Jill McCluskey, the mother of slain Utah student Lauren McCluskey, published an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday calling for accountability of the individuals responsible for failing her daughter. During a press conference in December, University of Utah president Ruth Watkins announced the results of two independent investigations into the University’s handling of the events leading up to Lauren McCluskey’s death and stated that the investigators’ report did not offer “a reason to believe that this tragedy could have been prevented.”
McCluskey believes differently. In the op-ed, she wrote that “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.”
In the article, McCluskey states that during a phone call she had told University Police that she was worried that Rowland was dangerous and could hurt her daughter. “He is a sex offender… I’m worried someone is going to hurt her [Lauren],” she wrote. Because the McCluskeys had alerted the police of their concerns, the op-ed states, they believed their daughter was being looked after. However, this was not the case, as a report of the incident had not been entered into the system. “The man was free to roam the campus and even freely visit Lauren’s dorm building,” McCluskey wrote. “My husband and I were lulled into a false sense of security.”
The McCluskeys expressed concern for the way that reports were handled — not only by the University police but also by the U’s Housing and Residential Education and the University counselor that Lauren had been speaking to about her situation with her ex-boyfriend. Jill McCluskey wrote that she would like to see more female officers employed by the University police force as well as accountability held for the administration’s failures. “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?” the op-ed stated.
The U’s spokesperson issued a response to the op-ed stating that while Lauren’s friends and professors at the U still grieve her loss, nothing compares to the loss that the McCluskey’s have experienced in losing their daughter. The statement goes on to say that “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 independent review team later issued a statement clarifying their position on the question of whether or not more could have been done to save Lauren from her killer.
“While no one will ever know for certain if this incident could have been prevented, we do know the deficiencies did have an impact on how Lauren’s case was handled, and to suggest these deficiencies would have made no difference is simply not accurate” read the statement.