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Utah announces ‘listening session’ after ESPN documentary airs



The University of Utah plans to hold a series of “listening sessions” about the 2018 murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey in response to ESPN’s upcoming documentary, “LISTEN,” the school announced Friday.

The documentary examines the institutional failures that led to McCluskey’s death.

“Being transparent and accountable is the only way forward,” university President Taylor Randall said in a statement Friday. “We have learned from that tragic event and are applying those hard-earned lessons in an effort to continuously improve and set a national standard for safety practices at a public university.”

McCluskey, a member of the school’s track and field team, was shot and killed in 2018 by a man she had briefly dated, Melvin Shawn Rowland, who had lied about his identity. After McCluskey discovered he was a convicted sex offender, she broke up with him and repeatedly sought help from campus police as he stalked and harassed her. Investigations by the state and the school revealed a number of failures by campus police and housing officials.

ESPN investigated the circumstances of McCluskey’s death for four years and will share findings in multiple ways next week. “LISTEN” will premiere at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN+ and ESPN+ on Hulu, and an accompanying written story will post on the ESPN app and website earlier in the day. ABC’s “20/20” also will cover McCluskey’s death in its two-hour program at 9 p.m. March 31.

The school did not provide any officials for an on-camera or on-the-record interview for the four-year ESPN investigation but issued a statement earlier this year that said, “The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation. As a result, we failed Lauren and her family. If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren.”

The school’s announcement Friday followed the release of the “LISTEN” trailer this week.

The school’s statement Friday noted its repaired relationship with Lauren’s parents, Jill and Matt, who sued the university and ultimately agreed to a $13.5 million settlement in 2020. The McCluskeys have worked with university officials on a series of initiatives since then.

“University leaders, in partnership with the McCluskey family, are dedicated to making certain her death was not in vain. Lauren’s death forced the university to reckon with systemic training, process and management issues in its police department, siloed campus operations and incomplete employee training and communication, particularly around the issue of intimate partner violence. It also highlighted gaps in collaboration between University Police, the Utah Department of Corrections and Adult Probation & Parole,” the statement said.


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