In wake of McCluskey murder, U of U hiring Chief Safety Officer

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Nearly one million dollars. It’s how much the University of Utah is implementing for new campus safety recommendations.

The recommendations are from the University’s Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety.

This money is in addition to approximately $6 million in other safety expenditures.

They come nearly a year after the murder of honor student-athlete Lauren McCluskey.

Included in the latest round of safety recommendations is the creation of a chief safety officer.

“The idea behind that is we want to have an officer who is in charge of campus safety more broadly and will always be in place,” said Michele Ballantyne, Co-Chair of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety.

The suggestion is one of more than two dozen recommendations made by the task force.

The search to fill the position is currently underway.

In the meantime, the university says various individuals on the task force will oversee the responsibilities.

In a statement, University President Ruth Watkins said, “We are determined to make this institution as safe as it can be.”

The University says students have been outspoken in this process.

“I think the holistic approach that the campus safety task force has taken in looking at facilities, personnel, policy, transportation, and communication and making sure we’re closing all the gaps that currently exist,” said Annamarie Barnes, Student Body President.

Lauren McCluskey’s parents have also been outspoken about campus safety since their daughter’s death.

Lauren’s mother, Jill, provided a statement to ABC4. This is it in its entirety.

“Matt and I applaud investments in campus safety,” said Mrs. McCluskey. “However, the University’s principal problem was the lack of response from the campus police to a female student’s multiple requests for help. One of Lauren’s friends told me, “On the Thursday before we lost Lauren she asked me to come to the library to meet her because she needed help. She said the police didn’t believe her about her scary ex and she didn’t know what to do.” None of these investments in safety will change the culture. For real change to occur, the University of Utah needs to hold people accountable. They must take responsibility for what happened.”

Lauren’s family is suing the University for $56 million.

The university anticipates having the chief safety officer position filled by the end of the year. It says money to pay the salary is coming from within the university and not from state funds or student fees.

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