U President Speaks About Campus Safety Year After Lauren McCluskey’s Death

Oct 23, 2019, 12:36 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2020, 11:52 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One year ago, the University of Utah embarked on a journey to learn from its mistakes in handling the case of Lauren McCluskey.

“As I reflect on the past year, I really reflect on the efforts that have been made, the journey we’re on, the transformation from tragedy to being a safer, stronger, better campus,” said Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah.

Lauren was shot and killed on campus by a man she had briefly dated after repeatedly calling police for help in the weeks leading up to her death.

In her first on-camera sit-down interview since Lauren’s death, Watkins offered her condolences to the McCluskey family and her assurance that the university takes responsibility for failures in responding to Lauren’s calls for help.

“The university has certainly acknowledged that we missed opportunities to help Lauren. The university has acknowledged, I have acknowledged, that we missed those opportunities and that there were weaknesses at the institution,” she said.

Earlier this year, Matt and Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s parents, filed a $56 million lawsuit against the University of Utah. They called it a “last resort” to get the U to take responsibility and hold people accountable.

“Firing people would have been the easy thing to do, but it would have been the wrong thing to do,” Watkins said. “I think it would not have fostered our goal of a safer campus. We needed action that enhanced safety immediately.”

And to that end, Watkins noted, they have spent $1 million to create a safer campus, through hiring people with needed expertise and providing new resources. The university has also completed 29 of the 30 recommended safety improvements listed in an independent review of the case. The remaining item is finding a place to re-locate the police department.

“(This) journey of cultural change and safety, it will take time,” said Watkins.

The university is moving forward. Watkins knows they need to rebuild trust among students, especially among the 100 students who walked out of class earlier this week to protest the U’s response to the McCluskey case and lawsuit.

“The university has faced understandable criticism and I think this journey of change, of enhancing safety, will take time, Watkins said. “I know that the increased presence of the university police and the increased expertise over time will help us win that trust back and rebuild confidence on our campus.”

Watkins says through this tragedy, the university is safer than it was a year ago.

“It is a safer and better place than it was a year ago, more aware place, and we will be a better place a year from now. This journey continues,” she said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

A married couple was found dead in an American Fork home on Thursday....

Michael Houck

American Fork police rule married couple deaths as murder-suicide

Police have released the identities of the married couple found dead in American Fork Thursday and are ruling it was a murder-suicide. 

37 minutes ago


Pat Reavy, KSL.com

Southern Utah woman charged with aggravated murder; prosecutors won’t seek death penalty

A 28-year-old woman accused of brutally killing her parents in their home is now facing 11 felony charges, including 10 first-degree felonies.

1 hour ago

utah county sheriff...

Michael Houck

Mudslide impacts traffic on Diamond Fork Canyon, sheriff’s office says

A mudslide is affecting traffic on Diamond Fork Road, making it difficult for travelers to get out of the canyon Friday afternoon.

2 hours ago

1 of 6Medina Reyes, Jorge Rafael SO#426266 Mug2021.jpg Jorge Rafael Medina-Reyes, 21, believed to b...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Second man pleads guilty to kidnapping, murder of Kearns woman in 2021

A second man has pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murdering Nicole Solario-Romero, a woman whose abduction near her Kearns home in 2021 was caught on a doorbell camera.

3 hours ago

The La Sal Mountains are pictured at sunset as seen from Moab on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Spenser H...

Daniel Woodruff

Grand County official gave employee ‘safe word’ to use in uncomfortable conversations, complaint alleges

The Grand County human resources director has resigned her position amid allegations that she retaliated against an employee who complained about harassment.

3 hours ago

Rowers from Utah Crew travelled to Sarasota, Florida, to compete in the USRowing Youth National Cha...

Alexander Campbell

Facing adversity, a local youth rowing team places top ten nationally

In a small canal near California Avenue in Salt Lake City, a team of high school rowers has trained for racing at the national level.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

U President Speaks About Campus Safety Year After Lauren McCluskey’s Death