Death of University of Utah Student Starts Dialogue on Campus Safety and Domestic Violence

On Oct. 22, 2018, twenty-one-year-old, Lauren McCluskey, was fatally shot by her ex-boyfriend, Melvin Rowland in a University of Utah parking structure.

McCluskey had reported to both Salt Lake City police and campus police numerous times that she had felt unsafe. In a batch of now released phone transcripts between her and SLCP McCluskey expressed concern on at least two occasions where she felt her case was not being properly attended to by the campus police. 

McCluskey was a track star for her school, a senior communications major with a 3.75 GPA, and most importantly a teammate, a sister, a daughter, and a friend to many. Her mother, Jill McCluskey, said, “She loved to sing, and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.”

McCluskey met Michael Rowland, who went under the pseudonym, Shawn at a local club where he worked as a bouncer. Rowland would introduce himself as a 28-year-old community college student studying computer science.

A Toxic Relationship that Ultimately Turned Deadly

Rowland began sleeping over nearly every night in McCluskey’s small student apartment and became increasingly controlling. On several occasions, McCluskey was told what clothes to wear and was dissuaded from going to friends’ parties where other men would be around. Not even 2 months into the relationship, McCluskey broke it off.

Everything was a Lie

Rowland lied about his name, his age, and his criminal record. Shawn was actually Michael Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender who previously did nearly 10 years in prison for his crimes. 

Rowland began texting McCluskey after the break up from unknown numbers pretending to be his friends and would then guilt her for ending things. Rowland told McCluskey on one incident over text message that he had killed himself and it was her fault.

Rowland threatened to expose a comprehensive picture of the two if she did not give him 1,000 dollars; McCluskey complied. Throughout the incidents, McCluskey was in contact with police who dismissed and belittled her case.

On October 22, 2018, while McCluskey was on the phone with her parents returning from class, Rowland forcibly pushed her into a car that he drove to campus and fatally shot her several times. After the murder, Rowland went on a date with a woman he met off of a dating app. Shortly after the date Rowland killed himself in a local church. 

The Need for Conversation 

McCluskey’s death opened dialogue surrounding prevention, domestic violence, and campus safety.

According to the Community & Media Relations Specialist of UPD, Raquel Herriott, SDSU’s reporting protocol is dense, “San Diego State University Police Department (UPD) responds to the call, interviews all parties involved, and enforces the law to best protect the victim/survivor.” 

“If the victim/survivor has sustained any visible or non-visible injuries, UPD  prioritizes medical attention for the impacted persons. Additionally, UPD facilitates resources to the victim/survivor. This can include informational handouts, access to a victims’ rights advocate, information about shelters and community resources, provide transportation to the victim/survivor to a shelter if needed, and provide the victim/survivor an emergency order or guide them in gaining a restraining order when appropriate.”

Raquel Herriott

Herriott highlights that officers are required to go through domestic violence training and that resources to students include access to Title IX Coordinator, Jessica Rentto. 

There is a requirement for all incoming students to participate in the sexual violence prevention and awareness training: Let’s Talk.

According to the 2018 SDSU Annual Security Report there were at least 7 cases of reported domestic violence in 2017, but Herriott described a new pattern, “0 domestic violence cases since January 1, 2019”

Not all students are so trusting with UPD, current SDSU fifth year Jenny C., who did not want her name publically disclosed, said, a man climbed onto her balcony and stared into her apartment at four in the morning. “Since we were not technically considered on-campus housing, UPD said they would not help. I ended up calling SDPD and they came to arrest the man. That experience definitely left a bad taste in my mouth regarding campus PD.” 

Not every police department is perfect and there is always room for improvement, “We continuously strive to build better relationships with the community we serve by establishing trust. This is a unique challenge because students come and go each year. However, we are persistent in community outreach and understand that students are more likely to report information to us once they are familiar with us and believe that we care,” says Herriott. 

“This is the sad reality of survivors not being believed.”


