November 30, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Discourse should move beyond the fences

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To the Editor:

Re: “Cornell Spends $575,000 on Suicide Response So Far” News, Nov. 22

Everyone wants to share their two cents about bridge fences. Whether you read handwritten stickers or newspaper columns, you have probably heard compelling arguments on both sides. But we seem to be losing sight of a bigger picture: whether they work or not, fences try to solve the wrong problem.

If someone reaches a point where a fence is the only thing keeping them from jumping off a bridge, the University is already doing something very wrong. By the time a student seriously considers suicide, we have already failed. The question should not be, “How do we keep students from jumping off bridges?” It should rather be, “Why do students feel the need to commit suicide in the first place?”

The University is going to keep the fences, and they are right to do so if there is even the slightest possibility that fences prevent suicide. But our goal should be to keep students from reaching a place where they feel suicide is their only option. We need to stop focusing on bridges, and start focusing on us.

Caspar Anderegg ’12