Brigham Young University’s Police Department was scheduled to be decertified at the start of September, but that deadline will be put on hold as the department works through an appeals process.
Officials at the Utah Department of Public Safety decided to revoke the certification after the university department reportedly failed to conduct an internal investigation into alleged misconduct of one of their officers.
On Thursday, the DPS Public Affairs Office issued a statement advising the University Police Department can continue to operate as a fully functioning law enforcement agency until the end of court proceedings.
A hearing date has not yet been set for the appeal.
The BYU officer under investigation, former Lt. Aaron Rhoades, allegedly improperly shared private law enforcement database information with the BYU Dean of Students Office, the Title IX Office and the Honor Code Office.
He also reportedly accessed and shared private police reports from the Orem Police Department, Utah County Sheriff’s Office and the Provo Police Department, the state department reported.
The department stated the chief of police at the time did not realize the actions rose to the level of criminal misconduct.
BYU officials also explained an internal investigation did occur, but court orders meant that no one in the Police Department could disclose the existence of the investigation.
Since the University Police Department claimed exemption from GRAMA and government record laws, university officials claim the information Rhoades shared was reportedly publicly available and not designated as private or protected under GRAMA laws.
“BYU’s strong preference has been and continues to be to work collaboratively with DPS,” university officials wrote in the appeal. “However, BYU is prepared to defend itself in this proceeding and related proceedings, including conducting discovery, asserting relevant claims and defenses, and seeking available remedies for violations of BYU’s rights.”
Established in 1952, the University Police Department is a state-certified law enforcement agency privately funded, managed and operated by BYU. There are currently 30 full-time and 10 part-time certified law enforcement officers, according to a press release from the university.
What started in a two-bedroom apartment has now become a burgeoning community center, with numerous classes and activities as a site for neighbors to connect with each other.
The South Franklin Community Center’s current building opened in 2013 with help from the United Way of Utah County, Provo Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity and other individuals and organizations.
The idea behind the center was to bring neighbors together to help each other, teach each other and build up their community.
In this case, the majority of the neighborhood live in the Boulders multi-building apartment complex. Many of the residents are in lower income brackets or receive housing subsidies.
There is a mixture of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, with many residents having Spanish as their first language.
Stephanie Anderson is the director of the center and said she is pleased with the number of participants and classes that make the center fun and unique.
“Zumba is a good example of the neighborhood working together for what they need,” Anderson said.
Anderson said those participating in the Zumba dance and exercise class learned the various moves and have been running it on their own for each other. One women is trying to certify so she can lead the group.
One benefit from the class is watching the friendships being formed, Anderson said.
Anderson added that many people who speak Portuguese and attend Brigham Young University are making friends and learning to converse with their Spanish-speaking neighbors.
“People want to make the area a better place,” Anderson said.
According to Anderson, there are 19 different programs with 75% of those being run by community volunteers and the other 25% by Utah County Extension Services and Utah Valley University. Two of the classes are specific to United Way programs including the Welcome Baby program and parenting classes that are held once a month.
“I am really proud of what has happened here,” Anderson said.
Bill Hulterstrom, president and CEO of the United Way of Utah County, said the community center is so successful he would like to see more of them.
“This one at South Franklin is probably our beta test of what could happen in other communities,” Hulterstrom said. “We want neighbors to be the main contributors.”
For the past five years, the South Franklin Community Center has even hosted a reading club for children in the neighborhood read books, make friends and have fun.
This past year, a partnership with Y-Serve on Brigham Young University campus has provided volunteers who come interact with, listen to and read with the kids during the reading club
“During the summer the kids are there from 8:30 to 2 p.m.,” Anderson said. “It was learning and fun. Some children have gone up one grade level in just one month.”
Because all of the classes are free, Anderson said there are some concerns.
“Some of our challenges are because it’s free, some might miss more (of the classes) than if you’re paying for it,” Anderson said. “Also, a lot of people think we’re a child care facility.”
She added the classes are always full and there is a high interest in adding new classes.
“The parents wanted a ballet class, a very disciplined dance,” Anderson said. “We have been working with the kids and now they are ready for their first ballet recital.”
Anderson said LDS Charities also offers 10 classes that acclimate immigrants to the area.
“Our community has done amazing things,” Anderson said.
Utah Valley University isn’t the same school it was 15 years ago. And while that means more alumni are leaving with four-year degrees in hand, it also means the university is turning to new approaches to get alumni involved with the university, and hopefully turn them into future donors.
“I think there is going to be a lot less phone calling,” said Scott Cooksey, UVU’s vice president of institutional advancement. “Millennials don’t answer the phone.”
What is known today as UVU started 78 years ago as a vocational school. It’s evolved in the decades since, gaining students, land and programs, until it began offering its first four-year degrees in the 1990s. It gained university status in 2008.
That growth has led to two sets of alumni, those who receive a two-year degree or certificate, and an expanding set of graduates who leave with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
While the university treats both sets of alumni the same, Cooksey said graduates who received associate’s degrees tend to have more allegiance for the school they received a bachelor’s degree from.
“The problem you have on every campus is that students don’t understand that they are alumni,” said Kevin Walkenhorst, the senior director of alumni relations at UVU. “They think you have to graduate to be an alumni or alumnus of the university.”
Walkenhorst said students become alumni once they have 24 credit hours, which happens in their sophomore year.
Forming relationships begin long before the students sit down for commencement. The university begins to get students involved through two annual events, a food drive, and a student-to-student giving campaign to raise money for first-generation student scholarships. This year’s campaign, called 2518 after the price of tuition, aimed to rally 2,518 donors. Walkenhorst said the campaign ended with about 2,000 donors collectively raising about $19,000, most of which came from students.
