Death of a student

October 2, 2010

We’ve been a sad campus these last few days: a first year student took his life on Thursday afternoon.

Even though he had only been on campus a few weeks, it’s striking how many people — especially students — had encountered him in some way. He had taken first year science classes with some, begun working on the student newspaper with others, met still others in his residence hall.

Thursday evening there was a vigil on the Heart (the center of campus) at midnight.  Friday noontime there was a gathering in Stout Meetinghouse.  (Our most Quaker building, Stout is where College Meeting for Worship is held, and it’s where we hold Faculty Meetings.)  There were tears in abundance, and a kaleidoscope of memories of this young man, voiced and unvoiced.

“Didn’t he know how much we would have helped him, if only he had asked?”  That was a question asked often.  “Why didn’t I get to know him better?”  That was another question asked by many.  “Surely I could/should have done something,” thought and said others.

His passing calls forth tears from many.  It also calls forth the best from this community.  Many students and many faculty go out of their ways to comfort and support those most in pain.  There is an extra tenderness in encounters all across the campus.

His death comes a day after a Rutgers student took his own life following (we are told) his roommate’s streaming video of a sexual encounter to the internet.  And it comes two days after a University of Texas student took a gun into the library and sprayed shots before taking his own life.  These cases bear no resemblance to our student’s passing.  Nevertheless, they send harmonic tones into the discussions around campus.

We are all reminded how fragile is life, and how sacred.  And we are all reminded that we forget these things in the rush of ordinary days.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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