Elizbeth Islas, Coordinator of Equity & Inclusion at the Women’s Resource

The Women’s Resource Center acts as a bridge between the campus and the greater San Diego community. According to Islas, the WRC offers a safe place for victims to find support, “I’ve helped multiple students in crisis. Nine out of ten times it’s folks who have survived sexual violence.”

“We can sit down, listen and connect them resources like Title IX, the Economic Crisis Response Team, physiological resources, or campus police. Listening to them, believing them, and giving them the autonomy to choose what to do after they disclose is key,” Islas said. 

The WRC works with campus police, especially in regards to their training on sexual violence, but it may not be the first option deeply communicated with those that feel failed by the system. 

“I’m talking about the system failing survivors in terms of systems of oppression. It’s thinking about how different systems that are so deeply a part of society perpetuate injustice and what that looks like for people that are marginalized: women, non-binary, people of color, LGBTQ+ community, and undocumented. These are all important factors to keep in mind when discussing resources,” Islas said.

Resources do not fall short at the WRC explains Islas, “We are here to serve students and we host a weekly support group called Rise every Thursday to 12:30-1:45 PM at the WRC library. It’s confidential, led by psychological services and is open to all survivors of interpersonal violence.” 

Some students express concern for SDSU’s vulnerability to a similar situation occurring on campus. Senior psychology student Isabella Luna is one of those students, “sometimes I feel underrepresented and unheard in general about crimes against women. Specifically, we have an open-campus and are home to over 30,000 students. There are so many possibilities that could happen.”

Not every message clearly reaches students and there could be improvements, “I would like to see for-credit courses surrounding topics of domestic violence, seminars, and more self-defense classes.” says Luna, “I know that SDSU advertises surveys about campus safety and trainings that they encourage people to take. I feel like it’s really only glossed over and people don’t think about it until it happens to them or a person that they know.”

Written by: Ali Goldberg

OPINION: Civil Disobedience Is The Way to Combat Climate Change

Humans have never faced a more universalizing threat to our existence than the effects of climate change; civil disobedience is the answer to this madness.

While the climate warms with every year we are alive, we are left to wonder: what can we do to prevent this human-caused apocalypse from happening?

Most people talk about recycling, going vegan, and using sustainable products to help lower the individual carbon footprints humans leave. The problem with this is that individual people aren’t the main causes of climate change. For example, the ban on plastic straws was a great step to help cut out the amount of waste by getting rid of an unnecessary product people use every day. However, according to a Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment article, plastic straws only account for less than one percent of the waste in the ocean. The article quotes Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, who said,

“The risk is that banning straws may confer ‘moral license’ – allowing companies and their customers to feel they have done their part. The crucial challenge is to ensure that these bans are just a first step, offering a natural place to start with low-hanging fruit.” 

While he is correct that this is a valuable first step, we cannot be satisfied with this step. According to the article, plastics will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050 if we continue our current trends of waste. 

While our wasteful nature as humans should definitely be factored into how we should approach fighting climate change, the biggest thing that we should concentrate on in the climate change debate is our carbon emissions.

Carbon Dioxide is a gas that traps heat and is reradiated from Earth’s surface into our own atmosphere. This process is commonly known as the greenhouse effect and is crucial to Earth’s survival as it helps balance our temperature to an optimal level. However, like everything in life, moderation is key. When there is too much carbon in the atmosphere, more heat is absorbed from Earth’s reradiated heat and the planet warms.

Now, according to a LA Times article, there are approximately 253 million cars on the road in the United States in 2014. At the same time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the average car produces 4.6 metric tons of CO2 emissions every year. If you do the math it comes out to about a number slightly bigger than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 produced every year by American drivers. While this number is very staggering to look at, it pales in comparison to the 480 billion tons of CO2 that has been put into the air since 1965 from 20 of the top fossil fuel companies. This is the equivalent of 35 percent of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the last 54 years. While American drivers are responsible for a large chunk of carbon emissions, these fossil fuel companies take the cake for who are biggest emitters overall.

Source: The Hill

This is where civil disobedience comes into play.

