Photo courtesy of Marlon C. Lynch

University of Utah selects public safety head from NYU to oversee campus safety

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Updated - Dec. 19, 2019 at 4:46 p.m. | Posted - Dec. 19, 2019 at 12:56 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — One of the heads of public safety at New York University will become the University of Utah’s first chief safety officer.

Marlon C. Lynch has accepted the U.’s offer and will begin his new job in February, the college announced Thursday.

“We are delighted to have a leader in campus safety joining the U.,” President Ruth Watkins said in a prepared statement. “Marlon brings years of experience, knowledge and insights to this role on our campus. His record of success will accelerate our efforts to strengthen a culture of safety at the U.”

The position of chief safety officer is different than police chief, a position still open since embattled Chief Dale Brophy retired in October. One of Lynch’s duties will be to help pick a new campus police chief.

The University Department of Public Safety and campus security overall came under heavy scrutiny following the shooting death of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey on campus in October 2018. McCluskey’s parents filed a $56 million lawsuit against the university alleging campus police ignored their daughter’s repeated calls and reports of stalking, intimidation, and dating violence from 37-year-old Melvin Shawn Rowland. McCluskey stopped seeing Rowland after she learned he had lied to her about his age and had spent time in the Utah State Prison. But Rowland continued to contact her.

One of the recommendations that came from a task force assigned to investigate how campus police handled the McCluskey case was for the university to hire someone to oversee all campus safety initiatives.

University spokesman Chris Nelson said managing campus police will be just one part of Lynch’s job. He will also oversee and coordinate other aspects on campus safety, such as safety for the university’s health care system, athletics, cultural events on campus, and all aspects of student safety, including student housing. In addition, he will work closely with the school’s administration to work on lab and research safety, Nelson said.

Nelson described Lynch’s position as someone looking from far above at the overall safety picture at the university. It’s a position that several colleges have created in recent years, including Virginia Tech, Nelson said, where 33 people were killed in a mass shooting in 2007.

According to the press release, Lynch acknowledges there is “much work to do to rebuild and repair campus relationships.”

“This is a positive-impact opportunity and there is support from President Watkins to make the changes necessary,” Lynch said in a prepared statement. “My thought processes will be inclusive. Trust is something that is earned. Trust will come from our inclusive interactions with the community and encouraging them to be actively involved in the initiatives and changes that will take place.”

More than 80 people applied to become the university’s first chief safety officer. That list was whittled down to 13 men and three women, Nelson said, and then four finalists were invited to campus for meetings, interviews and public forums with students, staff and faculty.

Lynch is currently the senior vice president for campus services and safety at New York University. He previously served as police chief at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

He was also the associate vice president for safety and security and civic affairs at the University of Chicago, where he oversaw the police department and other security systems.

The University of Utah press release stated that Lynch “oversaw and coordinated large-scale events that involved controversial speakers, high-profile dignitaries and athletics” while in New York and Chicago.

Lynch began his law enforcement career with the Meridian Township Police Department in Okemos, Michigan, and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy.

Lynch will paid $300,000 a year and will report to the university’s chief financial officer.

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