Rutgers University had an official day of mourning on Friday for Tyler Clementi according to CBS News. Clementi was a freshman student who committed suicide after a sexual encounter was video recorded and then posted to the Internet. Middlesex County prosecutors allege that Clementi’s roommate and another student surreptitiously transmitted images of Clementi’s encounter and have been charged with invasion of privacy. Rutgers University held vigils, gatherings, and students are wearing black while leaving mementos at a memorial. The football team held a moment of silence before its game versus Tulane on Saturday.
Many people allege that Clementi would not have been video recorded had his encounter been with a female instead of another man. This high profile suicide that took a young man’s life is just one in a string of suicides that have pervaded college campuses recently. While any death is tragic, these three cases stand out for their unusual circumstances.
New York University
New York University has a 12-story library and many tall buildings at its campus in one of the largest cities in the world. In 2003, two students within a month of each other leapt off of a balcony on the higher floors of the library to their deaths according to the New York Times.
Extra security guards were posted around the building and barriers were constructed to prevent any further suicide attempts. New York University tried to downplay the deaths even though many students said they were concerned about the two deaths.
M.I.T. and Elizabeth Shin
In April of 2000, Elizabeth Shin took her own life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology according to the New York Times. What was so shocking about her tragic death was that there were warning signs beforehand that her family wasn’t informed of and her cause of death.
A day before her fateful suicide, Shin’s family came for a visit that seemed normal enough. A day later, Elizabeth Shin set herself on fire. Only later did her family find out that it was her second suicide attempt and that a campus psychiatrist considered hospitalizing Shin. Her parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against M.I.T. but lost.
Earlier in 2010, Cornell University in upstate New York suffered three suicides in less than a month in February and March. All three deaths were males who jumped off of some of the bridges around campus that traverse deep gorges in Ithaca, New York.
In response to the deaths, university officials set up a website for students to read should they feel suicidal. Emails were also sent to students after the high-profile deaths. Amazingly these three suicides were after three others already in the spring 2010 semester according to a report in the New York Times.
College can be a scary place and also full of pressure for students to excel. Whether parents instill a need for a good education or the students themselves feel too much stress, no amount of any education is worth a human life.
Colleges and universities already know that suicides on campus happen. Help is always a phone call or email away if you feel you are suffering and no one should be alone in their feelings of suicide. College campuses can no longer ignore this ongoing problem. Hopefully progressive-thinking colleges will have outreach programs for each new student as they enter college as to what help can be provided if they are having thoughts of suicide.
The following sources provided information for this article
CBS News; Edicio Martinez; “Tyler Clementi Suicide:Emotions run high at Rutgers after teen’s death”
New York Times ; Deborah Sontag; “Who Was Responsible for Elizabeth Shin?”