johnson said. He said the University is working toward implementing these same security measures at the Pickle campus, establishing call boxes and stationary maps at every campus parking garage and encouraging students to use well-traveled pathways by building physical barriers to unsafe shortcuts.
“One of the challenges when we looked at the way students travel on campus is there’s primary, secondary and tertiary pathways,” Johnson said. “We (want) students to exclude those dirt means of travel, (even) if it meant we put up a wall, or we changed the configuration with landscaping so that you can’t take that shortcut anymore.”
A student campus climate survey will be developed in the next year or two to better understand how students feel about campus programs and policies, said Helen Wormington, executive director in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the action plan chair.
The division did a gap analysis to determine which University community voices were missing in understanding campus climate, Wormington said. She said while faculty and staff are accounted for through national surveys, students are not.
“For all faculty, staff and students, we want to assess what they are going through at the time of when they take the survey,” Wormington said. “Nationally, state, locally, things are going to change the climate of the campus. If there’s something that happened three years ago and it’s still happening, like people are still disgruntled about it, … our campus needs to address it.”
The Police Oversight Committee is a group of nine faculty, staff and students serving as communication between the UT Police Department and the UT community, according to its website. The action plan states the committee needs to be reviewed with a focus on campus demographics and climate.
“Since the formation of the committee about 15 years ago and the implementation of the (action plan), UTPD has increased the number of officers and taken steps to increase both community outreach and the number of officers from diverse backgrounds,” said Leslie Blair, executive director of communications in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
Blair said the committee meets at its discretion, usually when there is a controversy concerning UTPD. Blair said she does not know if the committee has met in the past few years.