Over 40 students gathered in Houston Hall for a support meeting led by Penn administrators Monday afternoon following the sudden death of College student Amanda Hu the night before.
“It’s a sad season here,” University Chaplain Charles Howard said. “It’s important to pull together.”
Hu, who was taking a voluntary leave of absence from the University, died in her second-story bedroom on the 4000 block of Sansom Street late Sunday night. As of Monday afternoon, the cause of death was pending investigation, Philadelphia Medical Examiner spokesperson Jeff Moran said. He deferred further comment to the Philadelphia Police.
So far, Philadelphia Police have declined to comment on a cause of death and are still investigating the incident. However, there is no sign of foul play, University spokesperson Steve MacCarthy said in a statement Monday morning.
The police report said that there were two letters left on Hu’s desk, one to her family and one to her mental health doctor at Penn. The letters “appeared to be suicide notes,” according to the police report.
Most of Monday’s support meeting focused on resources for students grieving Hu’s death. University staff members from Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Intervention Services and the Office of Student Affairs, encouraged students to reach out to them or to one another to help deal with their grief.
Sharon Smith, the director of Student Intervention Services, said all students should have received emails from their schools about the death. But as students were filing out, Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum motioned for students to stop and said that not all students received an email notice. Hu’s home school, the College of Arts and Sciences, has not sent an all-school email, although the Wharton School and the School of Nursing had sent emails to their undergraduate students by early afternoon.
The decision to host a memorial on campus will be left up to Hu’s family and friends.
Hu, 20, grew up in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., and had been involved in Penn Model Congress, Penn for Youth Debate and Penn Science Across Ages. In a 2012 article naming her one of 10 “Seniors of the Year,” Hu told The Charlotte Observer that she was interested in developing cancer cures by thinking of the disease as a “puzzle.” At Penn, Hu worked in a biochemistry lab.
“Every time scientists come up with a novel idea or fact, [the puzzle] changes,” she said to the Observer. “I think because cancer is a disease that is able to adapt, we have to constantly think of ways to attack it.”
If Hu’s death is ruled a suicide, it will be Penn’s sixth student suicide since August 2013. Last semester’s round of student deaths led Penn President Amy Gutmann to form a mental health task force, which will present its ideas to students in the coming weeks. The task force’s final report is expected in early 2015.
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