August 31, 2010

Members of the Class of 2014 Respond to Bridge Barriers

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With the deluge of new classes, new roommates and new dorm rooms that Cornell students are forced to adjust to as they return to campus, the class of 2014 — who never experienced life at Cornell without fences on the bridges — brings new opinions regarding the new temporary barriers. Some new students said they feel that while the fences are a physical deterrent from bridge-induced suicides, they may not necessarily be effective in preventing suicide attempts.“[The] fences could be a deterrent, but [I feel that] if students really want to commit suicide, they’re going to find another way to do it,” said Jacob Ritter ’14. Dylan McNally ’14, on the other hand, said he feels that the fences have been put up more as a response from the administration to the publicity that the University has received in the last year than as an actual physical barrier. “I can understand why they might want to put up fences because the suicides are so publicized. Cornell gets a pretty bad rap from the idea that they have an astronomically high suicide rate,” McNally said.Brett Morgan ’14 added, “I understand that the University needed to respond [in some way to the publicity], but I don’t know if it’s the best way [to do so].” According to Laura Sokil ’14, the University’s response may have also had negative effects on Cornell’s reputation, especially that which is projected towards prospective students.“[The number of] suicides [that have occurred recently] definitely are a deterrent from kids coming to Cornell. I’ve heard a lot about it from kids at my [high] school,” Sokil said.However, for Morgan, who was accepted to the University through early decision, the fences were not a huge factor in the decision to come to Cornell.“Despite this, even if the fences were put up before I applied, I don’t think they would have been an important enough factor to base my college choice on,” Morgan said.Ritter, who had not heard about the bridges until he arrived on campus, said he felt the same way.“Regardless [of whether I knew about the fences or not], I don’t think that [knowing] would have impacted my decision to come here,” he said.To Sokil — who had heard about the fences before matriculating — the knowledge had no impact on her decision to come to Cornell.“I didn’t really think about the bridges until I heard about the recent suicides,” she said. However, she said she did feel that before her arrival at Cornell, “I was concerned and scared that Cornell students felt that they had to resort to such tragic measures.”The fences also serve as a bleak and concrete reminder of number of suicides that have occurred at Cornell in the past year, one that, according to Ritter, threatens to ruin the aesthetic appeal that Cornell and the city of Ithaca have.“I’ve seen a lot of people that try to take pictures of the gorges, and you can’t even do that without getting a big black bar in the middle of your picture,” he said.Morgan added, “They’re right in the middle of the bridge. [I] see them every day when [I] walk past Thurston Bridge. They are a constant reminder of the suicides.”Nevertheless, many members of the Class of 2014 feel the fences are necessary for student health. Sokil said she feels that although it is sad to walk by the fences every day, they are necessary, adding that, “So far, as a freshman, I’ve found that there’s a lot of support for us [and] people around [to promote mental health].”Amy Lee ’14 agreed.“I feel safer with the fences, especially on the footbridge, which I feel is more dangerous [than the other bridges on campus],” she said.According to the University, the black fences installed over the summer are a temporary solution that will “remain in place while permanent means restriction measures are explored and designed.”

Original Author: Cindy Huynh