SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – It’s been three years since the on-campus murder of University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey. A walk was held in her honor and her parents announced new safety initiatives for relationship violence on college campuses.
Lauren’s parents, Matt and Jill McCluskey walked around the McCarthey Family Track and Field, accompanied by family, friends, and the U community Friday afternoon.
The walk is part of their annual event, as a way to promote campus safety and to remember their daughter.
“This is always a super hard day for me. Just the anniversary, I actually sort of dread it, but we’re trying to make something good out of it and have a positive impact,” Jill McCluskey told ABC4.
Through the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, Lauren’s Promise has helped to make changes on college campuses with the pledge: “I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you.”
Jill McCluskey said college professors at 158 universities have implemented it into their syllabi, and she’s heard of students reaching out to trusted professors for help.
To further their mission, the McCluskey’s announced five new initiatives designed to change the culture on college campuses that respond to dating violence and stalking.
Increase awareness of dating violence and stalking
“One of our first priorities is to create a national campaign around dating violence and stalking,” Jill McCluskey said.
Expand the adoption of Lauren’s Promise
“The first step to an effective response of dating violence is to listen and believe the person who has been threatened,” she said.
Jill McCluskey said the Foundation wants to continue to grow Lauren’s Promise.
Develop effective campus safety responses
“Our third initiative is to develop a best practices blueprint for effective response for campus safety programs to bring a stop to dating violence and stalking on college campuses,” Jill McCluskey said.
She continued to say this is meant to be multifaceted to include campus leaders, police, public safety officers, etc.
“The Foundation will fund the blueprint to be built on the Celery Act to train and evaluate campus safety programs,” she said. “It also goes to campus housing and how counseling interacts. We need a coordinated response across all groups.”
Develop and create a campus safety score
“Once we have the best practices in place, a campus safety score can help to incentivize universities to respond to adopt the best practices,” Jill McCluskey said of the fourth initiative. “This will be based on procedures, resources, training and responses to threats.”
She said by making the score publicly available, parents and prospective students can be informed about which college to attend.
“Our last initiative is to share resources to strengthen dating violence and stalking laws,” she said.
Jill McCluskey said the Foundation will be a source of information about state laws and resources.
The McCluskey’s hope their initiatives will continue to make a difference for college students.
“People nationally don’t really understand the magnitude of the problem and they think, ‘Oh it couldn’t happen to me,’” Jill McCluskey said.
Two students attending the event told ABC4 they believe the Lauren McCluskey Foundation is making a difference.
“They have come a long way from where things have started and especially with such an incident, it’s really important to put those things out there,” said Aarusha Rohja, the president/founder of the U’s SAFE program. “I think the most important part of it is bringing a community together the way they’ve gotten students and other leadership members and their family involved is so crucial and important.”
“I think understanding that the professors are also advocates and you also have that resource is just as important,” said Sahana Kargi, the outreach officer also of the U’s SAFE program.
Community member Steven Seril showed up to show his support Friday holding a sign that pledges to take on Lauren’s Promise.
“The problem right now, is we will act when something happens, and that’s not good, because a lot of times that’s too late,” he said. “I want to see a world where victims of abuse are taken seriously and are listened to and heard and I want to see a more kinder and passionate community.”
Being back on the track three years after their daughter’s life was cut short, Jill McCluskey remembers Lauren’s first moments on campus.
When she first visited this track, she loved it,” said the teary-eyed Jill McCluskey. “She visited on a recruiting visit on Halloween and just thought the mountains were beautiful, the teammates were fantastic. She loved the coaches and the facilities and was just so excited about this beautiful area.”
She continued to share memories of Lauren and the light that accompanied her.