OPINION: What do universities do when we lose fellow students, and is it enough?

Opinions Editor Ren Sikes spoke with students at other universities to see how colleges handle the death of a student – and if other students feel it’s enough.

Ren Sikes | Opinions Editor

TRIGGER WARNING: The following content contains references to mental health, mental illness, death and suicide. If you are suffering through mental illness please consider the following sources, and know that you are not alone. 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

CRISIS LINE Text ‘Help’ to 741741

The JED FOUNDATION: https://jedfoundation.org 

Child Mind Institute: https://childmind.org 

VISIT: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ to be connected with a trained crisis worker.

These past few weeks have been trying for all of us, and being a part of a community is growing increasingly important. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. 

As many of you know, we have lost three students in a matter of a few days, and as we continue to learn new details about these fellow students and the impact they had both on and off campus, I would like to reflect on how we as a college community can cope with such a tremendous loss. 

I did not know any of the students who have passed on personally, but some of you may have. If you are seeking support please contact counseling services at 937-229-3141 or in case of an emergency contact public safety at 937-229-2121. 

The issue we face is, how do universities handle the loss of students? Is it enough? I reached out to multiple people on other college campuses about how they have experienced the loss of students and how their university handled it. 

As we are all aware, UD will occasionally hold vigils to honor those we have lost, much like the candlelight vigil that was held on Nov. 10 last week. They also send out an email notifying the student body of the loss. We have all received those emails, and for those of us who have been at the university for a while may have seen many more. 

A friend of mine who attends Texas A&M University shared that her college performs Muster and Silver Taps as an official way to honor those they have lost. She said that it offers the student body and the family of the student some peace and provides a time for people to check on eachother. 

Losing a fellow student may not always be handled as well by some universities. A student who attends Stephen F. Austin State University told me about their experience with loss on campus and their disappointment with how it was handled by the university. According to them, there was a big spike in suicides of students who stayed on campus during Covid. 

“It makes me sad to think that things are happening and the university isn’t doing everything they can to help students,” they said. 

Another student who attends the University of North Texas told me about his experience when a student who lived in his dormitory committed suicide. 

“The RA’s sent emails giving the news but never directly saying the student killed themselves, they gave us numbers for resources on campus in case we ever need them,” he said. “I remember my RA encouraged us to talk to friends as well as make friends in the first place, and things just…kinda went on…” 

Many felt that what their university was doing wasn’t enough, and to be entirely honest, I agree. Of course the university must adhere to the wishes of the families and can only explain so much without overstepping boundaries, but at what cost? Has it become too dismissive? 

I in no way intend to criticize how any of these universities handle these tragedies, but simply wish to bring the awareness that some people feel that not enough is being done, or said about this loss. How can we as a community cope with a loss, without being dismissive of it or forgetting about it after it’s no longer “relevant” to our lives, and how do we cope when it doesn’t affect us personally? 

Loss is an inevitable occurrence, so what needs to be done to make it easier to handle and understand as a college student? 

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