U of Utah Admits ‘Shortcomings’ in Murder of Student

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The University of Utah has admitted to “shortcomings” in the death of Zhifan Dong, a first-year student from China allegedly killed by a fellow student, Haoyu Wang, on Feb. 11.

“The university acknowledges shortcomings in its response to this complex situation, including insufficient and unprofessional communications, a need for clarity in the training of housing workers and a delay in notifying university police and the Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX of indications of intimate partner violence. These immediate deficiencies have all been addressed, including corrective actions with employees,” said a university statement.

The statement added, “The detailed log of events shows that while the university’s Housing and Residential Education staff were in regular contact with and providing aid to the two international students, the university’s police and student conduct staff were not immediately notified by housing of indications of an intimate partner violence situation involving the two students, per the university’s guidelines.”

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that “employees in the dorms repeatedly mixed up the name of 19-year-old Dong and her former boyfriend, also an international student from China, in their reports. They also repeatedly called the phone number of another student with the same name as the man she was reporting, 26-year-old Haoyu Wang. And dorm staff waited weeks to relay her concerns to campus police, not making the call until after she had been reported missing, with her roommate saying she had not seen Dong for about 10 days.”

The University of Utah agreed in 2020 to pay $13.5 million to the family of Lauren McCluskey, a track athlete who was killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend in 2018, as part of a legal settlement, which acknowledges that McCluskey’s murder was “preventable” due to her repeated attempts to notify university officials that she was being stalked and extorted.

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