This case study seeks to analyze the communication methods the University of Utah used to rebuild campus-wide trust and convey that safety is a top priority after the murder of Lauren McCluskey. Other institutions will ideally use this research to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their safety crisis communication.
On Oct. 22, 2018, Lauren McCluskey, a senior student-athlete and communications major at the University of Utah, was murdered on campus by a former boyfriend, Melvin Shawn Rowland. Her murder sent a shock nationwide. How could something so tragic happen on a seemingly safe college campus? Outrage followed the shock when the news spread that McCluskey had repeatedly contacted campus police and other university resources, informing them of the situation and the fact that she did not feel safe.
Following the event, the university began its crisis communication response. President Ruth V. Watkins wrote a letter to the campus community on Oct. 23, expressing tremendous sadness over the loss of McCluskey. On the same day, the university communications team released a follow-up letter with campus safety resources and details on a vigil to honor McCluskey.