50 gather on Green to talk about suicides
About 50 students and administrators gathered beside the Senior Fence last night to participate in a candlelight vigil designed to help students cope with the three recent suicides in the Dartmouth community.
College President James Freedman, Dean of the College Lee Pelton and Student Assembly President Jim Rich '96 each spoke briefly about issues raised by the recent suicides of Sarah Devens '96, Marcus Rice '94 and Phil Deloria '96.
Freedman remarked that each person is somewhat of a mystery to others because of the barriers between our inner-selves and the people around us. He urged students to take their inner feelings into account rather than focusing solely on intellect.
Pelton reminded the participants that experiencing death is a part of life. He said he has witnessed the closeness and caring of the College community during these difficult times.
"As we go about the business of caring and taking care of others, I want to say, especially to students, that it is important for you to take care of yourself," Pelton said. "Be a little more selfish."
Rich said the months since the suicides have "been a very difficult time for a lot of people at Dartmouth" and spoke of the need to be together because of a general feeling of sadness on campus.
After the three men spoke, candles were lit and a moment of silence was observed. Then the candles were extinguished one by one and the participants walked to the Top of the Hop for an open discussion.
Although many College administrators were present, the discussion, which was sponsored by the Area Coordinators, consisted almost entirely of students' reflections on the recent events.
Some students openly expressed their feelings of loss, the questions and the other difficult issues raised by the suicides. The majority of the students present listened or wrote their thoughts down on note cards provided at the start of the discussion.
Many students discussed the difficulties of incorporating the suicides into their own personal experiences.
"On this campus, there is an undercurrent to transform these people into the 'other,' " so students will not feel that they are in the same category as those who killed themselves, John Strayer '96 said.
Rich said many seniors are under incredible amounts of stress because they are about to leave college for the real world.
Most students have at least considered suicide at one time or another, he added.
Several students brought up recent insensitivity to the suicides, such as jokes about the potential relation between the tragedies and Dartmouth's competitive academic environment.
Many students said community members need to support those around them and listen to them when they want to talk about their emotions.
Other people pointed out that the advantages enjoyed by Ivy League college students are often used to dismiss the difficulties they encounter.
"If there are all these people admitting these feelings, why won't our society, why isn't our community, why isn't our college, doing something about these problems?" Area Coordinator Garrett Gil de Rubio '96 asked.
Area Coordinator Ilana Davidi '96 said the short intervals between the suicides did not give students time to recover before the next tragedy arrived.
Some participants said it was difficult to know when to stop mourning the losses.
College Chaplain Gwendolyn King said students need to slow down from their hectic pace. "It's okay [and] may afford you an opportunity to look around you," she said. "You are persons of worth and value" apart from academic gifts and achievement, she added.
Gil de Rubio said he thought the discussion was productive.
"I think attendance was perfect for the type of discussion we were looking for. We as ACs plan to take what was said and relay it to the College and its various offices," he wrote in an electronic-mail message.