Rutgers memorial commemorates students who passed away this year
As the 2014-2015 academic year comes to a close, the University’s Division of Student Affairs and The Interfaith Alliance at Rutgers held a memorial gathering of University administrators, students, family and friends of the 16 students who passed away this year.
Osei-Kwame Afriyie, Patrick Awosogba Jr., Joshua Cooper, Amr Gabale, Yoshitaka Inomato, Paul Kim, Nexhmi Klobucista, Caitlyn Kovacs, Franciso Martinez-Holsey, Michael Murray, Neha Musipatla, Aniesh Patel, Darsh Patel, William Ouch, Maneesha Singh and Caroline Yoshimoto were the students honored yesterday afternoon at Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus.
The “Rutgers Remembers” campus memorial service is done every year during the spring semester, said Jewel Daney, senior case manager for the Office of the Dean of Students.
This is the first year where the event became more formalized with considerable attendance, she said.
Several years ago, clergymen members of the humanist community at Rutgers approached the Office of the Dean of Students office to collaborate on an annual memorial project, Daney said. The effort has since added Rutgers Student Life and Student Affairs, as well as emails about student deaths from University Chancellor Richard L. Edwards.
“This has created a lot more awareness (with) the importance of having something to remember our students by,” she said. “We wanted to think of something that would really be very Rutgers-particular.”
The 16 student deaths are individually and collectively tragic, particularly because they were all young adults who had most of their lives ahead of them after earning a degree from Rutgers, Daney said.
“One loss is one loss too many,” she said. “(They’re) young people ... (they) feel invincible, but things can happen to you and sadly things do happen regardless of our ages.”
The readings at the service paid homage to a number of different denominations and languages in order to reflect the diversity of faith that exists within the student body, said Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.
The administration recognizes that students have many facets to who they are, as well as their faith, and spirituality is a big part of that, McGinty said.
The memorial service is an important way for University students and staff to demonstrate care for one another and create a sense of value for members of the Rutgers community, McGinty said.
“Because we’re a large university, sometimes people may feel like they’re just a number,” she said. “We want to make sure that regardless of our size, we really are a caring community.”
This year, the University introduced a number of changes to the “Rutgers Remembers” memorial service honoring the students that passed away during the 2014-2015 academic year, McGinty said.
One notable change to the annual student commemoration is the addition of remarks by University Chancellor Richard L. Edwards, she said.
The Old Queens bell, typically only rung during commencement, was incorporated into this year’s ceremony, McGinty said. The bell is only rung on special occasions, and University administrators felt this year was a suitable occasion to start a tradition of ringing the bell once for each life lost.
“We came up with the idea of the bell,” Daney said. “Other universities have traditions that are particular to their identity and their culture, and this is important — having the bell rung at Old Queens ... It’s not done very often at all.”
In the wake of recent student comments online regarding the number of student deaths this year, Daney said the 16 student deaths are obviously tragic and 16 too many, but the actual number of deaths in itself is not abnormal for a University the size of Rutgers-New Brunswick.
“I know that students talk about this on social media,” she said. “We’re a big city, and so things happen ... We’re not out of the range of the probability of this happening at a large university, it’s not like we have so many more than anybody else.”
Even though the commemoration of 16 students who passed away this year is an extremely sensitive and sad subject to discuss, University administrators were pleased to see the number of people who attended the memorial, Daney said.
At the end of the day, Daney said the University administrators consider hosting the memorial a privilege, and possibly the most honorable thing they do for members of the Rutgers community.
“There’s never enough compassion, empathy or care,” she said. "The more we can care for each other and be supportive of each other, the better (our) world will be."
Counseling for members of the University community grieving any of the student deaths, as well as general counseling is available at Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services, located at 17 Senior St. in New Brunswick.
Students living in on-campus facilities are also encouraged to communicate with their Residence Life staff to cope with the loss. Off-campus or commuter students can speak with their Dean of Students.
Tim Grimm, located at Bishop House, 115 College Ave., is the College Avenue campus Dean of Students. Michelle Jefferson, located at 305 College Hall, is the Cook and Douglass campuses' Dean of Students.
Jeffrey Broggi, located at Lucy Stone Hall A239, is the Livingston campus Dean of Students. Sandra Castro, located at the Busch Student Center, is the Busch campus Dean of Students.