According to Joseph R. Desjardins in, Environmental Ethics An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy,

“Civil Disobedience is the intentional refusal to obey a law on moral grounds as means of protesting or thwarting government policy. As a form of protest, civil disobedience often but not always protests the very law that one disobeys.” 

In this case, people shouldn’t protest because of a certain law that hinders progress; rather, protests should be about the lack of laws regarding carbon emission.

Last month a group of scientists at a protest in England stated that they endorse civil disobedience in an attempt to make governments take action against climate change because not doing so would result in “incalculable human suffering.” The 400 scientists that were in attendance at this protest have aligned themselves with a group called Extinction Rebellion, a British Civil Disobedience group. After this protest, nearly 3000 people across the world were arrested for doing peaceful protests later that day.

Source: The Guardian

In the end, major action needs to take place in order for our world to hopefully reverse the effects of climate change. While focusing on your own carbon footprint is a great way to start lowering emissions, we know who is really behind this ecological disaster. Mass protests and civil disobedience may be the only way to save the planet from becoming unlivable to most species on Earth, including our own.

Written by: Tom Derig

OPINION: What you need to know about U.S. Troops withdrawal from Syria

Trump ordered American troops out of Northern Syria who worked alongside the Kurd-led Syrian group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

This is an action that paved the way for Turkey to attempt to wipe out the Kurds in Syria who have allied with the U.S. in the war against terrorism, specifically with ISIS.

The Kurds were originally promised their own homeland in the agreement established in the Treaty of Sèvres after World War I, but then a following agreement spread them throughout Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. In Turkey , Kurds are oppressed and are seen as a threat.

What happened since Trump called out U.S. soldiers? 

First, Turkey covered 125 miles in the North East of Syria. The invasion alone displaced at least 130,000 people and have a reported 100 civilian casualties; thus, prompting the Kurds to reach out to Russia and Syria for help due to the area’s airstrikes and lack of resources.

The Kurds now had to fight a Turkish invasion on one end and prevent fleeing ISIS prisoners on the other. In fact, because of the removal of American troops, ISIS families and supporters northeastern Syria had escaped from a detention center.

Trump’s “America First” foreign policy mentality has received critical comments from scholars, Republicans, Democrats, and even the military themselves. Retired Gen. Joseph Votel, former head of U.S. Central Command, said,

“abandonment threatens to undo five years’ worth of fighting against ISIS and will severely damage American credibility and reliability.” 

Taking it a step further, it was even announced in a nonbinding resolution that the House voted 354 to 60 in opposition to Trump’s decision. Putting it into perspective, this is over two-thirds of the House and includes many high-profile Republicans.

Supporters for the decision, like those at recent Trump rallies, draw on Trump’s campaign promise to bring the troops back home and an overall agreement of less U.S. involvement in the Middle East. However, looks can be deceiving as it has been known that troops have not been sent home, but are rather just dispersed throughout the region. 

As of October of 2019, officials have been meeting to come to agreements but the area is still at war and is considered to be a humanitarian crisis. 

Even thousands of miles away Trump’s decision impacts the world today.

Knowing this, I turned to the San Diego State University community to get some more opinions on the matter. 

Professor Allen Greb, an International Relations professor, said,

“This undermines U.S. credibility. No one will join us if we are just going to abandon treaties. This decision did not make sense and was not oversought by professionals, it’s as if it was as personal as a real estate deal.”

Greb said Trump pulling American troops is detrimental, “the area is much less stable and safe now. By abandoning our trusted partner in the fight against ISIS we have made Russia, Turkey, and Iran main players in the Middle East.” 

Taking America out of the mix as a major player in the Middle East has let autocratic regimes have more influence. Good or bad, one thing is for sure, humanitarian needs have drastically declined in the short time since the U.S. pulled out.

SDSU graduate student, Patricia Abella, said she had an overall shock about the whole situation calling it disappointing and a shame.

“This doesn’t seem diplomatic, which is not one of Trump’s strong suits. It concerns me how unsupported this decision was and there will surely be consequences from it.”

Tom Derig, Geography major, said he is embarrassed about the move out from Syria.