Walkenhorst said it’s a way to show students they can give back to their classmates and stress that it doesn’t matter how much they donate, but that they have a giving heart.
“We help them understand that giving is a choice,” Walkenhorst said. “That is your choice and you don’t need to feel bad about it if you don’t give, because everyone is at a different stage of life.”
The university will also call around commencement to see if students want to give a financial gift. Walkenhorst said many students donated $20.19 to celebrate the year they graduated.
The idea is that if students are engaged with the university while they’re students, that will lead to active alumni.
“It is really important before you ask for money to establish some kind of a relationship,” Walkenhorst said.
He said the university’s surveys have shown that alumni are interested in networking opportunities, career help and deals. The alumni’s association app links graduates with traditions and gives them access to deals in Orem, New York City and London.
The amount of engagement has increased in the last decade as alumni attendance at homecoming events has more than tripled to 3,000 to 5,000 students. Walkenhorst said he expect to see alumni engagement double within the next three to five years.
Although 69% of UVU’s graduates live in Utah County, the association is seeing success with alumni association chapters in Phoenix, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
There are more than 4,000 UVU alumni in Arizona, according to Steve Beck, a former president of the alumni association’s Arizona chapter.
“There are a lot of families here who love sending their kids to UVU,” he said.
Beck, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, graduated from the institution in 1998 and is a former student body president.
The organization will see a couple hundred people at events throughout the year, which include a back-to-school kickoff for UVU students from Arizona, gatherings at sports events and movie nights.
He’s seen the chapter continue to grow as the university has.
“I think as the school has evolved and grown, and added more degrees and programs, that it has definitely helped to build that base and people’s affiliation with the school,” Beck said.
Alumni association chapters are established based off geography and disciplines, according to Cooksey. The UVU Alumni Association is not due-based.
Cooksey said the association is utilizing sporting events and the arts to keep alumni engaged and interested in donating.
“We want alumni to give back and whether that give back is $35 or $50, it has to start somewhere, and we want some of those alumni to turn into major donors and help us build business buildings, and some things, and increase our endowment,” Cooksey said.
The majority of graduates who have received a bachelor’s or master’s degree are still fairly early in their careers, which has led most of UVU’s top donors being individuals who did not attend the university. That trend extends to the university’s board of trustees and the alumni association board.
“Most of the board did not go to school here, but they are tied to the school in other ways,” Cooksey said. “That will change over time.”
The university has also introduced a young alumni board.
He wants to see an alumni association that is active and supportive of the university, and not just financially. His end goal is to see two UVU graduates who are in a room together, no matter where in the country, gravitate towards each other.
“That is where I want this to go, and that’s not going to happen in one year or two years, but we have to start,” Cooksey said.
A woman who suffered serious injuries after her vehicle crashed into a large dump truck in Eagle Mountain has died.
Officials reported Kayla Williamson, 23, had recently moved from Idaho to Lehi. She was driving a small SUV south on Sunset Drive at about 2:15 p.m. on Thursday and approached the Cory B. Wride Memorial Highway.
Witnesses told deputies the SUV failed to stop at a red light at the intersection and was hit by a dump truck carrying a load of asphalt.
The woman was the only occupant in the SUV and was flown to the Utah Valley Hospital in extremely critical condition. She died from her injuries later the same day, said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
“A friend of the injured woman told deputies he was talking to her by phone when this crash occurred,” according to a press release.
The driver of the dump truck was also the only occupant of the truck and was not transported to a hospital.
It’s been almost a year since the spark of the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires that burned more than 120,000 acres and evacuated thousands of southern Utah County residents from their homes.
It’s taken longer than hoped, but $9.6 million in federal funding from the Emergency Watershed Program has been awarded to communities affected by the fires last year, according to U.S. Rep. John Curtis.
“I’m very pleased that we finally received some funding,” Curtis said Thursday. “Many were frustrated, myself included, that it took so long. Like many government policies and opportunities, it’s fraught with bureaucracy and double checks and double checks.”
Following containment of the massive fires in 2018, residents and cities at the base of the extensively-burned canyons like Loafer Canyon and Spanish Fork Canyon faced the very real issue of debris flow coming off the burn scar and damaging homes. Whole cities are at risk of debris flow contaminating supplies of drinking water.
Unlike the flames, this risk is not something that can be taken care of within a few weeks. According to experts, at-risk areas need to be on alert for debris flow for up to five years after the initial burn.
Utah County, Payson, Santaquin, Spanish Fork, Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge and the Strawberry Water User’s Association all applied for the funding under the umbrella of Utah County for $20-25 million in funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection program.
The local entities have to match 25% of the funds for their projects, though that can be in labor and equipment costs, not just cash.
The EWP program provides financial and technical assistance for projects such as removing debris from stream channels, reshaping eroded stream banks and establishing vegetative cover on critically eroding lands, according to the NRCS website.
The main work done with the funding will be temporary measures like debris removal, stream bank protection and other practices that provide immediate relief and protection in high-risk areas.
Curtis held a roundtable with community leaders Tuesday to announce the funding alongside James Hubbard, the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment.
Curtis said the roundtable was productive, but said there was some frustration with the process of obtaining the funding.
A flaw in the process was identified, Curtis said, that he intends to address through legislation.
Counties and cities can’t spend money or start working on their identified mitigation projects until the federal part of the funding comes through.
“We are planning on running some legislation to change that so in the future, if they want to go ahead and take that risk, they can do that and then get reimbursed,” Curtis said.