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Guest opinion: The University of Utah continues to fail Lauren McCluskey

I am hoping desperately that the University of Utah has now sunk low enough to finally scrape bottom, and that decisions by administrators cannot get any worse. In a ceremony on Wednesday, June 5, the campus police department apparently felt that a dispatcher and two school administrators exhibited superlative awards-worthy job performances for how Lauren McCluskey’s concerns were dealt with during the 12 days Lauren repeatedly, persistently, and ever more worriedly elevated her requests for help.

Do the awarders and the awardees fully appreciate that Lauren died? I have a far different view of what awards-worthy performances would have been in this tragic case. I heartbrokenly agree with Lauren’s father, who was quoted as stating “… the idea of the police department giving awards for the handling of Lauren’s case borders on obscene.” The day after the award ceremony, amid growing criticism, the University of Utah police issued an apology through its Twitter account.

What this incredibly insensitive and insular behavior underscores is a point I and others have been attempting to make to those who oversee the University of Utah’s administration, including its board of trustees, and to the citizens of Utah. Addressing the glaring deficiencies at the U. regarding the need to take and deal with women’s concerns seriously and with urgency, and the overarching issue of student safety in general, is not solely a matter of changing a few policies and procedures. It’s not a matter of hiring a few more staff members. It is about the mindset and behaviors of administrators and staff at the U., and this latest transgression has vividly underscored how inept and dangerously detached from reality some of them are. That should be of deep concern to anyone who has a son or daughter attending the university, as well as to all residents of Utah.

Doug Wilks, editor of the Deseret News, wrote a moving, focused and lucid article in the June 1 copy of the paper addressing what the real principal issue is in this horrible tragedy — the behavior, attitudes and negligence of people. As Wilks stated, “Why isn’t the word of a woman taken seriously?” and “Police and the university and the lack of urgency in their response to her contributed to this terrible outcome.” I and others are grateful to him for taking such a clear and bold stand on this issue.

It is way past due for someone of authority in Utah to hold personnel at the U. accountable and responsible for the failures in behavior and leadership at the University. I respectfully suggest one should begin with the collection of individuals who thought that bestowing the “Lauren McCluskey Murder Awards” was an appropriate thing to do.