Last Saturday, two college-aged males were hospitalized after falling off roofs and balconies. The incidents followed an earlier hospitalization in September, when another college aged male also fell off a fraternity roof on North Campus. Still, the Cornell and Ithaca Police Departments both say that these are isolated incidents not representative of a broader trend.
“I can tell you that incidents like the one this weekend are a rare occurrence at Cornell,” said Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner.
Jamie Williamson, public information officer for IPD, added that these incidents happen “once or twice a year at most” and that this year has seen an average number of roof falls.
While all three individuals needed to be flown to a hospital by helicopter, some Cornell students said they believe that roof-sitting is a relatively safe activity, asserting that the danger can be mitigated with basic precautions.
“I moved this year and my new house doesn’t have any good roofs for sitting, but the last two years I would probably sit on the roof around once a week,” Rohan Acharya ’16 said.
Snigdha Sharma ’18 also said that many Cornell students see roof-sitting as a way to relax and destress.
“[O]nce you’re out there, it’s actually really nice,” she said. “I always had a group of friends with me and we would go to the roof, and a few people would bring their guitars or ukeleles. We’d sit out there at night, playing and singing.”
While both Acharya and Sharma agreed that people are sometimes inebriated when they engage in these activities, Acharya said he believes most people are conscious of their own safety.
“People have had drinks and gone up there but never anything that goes too far,” he said. “People recognize that going on the roof is a bad idea when you’ve had one too many.”
Both of them also agreed that most people should not venture onto roofs of excessive heights. Sharma said she personally would not sit on roofs higher than 12 feet.
While Williamson confirmed that most falls come from roofs under 10 feet, he said those situations can still be dangerous.
“The level of injury varies widely, from no injury to death,” Williamson said.
Zoner agreed that even seemingly safe rooftops can pose a danger to students, especially when they are inebriated.
“Rooftops are particularly problematic because not only are they unprotected, but they often do not have the structural support to hold additional weight, and entry onto them can cause damage to the roof covering,” she said. “Add to the mix someone who is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and your risk of injury or death grows exponentially.”