A series of deaths and injuries in which students fell from buildings has some colleges rethinking policies.
Inside Higher Ed’s Cory Weinberg files this report.
When 18-year-old Joshua Robert Helm fell seven floors off a window ledge out of a freshman residence hall at University of North Carolina at Charlotte last month, campus officials questioned whether the death was preventable.
They were already planning upgrades to 40-year-old residence halls like the one from which Helm fell, where windows partially opened from the inside because the building lacked fire sprinklers until only a few years ago. The college believes the incident poses little legal risk, said John D. Bland, director of public relations, but administrators are still determining whether the window designs on new or renovated buildings need better safety measures.
“When an incident or an accident like this happens, that definitely gets our attention,” Bland said. “When we’re evaluating the types of windows, it’ll have an impact for sure.”
Of the dangers facing students, the chances of falling from a building may seem very small, but Helm’s case isn’t unique. A string of students have died or been seriously injured across the country after falling out of on-campus residence halls or off-campus apartment buildings and fraternity houses during the past month. While each case comes with its own set of questions and circumstances, tragedies tend to force colleges to re-examine their own safety standards, size up risk and sometimes fight off lawsuits.
Student safety task forces started last fall by the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees state universities, are now taking a closer look at student drinking and the safety of off-campus apartments after two students from the state’s public colleges accidentally fell to their deaths in the past three weeks.
Eighteen-year-old Arizona State University student Naomi McClendon fell 10 floors off the balcony of an off-campus apartment in late March. Surveillance video showed that she had likely been drunk when she entered the complex.
At the University of Arizona, 19-year-old freshman Michael Evan Anderson fell off a 20-foot metal cooling tower on the roof of a residence hall earlier this month.
“It is particularly upsetting that we had this happen not once but twice in the last two weeks, so the task forces are considering these kinds of incidents that have the most terrible outcomes,” Eileen I. Klein, president of the Board of Regents, said in an interview. “We think we at least have a chance to talk...
Colleges consider why students are getting killed falling from buildings (Inside Higher Ed | News)