U of U responds to Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by slain student’s mother

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah has issued a response to an opinion editorial published Wednesday by The Salt Lake Tribune in which the mother of Lauren McCluskey criticized the school for not doing enough to prevent her daughter's murder.

"The University of Utah has neither acknowledged responsibility nor held anyone at the university accountable. Remarkably, the university’s position is that there is no reason to believe that her death could have been prevented. If that were true, then fixing the flaws in the system would be a pointless exercise," wrote Jill McCluskey in a message sent to the Tribune on Tuesday and published Wednesday morning.  "If our daughter’s death could not have been prevented after she reached out to campus police so many times, we have to ask, is anyone’s daughter safe? She did everything she could to obtain help from an organization that claims to have an overriding objective of protecting the safety of students. This organization fatally failed her."

Click here to read the full op-ed. 

"Precisely because serious questions were immediately raised about the university’s response in Lauren’s case, and their implications for campus security, University President Ruth V. Watkins in October 2018 promptly commissioned an independent and thorough review from three outside experts covering every aspect of campus security," the university's response says. "[University of Utah] President Watkins has accepted the report’s findings and recommendations without reservation. Although the report concluded that there is no way to know for certain whether this tragic murder could have been prevented, it identified mistakes and weaknesses in university procedures and actions that handled differently, could have made a difference. The university is acting immediately to correct the deficiencies identified in the report."

The university's full response is below:

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH IN RESPONSE TO EDITORIAL IN THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE REGARDING CAMPUS SAFETY

In an op-ed article in today’s Salt Lake Tribune, the parents of Lauren McCluskey raised important questions and understandable concerns about campus safety and whether the university’s public safety, student housing and other departments did everything they could to prevent the crime that took their daughter’s life.

Lauren’s friends, teachers and all the other members of the university community still grieve the loss of this vibrant and promising young student and athlete. But we are aware that nothing can compare to the heartache of parents who have lost their daughter to a violent crime.

Precisely because serious questions were immediately raised about the university’s response in Lauren’s case, and their implications for campus security, University President Ruth V. Watkins in October 2018 promptly commissioned an independent and thorough review from three outside experts covering every aspect of campus security. Those experts included two highly respected former commissioners of public safety in Utah and a former university chief of police who now serves as the head of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. The report was received in late December and includes specific recommendations for improvement in policing, security and campus communications. The full report and the university’s response has been shared with the campus community and can be viewed online.

President Watkins has accepted the report’s findings and recommendations without reservation. Although the report concluded that there is no way to know for certain whether this tragic murder could have been prevented, it identified mistakes and weaknesses in university procedures and actions that handled differently, could have made a difference. The university is acting immediately to correct the deficiencies identified in the report. Work is underway to implement every one of the 30 recommendations made by the review team—and to hold accountable those tasked with these actions. It is the university’s position that we must give our leadership and staff the training and resources to learn from this tragedy and work as a team to make our campus as safe as we possibly can for our students, staff, faculty and visitors. We are committed to keeping our campus community informed of the progress being made on this front.

We recognize the need for constant vigilance, and we welcome input from the McCluskeys and others. No one can fully appreciate and share the grief of the McCluskey family and Lauren’s friends, but we do share their concern for the safety and security of current and future students and a commitment to the safety and well-being of our campus community.

 

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