On Oct. 22, 2015 all students enrolled at the College received an email entitled “Sad News.” Perhaps some never read it, but those who did quickly learned that a junior at the College of Charleston died at the Medical University Hospital only a few days before.
The student jumped to his death from the fifth floor of the Campus Center Apartments. The official police record listed his death as a suicide, noting that he was intoxicated at the time of the tragedy.
In January, a new accident led many to wonder why two incidents occurred within the span of four months, both at Campus Center. Some have begun to question the overall safety of the building.
Shortly after the incident in October, the building management sent out an email offering counseling to students. The Regional Manager of Campus Center, Stacy Gregorio, stated in the email that the company was “deeply saddened by this recent loss and we are committed to helping you all through it. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.”
Paige Pacifico, a sophomore at the College, recalled a second email which urged residents “to be careful about railings, they’re not sturdy, don’t go near the railings.” This second email seemed more of a warning than a condolence, cautioning students to “Never sit or lean against the rails” and to “Use caution so that nothing has the potential to fall from the balcony.”
Yet at approximately 1 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 17, another student fell from the sixth floor to the hard tile floor below. He was trying to throw a bottle down to a friend on the second floor when he lost his balance and fell over the three and a half foot railing. The Post and Courier reported that according to the Charleston police incident report, the student was intoxicated and the fall was entirely accidental and unintentional.
The residents at Campus Center did not receive any emails about the second student who fell. Nathan Gillespie, a resident and junior at the College, said that “It’s clear that the management knew it happened. When the kid died, they probably thought it would be better if less people knew [about the recent fall].”
One of the most common questions brought up on campuses across the country is how much control higher education institutions should have over student safety. Some believe that schools should take on more security and safety precautions, such as curfews and stricter underage drinking laws.
However, the College of Charleston does not own the Sterling Campus Center building. The College ultimately has no say in any safety precautions that the building might adopt, such as higher railings or Plexiglas partitions.
The College has made efforts to show students that their personal safety is a top priority. The Department of Public Safety offers several services to keep students safe at night, such as police officer escorts from the library and free rides on the Cougar Shuttle around campus. However, common sense remains the most valuable precaution. Many alcohol related incidents are completely avoidable. The recent events at Campus Center have made it clear that we, as students at the College of Charleston, have a responsibility to make sure our community is kept safe and well-informed.