Right before the start of the 2021 fall semester, the University of Utah had publicly, and proudly, announced that Taylor Randall will be our next university president. During the presidential search, Randall had gone up against two other candidates that were experienced in working with institutions and marginalized communities.
This decision came after our former president Ruth Watkins had left without addressing the many issues on campus, such as her handling of police and violence against women on campus. The decision to appoint Taylor Randall as the new president of the University did not go without protest and critique. And the decision to appoint Taylor Randall as the new president of the University was one of the worst decisions that the institution could have made.
When Ruth Watkins was president, there appeared to be no serious commitment to address violence women face on campus. When the murder of our fellow student Lauren McCluskey happened, the institution was more focused on clearing their name. The institution was more focused on coddling the police on campus who were responsible for Lauren’s death.
Watkins had no intention to hold the police accountable when they refused to do anything after Lauren had pleaded for their help. Watkins had no intention to decrease the funding of police on campus in order to increase resources that would have actually helped Lauren and other women fleeing intimate gender violence.
Watkins and her administration believed that performative initiatives such as increasing lighting on campus would have shifted our focus from tangible change. Watkins left this campus, running away from critiques, but the problems still haven’t gone away just because she has.
During my time serving as an elected Student Body Representative, I made sure to ensure our student fees were not being put towards increased police funding. Every time a new policing bill was introduced my email was filled with students pleading for me to fight for what the institution should have been fighting for — fewer police and more resources.
Lauren’s friends reached out to me about how the police failed Lauren after they reported with her 20+ times, students that had been profiled by the police told me how Watkins and her administration didn’t really care to hear about their trauma and survivors of intimate partner violence told me how the institution didn’t truly do anything for the justice or healing process.
The institution failed these students. The decision to appoint a president who is an internal hire, who is already working within the system that failed these students, was an awful decision. The candidates that were considered besides Randall had experience working with the communities that have been protesting the institution the most. Those candidates had experience working outside of our university, and don’t have a commitment to the U’s image.
Instead of hiring based on innovative ideas that can solve our campus’s issues, the committee hired Randall and his elitist resume. They failed to realize that an elitist resume will not address the continuous safety warnings we have to receive, the inaccessible environment on our campus and untrustworthy cops. The appointment of Taylor Randall was a mistake and will not go without protest.
— Ermiya Fanaeian, University of Utah student
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