A President's Reflections

A sad event

Posted on April 19, 2009

We this week lost one of our international students in a terrible car accident.  The student was from China and we have spent the last two days working with the famly to make the appropriate arrangements, obtain visas for the parents, and to be helpful in any way we can.  The loss of a student is simply the worst thing that can happen.

As many of you know from the media reports, the driver has been charged and an investigation is ongoing.  While we can’t yet know the outcome, we do know that two families have been shattered.   To be honest, I have been so focused on the victim and the back and forth with his family members that I had not really thought much about the driver.

If he is convicted he will likely spend some years in prison, a terrible fate.  Perhaps a fate deserved.  It’s tempting to argue questions of justice, fairness, and pass judgment in one way or another.  I don’t know the driver, but I do know that good people are capable of doing bad things, oftentimes stupid and senseless things.  I will leave it to others to pass judgment  and instead do my best to comfort and aid both families.  I am particularly proud of how our staff has responded on all fronts: reaching out to the family of the deceased, working with the local authorities, counseling students, and more.

There has been some speculation about the possible role of alcohol in the accident and someone asked me if this event was forcing me to rethink my public stance on the drinking age.  Fatal car accidents, alcohol, and young people (18 or 21) have been a sad reality before this week’s sadness and I am afraid they will be so in the future.   The terms of the debate haven’t changed one small bit.  The dire consequences of not better addressing the problem were viscerally illustrated this week in the shocked and disbelieving grief of two parents who just lost their only child some thousands of miles away.

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