Rowan redevelopment

The Whitney Center on Rowan Boulevard in Glassboro

GLASSBORO — The fall of a Rowan University student from one of the college’s parking garages has led to a campuswide response that has included vigils and discussions on mental health and suicide prevention.

The Rowan student, who has not been identified, is in critical condition after he fell from a garage Thursday on Rowan Boulevard, the college said.

School officials said they could not say whether the fall was accidental because it violated student privacy rights. Glassboro police did not respond to a request for more information.

“ I join the University community in deepest concern for him, as well as those affected by this tragedy,” Rowan President Ali Houshmand said in a statement posted on college social media accounts.

This is the second student to fall from the parking garages on Rowan Boulevard in the past two years, University spokesman Joe Cardona said.

Cardona said the student who fell last year died, and since then, the college has been in discussions with the property owner, Nexis Property, to install fencing.

“Today, right now, they’re installing temporary fencing which will eventually be replaced with more permanent fencing,” Cardona said Friday.

The college held a gathering Thursday night at the Wellness Center with counselors and resources for students struggling “near the end of a semester in which we have suffered more losses than ever before” and has planned a student meeting Monday to further discuss the national crisis of student suicide.

This semester alone, Rowan has had three confirmed student suicides. The most recent student to die by suicide, Ben Deschesne, was over the Thanksgiving break. Deschesne, of Maine, was a sophomore studying jazz at the college.

On Friday, Houshmand released a second statement addressing the student deaths and critiques about access to mental health services on campus.

“We understand the most recent news has caused anxiety, anger and frustration which are often reflected on social media. Although social media is a good platform for expressing thoughts and feelings immediately, it also can be a place where rumors take root and misunderstandings spread and grow,” Houshmand wrote. “We understand that withholding details can be disturbing and seem as though the University is not being transparent, but we are bound by the wishes of families and legal constraints.”

Houshmand said counselors are available to students 24/7. University practices have changed to immediately provide students an assessment on their level of crisis before making a plan of when the student can meet with a counselor, which he said eliminated wait lists.

Over the past decade, Rowan’s enrollment has grown from about 11,700 students in 2008 to about 21,300 last year, state data show. Houshmand said the number of counselors on campus has tripled.

The college has 15 counselors and plans to add three more next year. The national recommendation is one counselor per 1,000 to 1,500 students. Former students and faculty have said it is not enough.

Upon hearing about the student’s fall, 2016 Rowan graduate Siobhan Collins, of Magnolia, took to social media asking others to share their stories of how long it took to retain counseling services at Rowan.

“I feel like I’ve been hearing about this since I graduated,” Collins said Friday. “If this has been happening for a few years now, I don’t know why Rowan is not rolling out bigger changes.”

Collins said she had sought counseling when she was a student and was put on a wait list into the next semester.

“They have 15 counselors now and they’re sort of tooting their own horn, but when it comes down to it, Rowan, for whatever reason, has a higher need than other institutions have and they need to meet that need,” she said.

Mandi Dorrell, adviser of the college’s Active Minds chapter and adjunct professor of English at Rowan, said the club is planning a letter writing campaign to get the attention of the Board of Trustees to make bigger changes at the college.

The student meeting Monday will be 7 p.m. in Chamberlain Student Center Eynon Ballroom and will be devoted to bringing together students, faculty and staff to discuss concerns about mental health, resources and grief.

Rowan students who are struggling are advised to go to the Wellness Center and ask to speak with a counselor or call the Wellness Center at 856-256-4333 (on the main campus call 64333). Counselors can be reached 24 hours a day at 856-256-4922.

Contact: 609-272-7251

Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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