When tragedy strikes
Universities grapple with the fallout from student suicide
We’ve covered many thorny issues before in University Affairs, but this month’s cover story is one of the most difficult topics that I’ve been involved with in my time here: student suicide. The death of a young person, and the loss of all that promise and potential, is a tragedy and feels even more so when that person takes their own life. Suicide is the second leading cause of death (behind accidents) for young adults, so it is a reality that all universities will confront at one time or another on their campuses.
Universities have many resources to help support students with mental health issues; while more can always be done, this is a problem that has to be addressed by society more broadly. Nevertheless, universities need to have a detailed plan in place to respond to such a crisis when it occurs on campus. I thank the university staff and administrators who spoke openly about the recent tragic events on their campuses for this article, and I’d also like to acknowledge freelance writer Jackie Wong for the sensitive way that she approached the subject.
Also in this month’s issue are several articles dealing with women’s leadership, starting with an evocative and entertaining excerpt from a new memoir by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, who served as the first female president of the University of Prince Edward Island in the 1990s. For our opinion article this month, Olive Yonge of the University of Alberta spoke to female leaders in academia and shares their tales of courage. Even our lead news story in the Nota Bene section is, in a sense, about female leadership: how universities are preparing for the new equity guidelines for the Canada Research Chairs program.
And, finally, I would also like to welcome our new columnist for the “From the administrator’s chair” column: Sheila Cote-Meek, associate vice-president, academic and Indigenous programs, at Laurentian University. Dr. Cote-Meek is a true leader for her work to improve access for Indigenous peoples to higher education, and we’re proud to have her join us.