06 February 2012

Death on campus

I was probably just getting into my office this morning when a woman was found dead near the building I work in.

The police are calling the death “questionable.”

I know nothing more than what’s here: the police are investigating, my building is closed, and classes are cancelled today. As I type this, I just saw a tweet that there is no indication that anyone else is in any danger.

I am trying to figure out how it was that I knew nothing until students started sending me text messages asking about class this morning, while I was sitting at my desk with my email open. I went first to the university’s police department website: nothing. I went to the “alerts” link to find today’s date and a directions to check the university’s home page for more details.

There were no more details on the university’s home page.

I checked Twitter. I follow my institution’s Twitter account, but for those mysterious unknown reasons, the tweet had not shown up in my timeline. Checking the university’s Twitter feed finally led me to a link to a Facebook post confirming what my students were asking me.

Only about an hour after students initially contacted me did I see anything official in my inbox. How the alerting system failed to alert me to something like this is worrisome.

Additional, 10:51 am: Initial local newspaper report.

Additional, 11:25 am:

Update, 11:59 am:

On the university’s Facebook page and in my Twitter search the main point of discussion is: “Why doesn’t the university cancel every class and lock down the campus?” I think this reaction is in response to the initial description of the death as “questionable,” with many people making the connection that this means “murder” and not “accident.”

Working on a Storify of this situation.

Update, 4:32 pm: Some faculty were allowed back into the building, under police escort, to retrieve items from offices and check on status of things in labs. There is a very good chance that the building will be closed until at least noon tomorrow, depending on how far the investigation progresses today.

The Pan American student news site has a story releasing “more details,” which are not really any more details. Indeed, it’s slightly weird that they say this was a woman who appeared to be in her 20s, and then:

It is not yet clear whether the person is a student or faculty member.

There are not faculty members in their 20s at our campus. So what they’re probably trying to say is that it’s not clear if she was a member of the university community.

Update, 5:08 pm: Email came in a few minutes ago that the Science building will be closed tomorrow until at least noon.

Update, 6:29 pm: My initial Storify of the reaction to the death.

, 8:54 pm: The local newspaper has a reasonable summary of the day’s events. There was no evidence of stabbing or shooting, but some students are still thinking “murder.” Perhaps the main factor in this still being an ongoing investigation is that the woman had no identification.

Update, 7 February 2012: This morning, the woman was identified as a local high school student. The Science building reopened this afternoon, although all classes were still cancelled for the day. There is still no word on autopsy results.

Update, 7 February 2012, 6:02 pm: The woman’s death has been judged to be a suicide. So very, very sad.

Update, 7 February 2012, 10:26 pm: The news article linked to above has been expanded significantly. It’s just a heartbreaking story. She had talked about suicide before, including that very day, and hurt herself. I have continued updating the Storify, where some of the reactions well, do not give me solace.

Photo from here.

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