“We now have turned our backs on our allies that helped us beat them [ISIS]. The biggest shock to me is that the United States military took a stand and actually disagreed with Trump’s plan,” Derig said. 

Personally, the decision by Trump to pull out troops from Syria is not only misleading but also foolish. Our troops are not being sent home and our relations with the Middle East just became way more complicated. America looks unreliable and unstable to our allies and to the overall international community.

Ten steps back or 10 steps forward? Well, that’s up to you but what we can tell is that the crisis in the Middle East is not getting solved anytime soon.

Written by Ali Goldberg

OPINION: Students Should Pay Attention to Impeachment Inquiry

Impeachment is more popular than ever in this country, especially among college students. A recent study done by Collegereaction.com, found that nearly 76% of college students across the country support impeachment. 

Donald Trump has been a businessman far longer than most college students have been alive, and not many know much about his life pre-presidency. Yet college students have seen what he has done as President and have formulated their opinions about him from his first term in office. 

After 3 years and numerous scandals later involving the President’s taxes, an illegal payment of a pornstar, and Muller Report. More recently the nation is seeing a new scandal unfold involving his withholding of foreign aid to Ukraine unless they investigated the Biden family.  

In nearly every new poll that gets released, Donald Trump’s approval rating has been slowly decreasing since the beginning of his presidency. For example, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Donald Trump Tracker, Trump’s average approval rating across most major polls has dropped to 40 percent overall. The latest scandal with Ukraine has not only lowered Trump’s approval ratings by about 3 percent but also has people talking about the subject of impeachment.

On Oct. 31, the House voted for the impeachment proceedings and it seems many people share a collective misconception surrounding impeachment. The idea that once the President is impeached someone new will take over as President is not the entire case.

Impeachment refers to charging a high-ranking government member with misconduct and begin removing them from office. 

After impeachment is voted on in the House, assuming it is passed by majority, the next step is a trial in the Senate which needs a two-thirds majority to convict the President. 

The President isn’t the only official that can be impeached, other members of the Government have been impeached, but most of them have been federal judges. Impeachment is not a quick process and will take time for articles of impeachment to be drafted, and even longer to decide if he will be convicted of his crimes in the Senate. 

Donald Trump is being backed into a corner by this impeachment talk. On one hand, he needs to fight off this impeachment subject for as long as possible so that he can campaign for his re-election in 2020, but at the same time the longer impeachment is talked about, the lower his approval ratings will fall due to more facts coming out about his involvement to Ukraine.

On the night of Nov. 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and the course of American life would be dramatically shifted seemingly overnight. For the people that voted for him, there was rejoice, they had found an answer to the problems they were facing in their daily lives. They loved how he spoke freely and wasn’t afraid to challenge the political establishment. His claims of draining the swamp of Washington and returning jobs to the working-class Americans resonated with many people who hadn’t seen much change under Obama.

Yet, at the same time, there were many who felt that the election of Donald Trump would be disastrous to the social fabric of this country and immediately thought the election of this President would tear the country apart.

One area that people feared Trump would especially damage was race and race relations.

Senior Electrical Engineering Major Alex Martinez said,

“I believe Donald Trump has not improved race relationships but rather has damaged ally relationships. I think the approach and beliefs of his ideas towards some of the race relationship issues contradicts with not only the natural rights of human beings, but as well as the foundation previous governments have paved for him.”

One way you can see the immediate effects of Donald Trump’s election is the increase in attendance of HBCU’s due to tensions between white students and students of color. They have sought to find a “safe haven” from white supremacist propaganda and hate incidents that have become an alarming and increasing trend across college campuses. San Diego State is not immune to these hateful incidences such as the one that occurred early in the fall semester. 

Though there is no correlation to Donald Trump’s presidency to the rise of hateful incidences, in the last 4 years there has been a rise in the number of hate groups throughout the United States. 

While the results of Trump’s Presidency are still being debated, one thing is for certain, college students of all political demographics are beginning to turn against the President and his ideals. With the General Election almost a year away, Trump must find a way to connect with college voters or else he will have a problem swaying the younger vote in 2020. 

Written by: Tom Derig