University of Utah announces actions to improve campus safety and security

University of Utah President Ruth Watkins announced Wednesday actions to improve campus safety in response to an independent review team’s findings and recommendations related to the Lauren McCluskey case.

The measures focus on training and education, staffing and improved communication processes. To read the university’s response, click here. They include:

  • Adding staff in the University of Utah’s Behavioral Intervention Team, Department of Public Safety (UUPS) and Housing and Residential Education (HRE).
  • Training police officers and HRE in the Lethality Assessment Program.
  • Streamlining the reporting process for cases that potentially involve personal safety.
  • Ensuring staff understands and enforces policies and protocols regarding guests in residence halls and guns on campus.
  • Directing police officers to conduct mandatory offender information checks when a suspect has been identified in a criminal case and matters more significant than routine traffic stops.
  • Evaluating current record management systems used by UUPS and HRE to see if better systems or upgrades should be adopted.
  • Improving communication between key entities on- and off-campus.

“We are acting on all the insights and recommendations in the review team’s report, which identified gaps in our training, awareness and enforcement of certain policies and offers us a roadmap for strengthening security on our campus,” Watkins said.

McCluskey, an outstanding student and track athlete, was killed on Oct. 22 by Melvin Shawn Rowland, with whom she had a brief relationship.

Rowland was a master manipulator, practiced liar and criminal who exploited Lauren, the university, state corrections and law enforcement systems to commit a horrific act, Watkins said.

“I am holding myself and my leadership team responsible for making these changes,” Watkins said. “Our commitment to Lauren, her friends and family, as well as our students, parents, staff, faculty and community is that safety will continue to be a top priority at the University of Utah.”

The review team will now begin working with the U’s Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety to look more broadly at ways to improve safety and security, with a specific focus on staffing, training and education, and physical infrastructure.

The task force, formed in 2017, made an initial round of recommendations that have already been adopted. Those measures include the creation of a comprehensive campus safety website (SafeU.utah.edu); hiring additional staff in the Office of the Dean of Students and the Center for Student Wellness; increasing hours of a counselor in the Women’s Resource Center; and installation of additional lights and security cameras across campus.

The U also is adding online educational courses for students, which are expected to be in place by Summer 2019. Mandatory online training for students also is anticipated to be in place by Fall 2019.

“We recognize that efforts to ensure campus safety require ongoing attention, resources and improvements,” Watkins said. “We are fully engaged in and committed to this process.”

To view the state’s independent review and recommendations, click here.

Additional information:

What recommendations from the report are you accepting? Do you disagree with anything in the report?

We agree with the review team’s assessment and accept all its recommendations. We have already implemented some actions in response to the team’s findings and are moving ahead with others, as outlined in our formal response.

Why were the university’s housing policies not followed in this case?

This tragedy brought to light that we have work to do in enforcing housing policies and educating both our students and staff of the consequences of not following those policies. As stated in our response to the review team’s report, we have and are actively engaged in doing more to ensuring adherence to all policies.

Are you taking any disciplinary action?

The review team’s report identified gaps in training, awareness and enforcement of certain policies rather than lapses in individual performance. We believe the solution to those problems is better training, awareness and education of staff and students.

When will you release recordings and other documents related to the investigation of this case?

Materials related to this case will be reviewed for release once all investigations are complete.

View the press conference below: