New documents released by the University of Utah indicate the school failed to respond promptly to concerns expressed by a student about her boyfriend.
Zhifan Dong died shortly after. Her boyfriend awaits trial for her murder.
“We trusted the University of Utah with our daughter’s safety, and they betrayed that trust,” her parents, Junfang Shen and Mingsheng Dong, said to BuzzFeed News in a statement. “They knew Zhifan was in serious danger but failed to protect her when she needed it the most. We do not want her death to be in vain.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the university acknowledged blame saying housing employees failed to act promptly when Dong expressed concern about her boyfriend, Haoyu Wang.
In an open letter, the University of Utah president Taylor Randall said housing staff delayed contacting police and said the university failed to train its housing staff properly. He also blamed poor internal communications.
He said changes are already being implemented to address those deficiencies and said regular audits would be conducted to weed out conduct, racism and bias incidents in university-managed housing.
“I’ve challenged university senior leaders to leave no stone unturned as we seek additional ways to enhance student safety, and I encourage all of you to do the same—every student, staff member, and faculty. We must always actively prioritize the health and well-being of the students entrusted to our care,” Randall wrote.
According to NBC, the firm representing the Dong family also represented the family of another murdered University of Utah student, Lauren McCluskey. She had called campus police 20 times before her ex-boyfriend murdered her.
The law firm succeeded in getting a multi-million dollar settlement for the McCluskey family.
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