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Here’s what the U of U says has changed one year after Lauren McCluskey’s death

Posted at 6:23 PM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 08:05:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY — One year after the murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey on campus, the University is saying they aren't the same when it comes to safety.

A university spokesperson said Tuesday that Lauren's death was "transformational" in how the U handles policing, housing, infrastructure and policies, and in how they listen to students.

The changes started in November, less than two weeks after Lauren was murdered.

President Ruth Watkins announced the launch of two independent, outside reviews -- one focusing on the handling of Lauren's case, and the other on campus safety in general.

In December, the review results came back.

Spokesperson Chris Nelson said the reviews had harsh criticisms of the university and made 30 very specific recommendations for change.

"The university missed a lot of opportunities," Nelson said of what the reviews found. "There was a lot of mistakes, there was a lot of failings."

In February, the University of Utah announced a plan outlining changes based on those 30 recommendations. They included major changes within the university police department, changes in housing, new task forces and increased faculty training.

"The president appointed an internal group of faculty, staff and students. And they came up with another couple of dozen recommendations," Nelson said.

In August, the U said nearly $1 million would be invested in those additional recommendations.

"Everything from additional commuter services to help students, faculty and staff get across campus," Nelson said. "Also the creation of a new Chief Safety Officer, where the police and other safety things would report through. Also included a new threat assessment team, which would look at campus-wide threats."

On Monday the U of U announced it would create a Safety Oversight Board after students walked out of class to protest safety issues.

Nelson said they will work on building a new police facility and getting the police department accredited.

"Next big steps would be the appointment of a new Chief Safety Officer... and then we'll obviously name a new police chief. We have an interim police chief right now," Nelson said. "I think that change in leadership is important for the university."

McCluskey's parents, friends and other U of U students continue to criticize the university over safety and accountability concerns.

Nelson said they can't talk about personnel issues, but that they now have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to not following the new procedures.

"Safety is a culture," Nelson said. "It's changing that culture that takes time."