Silence Regarding Recent Death on Campus

This past weekend some students saw something that will forever change their lives. They witnessed the loss of life, and more importantly, the death of a friend.

On Sunday around noon, we were all made aware of a terrible situation in Sevrinson Hall: the death of 17-year-old Devin Delaney, a Burnsville High School student originally from Savage, Minnesota. A death that affected a whole community, a death that one teacher from Burnsville High School described,

“There was no way this happy face could be gone.”

After such a tragedy one would expect the president of the university to address the students, offer condolences to the family and give support to those most closely affected by such a tragedy.

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, we have heard no such response. According to Provost Beth Ingram, she is checking to see if there are any plans to make an address. Provost Ingram noted that there are guidelines and regulations around situations with a police investigation. The silence may be justified, but that doesn’t help those affected.

Guidelines and policies offer no condolences to students who witnessed a coroner’s van pull up to Sevrinson Hall and take away a friend.

A family lost a loved one; friends lost their friend and, for those who were the witnesses in the room, I can only imagine how this affected them.

This is how silence has affected our community. We have stopped conversations that are vital. To a student who woke up to a deceased friend in their dorm room, what do they need now? It certainly isn’t silence from the top down on such a life-changing matter.

This tragedy is sickening and resonates with parents and every student. Life is precious and we at The Spectrum offer our thoughts and prayers to the family and those most closely affected.

This tragedy isn’t the first time that a death has elicited little to no response from President Dean Bresciani.

In fall 2014, my first year on campus, Tommy Bearson was murdered and his body was later found in South Moorhead.

The effect of this tragedy is still felt three years later. A college student, who had only been on campus for a few weeks, shattered reality for many students. A new truth took over: we aren’t invincible, and the worse possible situation can happen.

On Sept. 23, 2014, almost exactly three years ago to the day, the death of Tommy Bearson was addressed in an email sent out to students by Timothy Alvarez.

It read, “Our thoughts and prayers extend to Tom Bearson‘s family and friends upon learning of his untimely death.  This type of tragedy affects people in many different ways.”

On Sept. 26, 2014, an email by Sarah Russell and Hilary Haugeberg, the Student Body President and Vice President at the time, followed Timothy Alvarez’s address.

“If you are struggling at all, there is no reason for you to feel alone. We are the Bison Family, and we are all here to support and look out for each other.”

If we are a family, conversations need to happen and that starts from the top of the university. Shortly after Tommy Bearson’s death a candlelight vigil was held, organized by student government.

I do not doubt that President Dean Bresciani cares about the family and community here at NDSU.

During the 2017 spring semester, there were two fatal car crashes that claimed the lives of NDSU students. Carson Roney and Danie Thomssen died in one crash that happened on Feb. 11. Soon after on Feb. 20, another car crash claimed the lives of Megan Sample, Jordan Playle, Lauren Peterson and Danielle Renninger.

“It proves the great saying of this university: The strength of the herd is the bison, and the strength of the bison is the herd. We may be weaker for this loss, but we will be stronger with this memory.” According to reports, President Dean Bresciani was fighting back tears as he addressed the Great Plains Ballroom in the Memorial Union.

The loss of life of college students who have the rest of their lives ahead of them is hard to accept and comprehend.

For the tragedies that happen on campus or involve students, we need leadership to make those important addresses to the students. We have had one brief email notifying us of Devin Delaney’s death. That is it.

The failure to make these important addresses to students needs to change and be an utmost importance after a tragedy. We all care, as we all should. To quote President Dean Bresciani, “The strength of the herd is the bison, and the strength of the bison is the herd.”

After a death on campus, we need that herd more than ever. We need people to come together, and we need to have an open dialogue about the unthinkable.

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