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Utah students protest police in McCluskey case

FILE: Lauren McCluskey, a student-athlete at the University of Utah, was murdered in October 2018. Photo: University of Utah

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH – Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of Utah track star Lauren McCluskey. But is the school any safer than it was before? Over 100 students protested outside the university president’s office to demand that more be done to protect students.

Shelby Gonzales was a friend of Lauren McCluskey, but, she says McCluskey’s story is not the only horrific one she has heard.  She says many young women have approached her.

Gonzales said, “I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many women were raped on campus by their peers.”

(Photo: Paul Nelson)

She was joined by dozens of other students outside of President Ruth Watkins’ office, holding signs that say things like “Believe Women” and “Lauren Reported 20+ times.”  Gonzales believes campus police not only failed to protect McCluskey before she was killed, but she also thinks the investigation after it happened was lackluster.

She acknowledges the school is not directly responsible for McCluskey’s murder. However, she said, “They are responsible and we’re holding them accountable for the control and power they had to have a police department that followed through on investigative procedures,” she says.

Other students say whatever steps the school is taking to beef up security aren’t enough.

Protest organizer Carlos Craig said, “It still feels like the campus administration have been working on some things, but at the same time, not enough to feel that the campus is substantially safer,” adding, “Saying they’re in the process of doing something, is, kind of, a cop-out.”

But they are responsible, and we are holding them accountable,” Gonzales says, “for the control and power they had to have a police department that followed through on investigative procedures.”

School leadership met with some of the protesters before the students walked out of class.  University Spokesman Chris Nelson says they agree that campus security still needs improving, but, they are making the changes they promised to make.

“A lot of work has been done on campus, almost seven million dollars of improvements,” he said.

Nelson claims some of the things the students asked for were already in the works.  For instance, he says the university is creating a new campus safety oversight board, along with a safety data dashboard that shows crime statistics.  He also says the school will improve coordination between its police force and other law enforcement agencies.

Contributing: Simone Seikaly