SP2 student commits suicide over winter break


Alice Wiley's death is one of three suicides since the end of last semester




School of Social Policy & Practice student Alice Wiley committed suicide in late December over winter break. She was 26.

Her death is one of three suicides since the end of last semester, and it is the second graduate student suicide in less than a year. College sophomore Elvis Hatcher’s death was ruled a suicide in early February. College freshman Madison Holleran committed suicide in late January. Graduate School of Education student Wendy Shungok committed suicide in August of 2013.

Philadelphia Magazine first reported on Friday that an SP2 student committed suicide over winter break.

Wiley, a native of Georgia, was a student in the Master’s of Social Work at SP2. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Mercer University in 2009.

Although the Georgia Medical Examiner’s Office has made no official ruling as to Wiley’s cause of death, SP2 was informed by her family that her death was a suicide.

An email sent to SP2 students on Jan. 15 informed them of Wiley’s death and that the University would be holding a memorial service for her. The email did not mention her cause of death at the time out of respect for her family.

At the memorial service, SP2 Dean of Students Lina Hartocollis read aloud a letter from Wiley’s mother. Dean of SP2 Richard Gelles , who declined to identify the student, said that the letter “detailed the circumstances” surrounding the student’s death.

After the memorial service, Gelles said that SP2 “set up a grief counseling with one of our clinical faculty and two of our clinical staff.” A follow up session will be held shortly, Hartocollis said.

A second email sent by Hartocollis to SP2 faculty said that after the memorial, “we followed the family’s wishes and talked candidly about the cause of death, which was suicide.”

Hartocollis’ email also said that if faculty thought students were distressed, they should use their judgment in “checking-in with individual students, raising the issue in class and/or referring students to me or to Jennifer Jones” — the associate dean of student services .

The University declined to comment further than what was contained in Hartocollis’ email. A member of Wiley’s family declined to comment at this time.

Gelles said that it was “devastating” when the school first learned of the student’s death.

“The first reaction [was] shock,” he said. “The second reaction [was] what could I have done” to prevent what happened, he added.

Staff writers Melissa Lawford and Cosette Gastelu contributed reporting. Anyone wishing to contribute comments should email City News Editor Harry Cooperman at cooperman@thedp.com.

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