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Student deaths at Illinois universities


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For many students, college is their first experience living away from home. It’s exciting, challenging, refreshing and freeing, yet it can also be scary and dangerous. Thus far in 2014, there have been numerous college-student deaths in Illinois. Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and University of Chicago have all suffered student loss.

The Associated Press reported two students fell victim to mother nature during harsh winter weather, freezing to death. During SIU student Pravin Varughese’s preliminary autopsy, the Jackson County Coroner found the likely cause of death was hypothermia. It was reported Varughese was last seen wearing only a T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. ISU student Yusuf Ziada died just weeks prior from hypothermia too. Authorities said Ziada was found with no coat, hat or gloves. I can’t help but think that these deaths could have been avoided if proper winter clothing was worn.

I hate being cold, so I always layer my clothing. I wear knee highs under my pants, tank tops, undershirts, sweaters and boots to avoid freezing during my trek to classes and work. I usually keep gloves in my coat pocket, and I often take a hat along as well.  Yes, it does take more time to put on all of these layers and take them off, but at least I know I will be warm and safe. I can’t begin to grasp what it would be like to freeze to death alone like these two students did. For whatever reason, they did not call anyone for help, but I would hope that most people would think to do so in this situation, especially in order to save their own lives.

The most disturbing of the recent college student deaths is that of Nicholas Barnes, a University of Chicago student who was found in his dorm room days after he died, according to the Chicago Tribune. The only reason he was found was because other dorm residents reported a bad odor coming from around his room. The last time he used his keycard was eight days before his body was discovered. The coroner revealed that there seemed to be no foul play, but they are waiting for a toxicology report to come back – perhaps it will show the cause of death.

Barnes was not found for days, despite being part of a bustling university. In this case, he had no roommate to check up on him – this is the problem with having a single room. I had a single room in Founder’s Residence Hall for part of last year, so I kind of see how this could happen. I kept to myself and rarely made noise. If I were to have an asthma attack or ingested something harmful, how would anyone know I was in need of assistance?

This is the reason I decided to program the UIS Police Department’s phone numbers into my phone. If I needed help quick, I would already have the numbers to call. Looking back, it was also good that I often propped my door open. This allowed friends and my RA to easily pass by my room and check in on me. It seems like this deceased Chicago student did not have connections with other students or staff, as no one noticed he was missing.

When I see the headlines about the passing of a fellow college student, I get a little paranoid. If it can happen to them, then it can happen to anyone, even students at UIS. This means students need to take care of themselves and others. Be proactive about campus safety.

To be extra safe, I do a few other little things to try to prevent any campus misfortunes. When I am walking back from class alone at night, I carry pepper spray with me – just having it makes me feel better. I also have my cell phone handy in case I need to call campus PD. If I ever need extra comfort on my walks back home, I call my mom. It gives us a chance to catch up, and I feel better that she is on the line. Walking with a classmate is another way to ensure you both get home safely. I also suggest locking house and car doors as an extra measure.

Even if you are not as cautious as I am, it is still a good idea to be prepared for any situation. I am sure none of these deceased students expected to die when they did. However, you can create a safer environment for yourself here at UIS. It is your life and you should take all necessary steps to protect it.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Student deaths at Illinois universities