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Beatrice Shlansky / Staff Photographer

Dear sender,

Thank you for the notice on the passing of my classmate. It is indeed awful to receive such sad news. They were someone I saw laughing in the dining hall; someone who smiled and waved at me as I passed Broadway & 114th; someone who showed a genuine interest in my life when we’d occasionally stop to chat. Losing a member of our campus—our family—is difficult, and as a figure of authority, it falls on your shoulders to convey this news in a respectful and considerate manner.

But how many times can we do this? Over the past few years, we have lost more students than I can count on my hands. Not all of these deaths have been suicides, though many of them have. And when pressed on this, you tell us that you’re trying. You expanded CPS hours and increased awareness of its services. You launched Jed Foundation working groups to tackle the issue of mental well-being from fourteen different angles. You have opened conversations surrounding campus culture. You seem to mean well, but it has not been good enough.

I know you care, but your words make it so hard to believe. I have come to expect an “On the Passing of…” letter in my inbox at least once a semester. In so many ways, they are formulaic: opened with an acknowledgement of the life of our now deceased classmate, followed by a remembrance of who they were, and concluded with a reminder of resources on campus.

It makes me physically sick.

While I know that you are not purposely flippant in your address to the student body, these emails are almost insulting.

Maybe you believe that your email meets the needs of our campus in mourning. Maybe you believe that it delivers what we need in the moments after these tragedies. I’m responding to say that it doesn’t.

Do more than offer a space for remembrance in the Schapiro Lounge. Do more than link resources. Offer us a plan for how you are going to respond more adequately because students are still dying.

We always pause for a moment, reflecting on these tragedies to wonder what we could have done differently. We let them pass too quickly, and I don’t know whether that is a choice that we have made as a community or if we have just become numb to our campus mental health problems. Whichever it is, it needs to be recognized and challenged.

I am only one person who knew this student. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who I am because this is not about me, and I speak for more than just myself. Each death is a reminder that there is so much progress to be made regarding health on campus. If I can search these emails in my inbox, then something needs to change.

Sincerely,

A concerned student

The author is a member of the class of 2020. They were granted anonymity due to their positions within student leadership.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

mental health CPS classmate remembrance
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