O n Sunday , the Penn community was struck with another tragedy. Amanda Hu, a College student, died by suicide.
Hu’s death marks the 14th Penn student death since 2013, and the eighth student death to be made public this year.
Two days after the incident, Penn President Amy Gutmann issued an email reminding the Penn community of the resources available on campus and encouraging students and faculty to look out for one another.
We recognize that Penn administrators are making themselves available as resources, and we appreciate President Gutmann’s initiative in raising campus-wide awareness. But her message to the University was ultimately insufficient.
Nowhere did the official email actually recognize that a member of our community had died. Various groups on campus had already taken it upon themselves to email their constituencies, but there was no acknowledgement to ensure that everyone at Penn was aware of the situation, let alone to express any compassion or personal impact on behalf of members of the administration.
Neither was there a University-wide email to announce the Monday gathering that would be held in Hu’s memory. The event in Houston Hall provided a place for grieving students to comfort one another, and administrators from various counseling offices at Penn spoke about how students could find the support they needed during this tragic time. Because the administration did not issue an official notification, however, it is possible that students who would have wanted to attend missed their opportunity.
Instead, communication was inconsistent between Penn’s separate schools. Director of Student Intervention Services Sharon Smith said at the memorial service that all students should have received an email regarding Hu’s death, but Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum needed to correct her, as emails had not been sent out to the entire Penn community at that time. An email had been sent to students in Wharton and Nursing on Monday to alert them of Hu’s death, but no email had been sent to students in Engineering or even the College, of which Hu was a member.
We as Penn students are confident that we are surrounded by people who can and want to help us. Penn indeed h as numerous resources — from Counseling and Psychological Services to the Office of the Chaplain — that are available to those in need. But the fact that administrators are not themselves sure who has been contacted is a problem, and it is emblematic of our administration’s general lack of communication with the rest of the University.
As a hub for university management and life, it falls on the administration to ensure that serious news is disseminated broadly and thoroughly, rather than leaving it to individual student groups and word of mouth. Failing to do so is not only ineffective, but also disrespectful to members of the Penn community who are personally affected by our campus’ loss.
This is not the first time that the administration has faltered in its attempt to communicate in dire times. One would expect a school such as Penn to have a more reliable system in the event of student deaths, especially after the unthinkable number of incidents from this past year. This should not be an issue anymore; it should never have been an issue to begin with.
Events such as these remind us all of the importance of reaching out. The administration, too, must do its part by continuing to improve its ability to reach out to students in both word and deed.Comments powered by Disqus
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