Lauren McCluskey graduated with honors in 2015 from Pullman High School in Washington, where she held the school record in the 100-meter hurdles and was the state champion in the high jump. An avid cat lover, Lauren frequently volunteered with the Humane Society in Pullman, helping to care for and socialize cats to ensure their successful adoption. She was an exceptional youth athlete, earning 19 USA Track & Field All-American honors.
After graduating, Lauren came to the University of Utah where she majored in communication and represented the U as an outstanding track athlete. Lauren was an accomplished student-athlete, earning All-American honors and maintaining a 3.77 GPA. Coach Kyle Kepler remembers Lauren as “an excellent student and a dedicated member of our track and field team. She showed a relentless drive to improve every day . . . and was always kind and supportive of her teammates.”
In her senior year at the U, Lauren met and briefly dated a man who lied to her about who he was. Lauren broke up with him immediately after discovering he had covered up his identity and criminal background. The man then began extorting and threatening Lauren, who reached out to University of Utah Police for help. The investigation was hampered by missteps and shortcomings as University police failed to recognize the severity of Lauren’s situation. In a horrific act of violence, the man murdered Lauren as she returned from a class to her residence hall on the night of October 22, 2018.
During the summer of 2020, faculty, staff and students at the U developed the Center for Violence Prevention, which was renamed the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention (MCVP) in October 2020. The MCVP seeks to honor Lauren’s life and legacy by working to eliminate relationship and sexual violence among U.S. college students by focusing on primary prevention through education and culture change.
Lauren’s story is particularly tragic given her efforts to get help and garnered the attention of local and national media. Countless students experience relationship and sexual violence that occurs mostly in less public ways and they frequently do not tell anyone about what they are experiencing. Relationship and sexual violence are tightly wound with all forms of oppression; perpetrators target queer and trans students, students of color and students with disabilities at even higher rates than their peers. For these students, systemic and institutional barriers often hinder their ability to seek help. Staff at the MCVP honor Lauren by working to address the interconnectedness of violence and oppression. We further recognize and acknowledge those in our community who are minimized and silenced by oppression.
In 2019, the University of Utah created a new chief safety officer position with responsibility, oversight and coordination of all campus safety initiatives and divisions, including University Police, Community Services, Campus Security, U of U Health Security, Emergency Management, and Emergency Communications. As the Office of the Chief Safety Officer works to engage and unite the campus community for the betterment of our university's safety, the office's relationship to the MCVP is particularly important. Preventing relationship and sexual violence is a shared responsibility and cannot be accomplished by a single office or group. Given that, the Office of the Chief Safety Officer and the MCVP work closely together on educational and awareness efforts aimed at preventing sexual violence.
LAUREN MCCLUSKEY FOUNDATION
The Lauren McCluskey Foundation was established in January 2019 by Lauren's parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey. The foundation is a registered nonprofit organization that honors Lauren's legacy as a student-athlete and supports causes she cared about. The foundation focuses on three areas: campus safety research and educational programs, financial support of student and youth track and field athletes, and animal welfare — particularly that of cats, which she loved.
ASUU MEMORIAL WALK
The Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) joined with Jill and Matt McCluskey and the Lauren McCluskey Foundation in a memorial walk on October 22, 2020, the date of Lauren McCluskey's murder. The gathering took place at the McCarthey Family track on the U campus, where Lauren's track teammates installed a plaque and planted a tree in 2019 as tributes to her. The 2020-21 ASUU leadership hopes the walk becomes an annual event to honor Lauren's legacy at the university.
Jill McCluskey, Lauren's mother and a professor at Washington State University, created Lauren's Promise in 2019 for educators at her institution to include on course syllabi to signify their willingness to listen to, believe and support students who may need help. The pledge provides information about what happened to Lauren, makes a call to action and then offers information and links to community- and campus-specific resources, adapted as needed. Lauren's Promise has been adopted by educators at institutions across the country. The standard part of the statement reads:
"I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you. Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old honors student-athlete, was murdered on Oct. 22, 2018, by a man she briefly dated on the University of Utah campus. We must all take actions to ensure that this never happens again."