California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has apologized for a student’s death 27 years after it occurred, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
In an exclusive interview with the paper, Cal Poly’s current president, Jeffrey Armstrong, said he was sorry for the way the institution responded to the disappearance of Kristin Smart, who was last seen walking back to her dorm from an off-campus party Memorial Day weekend of 1996. Her body has never been found.
Smart’s family has long criticized the university’s handling of her disappearance. They allege that campus police initially refused to take a missing person report for Smart when they were first told about her disappearance; later authorities allegedly allowed the dorm room of the then suspect, who was finally convicted of killing Smart last year, to be cleaned for the summer, likely destroying important evidence.
“There were things that we do differently now,” Armstrong, who was not president at the time, told the Tribune. “There are things that should have been done differently. And for that, I’m sorry.”
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has long denied wrongdoing. At one point, according to the Smart family, the university offered to erect a memorial to Smart only if the family absolved the institution of wrongdoing. The deal would have also allowed the university to sue if the family spoke out against the university.
The Smart family declined.
Armstrong told the Tribune that the university has been working privately with the family to rectify the situation. It is also working to ensure any similar cases are handled better in the future.