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U of Utah Admits ‘Shortcomings’ in Murder of Student

July 21, 2022

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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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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