Much has been said of the suicides of 2010. Nevertheless, their impact on students and campus culture makes the topic of suicide the second biggest story of 2010. To grasp the relevance of this subject just take a look at the ‘tag cloud’ to your right. 31 posts tagged with ‘Cornell suicide’ make the topic one of the most talked about on this website. After the string of tragedies in the Spring of 2010, University officials erected temporary fences. These bridge barriers have since provided unending debates and speculation on their effectiveness.
A month after Bradley Ginsburg’s body was found in the Fall Creek Gorge below Thurston Bridge, Matthew Zika’s and William Sinclair’s bodies were found within the same 24 hours. All three were determined to be suicides.
In late March, the administration announced it would install fences along Cornell’s bridges. When students arrived back to campus after Spring Break, floppy and cheap chain link fences lined the walkways. Backlash from students erupted quickly. A little sensationalism lead the way.
A lot of efforts were made to combat the fences in their early form. Students tagged them with graffiti, planted ‘Ithaca is Fences’ stickers on the links, put smiley faces on them, and eventually resorted to painting them in rainbows of colors to help make them appear hospitable. Cornell’s ‘Caring Community’ website was designed to inform students, professors, and parents on mental health efforts on campus and to serve as a forum for updates on student life and death. Right now, the Caring Community website promotes events like guided bird walk tours, and zen meditation practice.
Ithaca Common Council voted unanimously in June to extend the temporary fences another ten weeks. Over the summer, the fences took on a more professional, less cage-like, albeit more permanent form. The chain links were done away with and slightly more aesthetically pleasing metal bars were built. But that’s not to say the argument subsided. When more stickers began appearing again this fall, Deirdre Mulligan ’11 voiced a seldom-heard position on the fences.
Though many students kicked and screamed, including some of us here, the fences became permanent. Cornell University, under the supervision of University Architect Gilbert Delgado, contracted a Boston-based architecture firm, Office dA, to design some fancy fences. Only problem is, the guy in charge of designing our fences is being evicted from his own company, which may be coming to an end soon.
Hopefully 2011 will show Cornell’s efforts to improve student mental health to have been effective.