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Editorial: Approaching student deaths as student-journalists

The New Hampshire

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 02:10

Over the past three years as a University of New Hampshire student, I have been a member of a community that has experienced quite a few student deaths. There have been a few suicides, murder cases, fatal accidents and various other circumstances. As I look back over my time at UNH, I am finding it difficult to pin down an exact number of student deaths during my time in Durham.

The fact that it is difficult to determine a concrete statistic about the number of students who have died within the past three years is incredibly sad. But even worse is the fact that it is easy to determine a concrete number for this academic year already. In the time span of a month, two UNH students have died, one from an apparent drug overdose and one from causes that have yet to be declared. Two students are too many to lose from our university of about 15,000 total students, especially in such a short period.

As is likely the case for much of the student body, I did not personally know either Jonathan Zygmont or Olivia Rotondo. However, their names are now familiar with the majority of students on campus.

The circumstances involving each of these students were very different, but both have been very public. Rotondo’s death became a national news story and Zygmont’s disappearance caused a two-week-long local search. But no matter the situations – and speculation and rumors surrounding them – each student deserves to be remembered as a vibrant member of our community.

Sympathy has been offered by many, but judgment has also been offered by some. Instead, kindness and support are what should be offered. The university has many services and programs in place for students who are dealing with the news of these deaths or with struggles of their own. From the Counseling Center to medical professionals at Health Services to residence assistants in the dorms, UNH has a network of resources for students to deal with the stress of college and daily life.

UNH has been making significant strides toward establishing programs and promoting them for the benefit of students, but students can only benefit from these programs if they are willing to utilize these resources and accept the help that is being offered.

And while it is the university’s responsibility to promote awareness of these programs, it is our responsibility as journalists to publish the news of student deaths, despite what criticism and judgment we may receive. These stories have been - and always will be - covered not just because they are newsworthy, but because these students deserve to be acknowledged by the student body.

As the student newspaper for UNH, we approach these types of stories as student-journalists; our jobs at The New Hampshire are as journalists, but we are still first and foremost University of New Hampshire students and members of the Durham community. 

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