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Race, Religion & Social Justice

Lauren McCluskey Foundation teams up with University of Utah to address dating violence on college campuses

A photo of Matt and Jill McCluskey.
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
Matt and Jill McCluskey stand on the track field where their daughter Lauren McCluskey once trained and competed.

On the third anniversary of their daughter’s death, Jill and Matt McCluskey walked on the track where their daughter once trained and competed. Lauren McCluskey was a 21-year-old student-athlete at the University of Utah who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2018.

For the last three years Jill McCluskey has dedicated her time to raising awareness about dating violence and stalking on college campuses.

The family established the Lauren McCluskey Foundation shortly after her murder.

On Friday, they launched what they’re calling a strategic plan for campus safety. The foundation hopes that more colleges around the country will enact these initiatives to create a cultural change.

The plan focuses on raising awareness of the seriousness of dating violence on college campuses, as well as expanding Lauren’s Promise — the pledge for campus faculty to step up and listen when a student is being threatened.

It also includes the creation of a campus safety index and a blueprint for best practices to respond to stalking and dating violence.

These initiatives aim to not only provide guidance to universities but also be a resource for parents and student leaders.

Nationally more than one in four women will experience sexual-related violence during their undergraduate careers, according to the Association of American Universities.

McCluskey said when Lauren asked for help — the system failed her. She wants to make sure that never happens to another student.

She said there needs to be a cultural shift in the way universities are approaching this issue on campus and it needs to be a community effort.

A photo of a group of track athletes.
Ivana Martinez
Lauren's former teammates gathered to remember and honor her memory on the three year anniversary of her death.

“To solve this problem, it really takes a coordinated, comprehensive response, involving not only police, but housing and counseling and even professors.” McCluskey said. “We want to get everyone on board to solve this terrible problem.”

The McCluskeys were joined by University of Utah President Taylor Randall, students and lawmakers on the McCarthy Family Track and Field.

Randall said the University will work with the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention and with experts to develop the campus safety index. It aims to give potential students the ability to assess their university’s safety policies and procedures.

“The insights from there are going to allow us to guide policy, guide behavior and guide our thinking in the way that we shape a new campus culture,” he said.

Tiffany Chan, vice president for the Associated Students of the University of Utah, said these initiatives come at a pivotal time for students.

Chan said campus safety should always be a top priority.

“Assault and abuse have run rampant, often overshadowed by those who aren't willing to listen and support. Negligence and disregard have cost students their education, their well being and even their lives,” Chan said. “The right to feel safe and be safe is just as fundamental as a right to education in higher ed.”

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