MOSCOW, Idaho -- The University of Idaho next week will dedicate a permanent memorial on the Administration Building’s east lawn to honor graduate student Kathryn “Katy” Benoit. The ceremony will take place at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 21, the eve of the first anniversary of her tragic death.
Benoit was a master’s student in psychology and an accomplished cellist.
Benoit was killed by a professor who she had previously dated.
Benoit had complained to the university last June about psychology professor Ernesto
Bustamante, saying she ended their relationship after he pointed a gun at her head, threatening her life. Bustamante resigned Aug. 19, days before police say he killed Benoit at her off-campus home and then turned a gun on himself.
The tragedy has spurned new rules at the school to prevent future tragedies.
The university has worked with the Benoit family to ensure their daughter’s memory is honored and continues to serve as a catalyst for work being done to strengthen and enhance campus safety initiatives and programs according to a press released from the U of I.
The university announced plans for its first Katy Benoit Safety Forum that will feature a host of major activities and outreach on campus from Sept. 19-27. Raising the campus community’s awareness of high-risk behaviors and situations, providing practical intervention strategies, and identifying and publicizing a host of available resources and responses will be the intent of the forum.
“The focus of the forum, which will become an annual fall event, will be to improve campus safety by urging students and others to step up and help peers who may be in distress or danger,” said Bruce Pitman, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students.
In the wake of Benoit’s death, the university appointed a task force -- chaired by Linda Copple Trout, former chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court -- to examine campus safety practices. After months of work, the task force made 10 recommendations for heightening campus security. The university began implementing the task force’s recommendations last year and continues to strengthen its existing safety procedures.
Katy’s parents and brother said: "We believe the University of Idaho is making many positive changes by endeavoring to make the campus a safer place. Our family is encouraged by these efforts and is very pleased with the university’s upcoming “I Got Your Back” campaign and other safety awareness initiatives.
“It is our hope that the citizens of Idaho and other colleges and universities can learn from the University of Idaho’s example. We remain grateful for Katy’s journey and the lessons she taught us, and we appreciate the memorial that will be placed by the university honoring Katy for her willingness to speak up and make a difference,” the family said.
Matt Dorschel, director of Emergency Management and Security Services, said that the university’s security measures will be continually reviewed and improved for maximum effectiveness. “This will be an on-going process, it’s not something that has a finite end. It requires constant monitoring, updating and implementation.”
The actions taken to date by the university, from the task force’s recommendations, include:
“Develop a one-page synopsis of who to call and what to do in case of an emergency. Make it available to students, faculty, staff and visitors.”
A one-page summary was developed and approved by the task force. Several hundred laminated copies have been distributed to key decision-makers on campus, including: University administrators, the President’s Cabinet and all administrative assistants and officers on campus.
Additional fliers are posted in high-traffic, public areas on campus, including: the Student Union Building, Teaching and Learning Center and campus residence halls. Copies also are distributed along with Parking Service’s materials. Downloadable PDFs are posted on high-traffic websites, including those for: Emergency Management, student life, Student Services, Human Resources and others.
“Because multiple campus offices “own” security policies and procedures, the panel recommends having a single website for all information concerning student behavior.”
The University has developed a comprehensive website with emergency related information at www.uidaho.edu/emergency; reviews and updates will occur semi-annually.
“Strengthen the policy on physical abuse, hazing and harassment through narrative that can fully express the intent of the policy.”
A stronger policy on physical abuse, hazing and harassment is now in force and included in the Student Code of Conduct.
“More prominently post the consensual relationship policy.”
An updated consensual relationship policy is now in effect and faculty will be reminded of it at the beginning of every semester. Additionally, print and online versions of the policy will be communicated to all faculty and staff. Students will be informed of the policy in an email they’ll receive at the start of every semester.
“More prominently post the “timely warning policy” as mentioned in the University’s Emergency Management Plan Assessment and as required by the Clery Act.”
A link to the university’s timely warning policy – for notifying others of unsafe circumstances – is prominently located on the Emergency Management website.
“Consider a “case management” approach in order to capitalize on the University’s “clear policies” and to maximize communication among the various campus entities charged with campus safety.”
The university’s Threat Assessment and Management team uses a case management approach to identify, address, manage and rectify personnel concerns related to conduct and behavior. This cross-campus and cross-community team meets weekly to address issues and concerns. Members include but are not limited to: Student Affairs staff, the Moscow Police Department, university’s general council office and staff from the departments of Risk Management and Security and Emergency Services.
The university has also created a new position for a Coordinator of Student Conduct and Community Standards. A new staff member has been hired for this post and will be responsible for overseeing and addressing student conduct and behavior issues using a case management approach.
In addition, two new Emergency and Security Services staff positions have been created to ensure a comprehensive approach is taken on campus safety initiatives.
“Expand the Vandal Care web site, which focuses primarily on student suicide, to include other forms of distress and disruptive behavior.”
Additional content has been added to the website to also address concerns about disruptive behavior and people in distress. It is available at: www.uidaho.edu/studentaffairs/Faculty/vandalcare. Links to this website have been added to several other web pages regularly visited by students and others.
“Develop and communicate a process by which members of the campus community can report behaviors by campus faculty or staff that raise alarms or create concerns.”
The process through which to lodge complaints about sexual harassment and other behaviors of concern is prominently displayed on the Emergency Management website. In addition, the information is included in the Emergency Response Quick Reference Guide, available as a downloadable PDF on the university’s website.
The University is committed to following up on every case of behaviors of concern or allegations of violence of which it is made aware by members of the campus community.
“Consider implementing background checks as standard procedure.”
The university now requires criminal background checks of all new employees.
“Consider reorganizing the web presentation of campus safety and security policies and procedures so all information is on one site.”
The Emergency and Security website has been updated and aggregated and now encompasses information and links to campus safety and security policies.