SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News)-Jill and Matt McCluskey formally announced a $56 million lawsuit against the University of Utah involving the death of their daughter Lauren McCluskey
During a press conference on Thursday, the family attorney James McConkie said Lauren’s death was “preventable” and that the murder occurred because of the university’s failure to respond to Lauren’s repeated complaints against Melvin Rowland.
The lawsuit claims Lauren and her fellow students contacted the University of Utah more than 20 times to report Rowland’s abusive, dangerous and threatening behavior.
“This preventable murder occurred because the University repeatedly ignored multiple concerning reports of stalking, physical abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and other dangerous and abusive behaviors prohibited under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a),” it reads in part.
Lauren’s mother, Jill McCluskey, said that since the time of Lauren’s death, the university has “made 30 recommendations for the University to fix” the system that failed Lauren. Yet, the President of the University of Utah, Ruth Watkins said: “that the report does not offer any reason to believe this tragedy could have been prevented.”
“Her statement made me physically ill,” Jill said.
Jill said that she tried to work with Watkins to remedy the system and hold individuals accountable.
However, President Watkins never “responded to my email.”
Attorney McConkie said at this point the McCluskeys realized that “the only way to improve campus safety is to file a lawsuit.”
Lauren’s dad Matt claimed this was a “last resort to affect positive change.”
“We cannot stand by while students are in peril,” said Matt McCluskey.
Thursday afternoon U o U President Ruth Watkins shared the following statement:
We will respond to the McCluskey family’s lawsuit through the appropriate channels, but I want to express again our deep sorrow for the loss of Lauren McCluskey. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.
While there are differences in how we would characterize some of the events leading to Lauren’s tragic murder, let me say again that we share the McCluskey family’s commitment to improving campus safety. We continue to address the recommendations identified by the independent review of the university’s safety policies, procedures and resources, and we are making ongoing improvements designed to protect our students and our entire campus community.– Ruth V. Watkins, University of Utah
The McCluskeys said that proceeds from their lawsuit will be placed in the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, a non-profit organization that honors Lauren’s legacy by supporting charitable work that promotes campus safety, amateur athletics, and animal welfare.
Click here to make donations to the foundation.