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Editorial | TMS calls on administration to address recent student deaths

Published: Friday, November 22, 2013

Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013 01:11

As parents, siblings, best friends, classmates and professors, it’s never an easy process to say goodbye to someone who has made a lifelong impression on your life.

Within the last 12 months at Miami, we have had to endure this painful goodbye to our peers far too many times, and it isn’t getting any easier.

In regards to the recent death of sophomore Jaclyn Wulf, those of us on The Miami Student Editorial Board send our thoughts and condolences to her family, friends and those close to her. The board encourages those affected by Wulf’s passing to contact the university’s emotional support services at 513-529-2222 and to reach out to friends and family. Wulf’s death marks the fifth Miami student to pass away in 12 months, three of which died this semester. Writing about death is hard for any journalist, but it’s been particularly difficult for us as students when the people whose stories we are writing are our fellow classmates and peers.

We are saddened and weary. This has to stop. How can we, as students and the Miami community, work to prevent further students from getting hurt?

It’s scary to think these deaths may have been preventable. Especially if they involve outside factors including alcohol, drugs and prescription pills.

Of the five students who have died, three have been substance-related. Last December, junior Andy Supronas died of a substance overdose and first-year Nicole Sefton was found to have been drinking before she died in a car crash last January. This semester, the Miami community suffered the loss of Sean VanDyne, who died in a fatal car crash, killing one UC student and though we don’t know the results of his toxicity report, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office suspects he had alcohol in his system.

The other two deaths this semester include Jacob Jarman, who was hit by a train, whose cause of death has yet to be determined. Both Jarman and Wulf’s cases are undergoing toxicity tests. It’s a tough dose of news to swallow, but these three incidences are examples, a wake-up call. We students need to do a better job of having each others’ backs.

Walking friends home, picking them up from a party when we know they can’t drive—these small acts could possibly prevent the unknown and unthinkable. Ask your friends and classmates about their day and what they have going on in their lives. You never truly know if something serious is going on if you don’t provide them a platform to tell you.

Even if you didn’t know any of these students, you have more in common with than you think. They all went out on the weekends just like us, thrived in student organizations, crammed for exams, laughed with their best friends over coffee at King and worked toward their goal of graduating.

These deaths are not just numbers. We cannot let them become nothing but news clippings that fade away with time within the archives. We have to let them affect us, to remind us that something needs to be done.

Right now, we need to hear from our university administration, and preferably something longer than 140 characters. These circumstances can no longer be ignored. No matter how many talented PR strategists are employed at Miami spreading images of safety, awareness and a student body that helps each other, they cannot cover the fact that there are reoccurring issues within the student body involving alcohol and substance abuse at alarming rates.

The board believes the loss of five students in 12 months is five too many. We expect the university to answer these issues with better solutions.

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2 comments Log in to Comment

ddowdle
Sat Nov 23 2013 13:23
Thank you, kspicer, for one of the best responses I've seen to such a call for action. No amount of investment of people, time and resources by an administration -- and Miami, as with other universities, has and will continue to invest in 24/7 counseling, caring staff, full time psychiatry, education programs for parents and students, and more -- can be effective without students taking care of each other, intervening, accepting responsibility and connecting with those who might be in trouble. Many Miami parents have shared wonderful stories of such student intervention, and I'm grateful to have a son who has also helped someone. Changing a culture must happen from the ground up, not the top down, by people who are there. The University is working on new initiatives we hope will help such grass roots efforts, and thoughtful comments such as this also help, but it starts with the students.
kspicer
Fri Nov 22 2013 09:24
As a Miami alum, I remember all too well the philosophy of study hard, play hard, or, for some, play harder. However, when your editorial board looks to the administration of your university to solve the tragedies of substance related deaths, you overlook the fact that your administration, for years, has been researching, educating, planning, wondering, worrying, pleading about the dangers of binge drinking and substance use and abuse. Programs, policies, educational literature, reaching out to student leaders, (and the list goes on) show their attempts to recognize and CHANGE this culture. Obviously, this has not been the answer. But, for that do not blame the administration. How about doing the responsible thing, editorial board, and continue to call out your peers for their behavior? How about educating your readership about these dangers, with hard statistics from this and other campuses, and how about not making the police beat read like the script of a comedy skit? Binge drinking is really NOT funny, when the possible end result is the loss of life, yet week after week I am appalled that you have turned the police beat into an attempt to use as many humorous turns of phrase as possible when describing drunken behavior. You are speaking out of both sides of your collective mouths, editorial board. So, when calling out your administration to DO something, SAY something that will change the culture or the end result of this problem, please first stop and think about calling out yourselves and your peers to treat binge drinking as the threat that it is. I am all for having a good time, but the culture must change to focus less on the peer pressure to maximize the amount of alcohol one can possibly consume, to a culture where peers pressure one another to protect the collective well-being of their fellow students. Miami has always been a leader among its peer institutions. It is time for the student body to show they can lead campus culture to a new standard. Only the STUDENTS can make that happen. Thank you, editorial board, for bringing this serious issue to the table, once again and for starting that important conversation about looking out for one another. I challenge you to continue to find ways to use these tragedies to encourage your peers to be part of a movement to promote responsibility. Do it for your fellow students who have been lost. Do it for your fellow students you don't want to continue to lose. Do it for your generation. I deeply, deeply care about my alma mater, and its community members, past and present. My thoughts and prayers are always with my Miami family, and never more so than now, when so many are hurting from senseless, preventable loss.

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