Students spoke out, and the Santa Clara University (SCU) administration listened. On Nov. 27, an SCU student created a petition on Change.org demanding that the University offer academic leniency and crisis counseling for students who have lost three peers in the span of a little more than a month.
“Families, friends, entire classes, and fellow Broncos have mourned and, before grief can even begin to subside, another loss takes away the ability to fully process and grieve those we have lost,” read the petition. “We are scared. We are speechless. Students are scattering home or away from campus in an effort to avoid the effects of paranoia with the shared fear of ‘Who is it going to be next?’
“The expectation to walk on campus, passing the scene of a self-inflicted death, is horrifying; the expectation to sit next to the empty chair in class left by a peer who is no longer with us is unsettling,” continued the petition. “And the expectation to strive for academic and social excellence when our community is CLEARLY crumbling is innately cruel and invalidating. We need help.”
In less than 24-hours, more than 10,000 members of the SCU community had signed the petition. The University responded almost as quickly.
“The tragic events of this quarter have understandably triggered many different emotions within our community and the voices of our students, faculty and staff have accelerated very important conversations about mental health in our community and how we can better support and care for one another,” said an SCU spokesperson. “To accelerate that work, the University has committed significant financial and human resources that will be put into action as soon as possible.”
The University spokesperson says the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) created a 24/7 support line for students. Those in need of support can call (408) 554-5220. CAPS also partnered with KARA grief services to provide more support for the student body.
Additionally, regardless of class standing, all undergraduates now have more time to select the pass/no pass option for their undergraduate classes. The University says selecting the pass/no pass option will not affect a student’s GPA.
The petition’s organizer posted an update on Nov. 30, following the action by SCU.
We appreciate the openness and flexibility that characterize these changes that were made in an effort to grant us the mercy we felt empowered to seek,” read the update. “We are on the road to real change and will continue to meaningfully and masterfully affect change by engaging in community discussions, enacting active dialogue regarding mental health crises, and collaborating with administration to build a better community for all students, faculty, staff, acquaintances, and affiliates of SCU.”
The organizer told the Silicon Valley Voice she could not speak to the press out of respect for the families and friends of the students lost.
One of the students, junior Justin Ebner, was a San Jose native who graduated from Bellarmine College Prep. He died from head trauma in November when he fell 15 to 20 feet while walking in the area of Santa Clara and Cahill Streets. Ebner was reportedly walking back to campus alone after a fraternity party when he fell.
A memorial has formed around the Bronco statue on campus for the three students lost. Students have dropped off flowers, candles and messages.
“You are valued, important, loved, and needed to the SCU community and beyond! Never be afraid to ask for help,” read one of the messages.