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Luther College graduate Erin Alberty on Pulitzer Prize winning reporting team

Posted: Thu, Apr 13, 2017 4:55 PM
Photo courtesy of Salt Lake Tribune

A 2001 Luther College graduate was one of the reporters on a team at the Salt Lake Tribune whose reports on sexual assault and campus safety at Brigham Young University and Utah State University has won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

Erin Alberty, a public safety reporter at the time, was included on seven of the bylines among the 10 stories submitted to the Pulitzer contest. Three of those stories had her byline alone.  Pulitzer judges say the newspaper's staff earned the prize "for a string of vivid reports revealing the perverse, punitive and cruel treatment given to sexual-assault victims at Brigham Young University, one of Utah's more powerful institutions."

Alberty says she had been researching the issue, but she couldn't find people willing to talk.  Then in April of 2016 there was a rape awareness forum on campus and a student got up and said that she had been assaulted and that as a result of making the report she was disciplined by the school.  After that, other victims started speaking up. Within three days Alberty did 12 interviews with current and former BYU students who reported being raped while attending school there.

The Tribune's series also led to criminal rape charges against a former Utah State University football star. As a result of the project, USU adjusted its crime reporting system and BYU announced plans for a series of reforms, including an amnesty clause to shield students from honor code penalties when reporting sexual assault.

Having her work recognized through a Pulitzer is a huge honor, Alberty says, but she and her colleagues weren't thinking about winning a prize while working on the series. "I saw this as a potentially serious public safety issue, as something that would be important for the Provo community, where BYU is located, and for sexual assault victims in other places," she explains.