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University of Utah and Zhifan Dong’s family announce $5 million settlement

The University of Utah and the parents of Zhifan Dong today announced a settlement, pending legislative approval, that honors her memory and resolves any outstanding legal claims against the university. A copy of the settlement is available here.

Dong, a first-year student from China was allegedly killed by fellow student Haoyu Wang on Feb. 11, 2022, at a downtown Salt Lake City hotel. Wang is currently incarcerated awaiting trial on murder charges in the case.

Zhifan Dong and family

The settlement includes a $5 million payment to the family and an agreement between the university and family to establish a memorial on campus in Dong’s memory. The settlement will not include any state appropriations or funds from student tuition.

“Our campus continues to mourn the death of Zhifan Dong,” said University of Utah President Taylor Randall. “Today’s settlement demonstrates our seriousness in honoring Zhifan Dong and reaffirming our commitment to the ongoing work of addressing all aspects of student safety.”

“Her murder is a reminder that intimate partner violence is a societal problem that transcends borders and cultures, and manifests in many ways,” Randall added. “No one should have to endure the loss of a child to violence and our university will remain diligent, continue to improve, and advance the health and well-being of our students.”

In July 2022, the university released the results of an exhaustive review of how its Housing and Residential Education team, Utah Global office and public safety department handled the days and weeks leading up to Dong’s murder. A link to the review may be found here.

“The Dong Family is grateful to close this chapter of their journey for justice for their daughter,” said Brian C. Stewart of the law firm of Parker & McConkie, attorneys for the Dong family. “They sincerely hope that Zhifan’s memory will inspire others to help prevent intimate partner violence and save lives on campus and in all our communities.”  A statement from the Dong family is available on Parker & McConkie’s website here.

The settlement has been approved by Gov. Spencer Cox and both houses of the Utah Legislature are expected to vote on a joint resolution about the settlement in the coming days. In light of the pending criminal prosecution, both parties will have no further comment, regarding the facts of the case or the settlement agreement.