Lauren McCluskey Foundation Announces New Initiatives at Annual Memorial Walk


Jack O'Leary

(Photo by Jack O’Leary | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jack O'Leary, News Writer


On the third anniversary of the murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, the Lauren McCluskey Foundation launched five key initiatives towards changing campus culture surrounding dating violence and further promoting comprehensive public safety programs during the Lauren McCluskey Memorial Walk.

Lauren McCluskey’s mother, the Lauren McCluskey Foundation President Jill McCluskey and U President Taylor Randall spoke at the event. Started in 2020 by ASUU, the walk was held at the McCarthey Family Track and Field, as Lauren competed in track during her time at the U.

“Our daughter, Lauren, was murdered outside of her dorm three years ago today, and nothing can change that or bring Lauren back,” said Lauren’s father, Matthew McCluskey. “But it’s our hope that the steps that we take today and in the future will prevent this from happening in the future.”

Lauren McCluskey was a student-athlete at the U who was murdered outside her dorm on campus in 2018 and since then, the foundation aims to pursue the promise of listening and believing when victims are being threatened by another person.

“The first initiative is to increase awareness of the seriousness of dating violence and stalking on college campuses, by promoting and growing an annual dating violence and stalking awareness day on Oct. 22, the date of Lauren’s murder,” Jill McCluskey said.

Jill McCluskey presented the rest of the initiatives, which were to expand the adoption of Lauren’s Promise to campuses nationwide, create better practices for effective response, develop and distribute campus safety scores and share resources to strengthen dating violence and stalking laws

“We already have college professors at 158 universities who have adopted Lauren’s promise,” Jill McCluskey said. “We want to grow that, and we already are seeing the positive — the positive impacts from that [through] stories about young people and students coming to their professors and getting help and getting connected to resources.”

To create better safety practices and more effective responses, the foundation will fund the development of a blueprint to be built on the Clery Act that would be used to improve safety plans and college campuses. According to Jill McCluskey, this is aimed to be a multifaceted course of action that would include police, public safety officers, housing officials and counseling and increase coordination among them.

“Once we have the best practices in place, a campus safety score can help incentivize universities to respond to adopt the best practices,” Jill McCluskey said. “This will be based on procedures, training resources and responses and … making the score publicly available, parents and prospective students can be informed about what decision they make about college.”

She also said, as an economist, that if you measure this you can make a difference and hopes to have a draft within the next 12 months. According to Jill McCluskey, they have spoken with U.S. News & World Reports on publishing the score, and U President Randall already has a group of 12 people working on creating this score.

“There’s some serious brainpower working on this problem,” Matthew McCluskey said.

Finally, the foundation wants to become a nationwide resource for data for information on how to better respond to dating violence and stalking.

“I know that telling Lauren’s story has an impact,” Jill McCluskey said. “I remember speaking at a conference of law enforcement professionals — they specifically told me that it makes a difference to hear this … and to see how it affected a beautiful young woman who had her future in front of her.”

In his remarks, Randall said U leadership fully supports these initiatives and were excited to play an integral role in helping with some of them. Randall also said prevention of violence and stalking is one of their top priorities on campus.

“We feel that from this heartbreak something positive can happen: that we can be an example that we can raise awareness for dating violence and stalking,” Randall said. “We can change the culture of campus safety. It’s going to take all of us.”

Randall also acknowledged the “remarkable partnership” between U students and the Lauren McCluskey Foundation for causing much of the change on campus and taking the lead on these issues.

“I can’t help but think of so many students across this nation, who have been impacted by preventable circumstances,” said ASUU Vice President Tiffany Chan. “Concerns of physical safety in the dorms, in classrooms, during odd hours, and sexual violence in the form of assaults and abuse have run rampant.”

Chan said the right to be safe on campus was just as fundamental as the right to higher education and campus safety should be a top priority.

“It is empowering to see the students are active in mobilizing themselves, and using their skills and connections to seek and create change,” Chan said. “If not for the collective power students hold, we wouldn’t have seen transformative improvements being made last year.”

In 2020, ASUU passed two resolutions focused on domestic violence: one to establish a day of memoriam for Lauren McCluskey, and other students victim to domestic violence, and the second to set up a legal clinic under the student relations board to provide free legal consultation.

Prior to the press conference, students, faculty and other community members walked a lap around the McCarthey Family Track and Field in memoriam of Lauren McCluskey, who had trained there as a student-athlete.

“As an alumni, Lauren’s murder was very important to recognize the flaws in campus safety here at the U and I think that the Lauren McCluskey Foundation is doing excellent work, and continuing to promote safety on this campus, or other students in honor of Lauren, keeping her legacy alive through campus,” said Erin Meottel, a 2020 U graduate who now works at Safe Harbor crisis center.

At Safe Harbor, Meottel works on primary prevention and engaging with the community in order to better educate people on the signs of dating violence in themselves or in others.

“Looking at Lauren’s case specifically just the reaction from police and as a community as a whole, there’s a huge issue with underreporting and not believing survivors or victims of violence, so anything that people can do to show [a] survivor or victim that they’re there for them, which is why Lauren’s Promise so important … it’s very important so that survivors feel more comfortable coming forward,” Meottel said.

Utah State Senators Derek Kitchen and Jani Iwamoto were also in attendance and participated in the memorial walk.

“All of these bills that I’ve done have been student led — they’ve come to me and we’ve worked hard on them and it’s in my heart,” Iwamoto said. “I’ve gotten to know [the] McCluskeys so well and the tragedy that happened. My kids went here too, or go here, and they experienced this when Lauren McCluskey was killed and so I feel that it’s something that … [is] in my heart and I will always work on, no matter whether I’m in the legislature.”

During the Utah State Legislative session last spring, Iwamoto sponsored S.B. 163, which focused on improving reporting polices for crimes committed on college campuses and broadening the scope of what is included in reports.

“I mean, it’s a very hard and sad day, but I’m very hopeful that it keeps growing, and Lauren’s parents are amazing people. They have put this [together] and they’ve worked so hard on it and they’ve done amazing things throughout the state,” Iwamoto said.


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