A Moral Obligation vs. A Legal Liability

Sep 27, 2019

What responsibilities did the University of Utah have to protect Lauren McCluskey from her murderer and what has been the community-wide impact of their response in the months following her death?

When University of Utah track star Lauren McCluskey was killed in 2018 by her short-term boyfriend Melvin Rowland, the community was stunned by the details of her murder. In June of this year, her parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, sued the university for $56 million on the grounds that university police ignored their daughter's multiple reports of Rowland's behavior, citing that many of his actions towards Lauren were prohibited under Title IX, and that by not reacting to Lauren's reports, the university violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. On Sept. 20, the university asked for the McCluskey's lawsuit to be dismissed on the grounds that the school does not have a legal liability in this case, stating in their filing that, “[Liability for this] would require that schools be guardians of every student’s safety from any act of relationship violence, no matter where the act arises or who perpetrates it."


  • Dr. Matthew McCluskey is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washington State University, and the father of slain University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey.
  • Gillian Friedman is an investigative reporter with the Deseret News' In-depth team. She is the author of What really happened to Lauren McCluskey? The inside story of her tragic death
  • Bill Warren is the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at the University of Utah.