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Slain Student's Father Says Campus Safety Bill Could Have Prevented Her Death

Rocio Hernandez / KUER
State Sen. Jani Iwamoto, center. and Matt McCluskey, right, speak with reporters at the Utah State Capitol on Monday.

Since the October 2018  death of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, her parents have been outspoken about how the University of Utah handled the matter.


They’ve been critical of how University Police addressed her concerns about a former boyfriend who fatally shot her, and the systems they say failed their daughter.

On Monday, her father, Matt McCluskey, spoke at the Utah State Capitol in favor of a campus safety bill. The bill, Senate Bill 134, passed the House Education Committee today and is headed to the Rules Committee, having already passed the Senate. The Washington State University professor said he hopes it will help save future students.


“Remember Lauren Jennifer McCluskey ...,” McCluskey of Pullman, Wash., told the members of the House Education Committee. “Remember how she lived, remember how she died and through her actions, honor her memory.”

State Sen. Jani Iwamoto’s bill would require all Utah public colleges and universities, including technical schools, to create and implement a campus safety plan. That includes efforts to tackle sexual assault, stalking and dating and domestic violence cases reported on college campuses.


During the committee meeting, Iwamoto, D-Holladay, told Lauren McCluskey’s family that her life mattered.


“Because of her there will be a lot of things done and changes made in her honor,” Iwamoto said.


Under the bill, student organizations such as clubs, fraternities and sororities are required to provide information and training on campus safety to its members in order to be officially recognized by their institutions. The schools are also expected to share in the safety plans their efforts to improve campus safety over the next two years. These campus safety plans will be updated annually, Iwamoto said.


Each safety plan would include information on the school’s policies regarding these crimes, campus and community resources for the victims and details on the victims’ rights. It also calls for  each institution to take on measures to ensure their confidentiality. The plans will also have information on how to contact campus security and guidance for how to reach law enforcement agencies for crimes that occur off-campus.


Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown also spoke in favor of the bill at the meeting. Women age 18 to 24 are more likely to be raped and sexually assaulted than women in other age groups, Brown said About 80 percent of crimes that involve university student victims go unreported, he added. One in five students say they didn’t report what happened to them for fear of reprisal, he said.


“By creating campus safety plans and campus safety training coordination, we are going to do better,” Brown said.  


The bill is also support by the Utah System of Higher Education and the University of Utah. 


On Oct. 22, Lauren McCluskey was shot to death by Melvin Rowland, a man she briefly dated until she discovered he was a registered sex offender who had lied about his identity.


Prior to her death, Lauren McCluskey had reported Rowland’s suspicious behavior following their breakup to campus police.


At a press conferencedays after her death, University Police Chief Dale Brophy said his department hadn’t reached out to Rowland’s parole officer because it did not feel it had enough evidence against him.

Matthew McCluskey told the House Education Committee that his daughter had also reached out to Salt Lake City police for assistance, but they referred her back to campus police.


“If this bill had been in place before it would have reduced the chances that my daughter would have been killed,” Matt McCluskey said.


Lauren McCluskey would have turned 22 on Feb. 12. She was on track to graduate with a communications degree in May.


When asked if Iwamoto’s bill goes far enough to improve safety on Utah campuses, Matt McCluskey said it’s a good place to start.

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