The University of Utah will pay $13.5 million to the family of Lauren McCluskey, a track athlete who was killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend in 2018, as part of a legal settlement, which acknowledges that McCluskey’s murder was “preventable” due to her repeated attempts to notify university officials that she was being stalked and extorted. The agreement was announced on Thursday, the two-year anniversary of her death.
Utah president Ruth Watkins had not previously admitted the missteps made by campus police and other staff members, whom McCluskey and her friends reported concerns to in the weeks and months before her death. In a statement on Thursday, Watkins said that the university “acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation.”
“We failed Lauren and her family,” Watkins said. “If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren … With our commitment to learning from our mistakes, we honor Lauren and ensure her legacy will be improved campus safety for all students.”
The settlement, which marks the end to both federal and state claims made by the McCluskey family, also notes the changes and improvements to the public safety department since McCluskey’s death. The university also created a Center for Violence Prevention, which will be named for McCluskey, hired a new chief safety officer and has enhanced training protocols for its campus police department, according to the settlement document.
The university will donate $3 million to The McCluskey Foundation, an organization founded by her parents to fund campus safety research and education, geared especially toward women, and the other $10.5 million attached to the settlement will go to the McCluskey family. All funds the family receives will also go to the foundation, Matt McCluskey, the father of Lauren McCluskey, said during a news conference.