Penn, Temple reeling after six student deaths

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Cariann Hithon, a 22-year-old Temple University student, was fatally shot by police Sunday in Miami Beach.

Six students at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania have died in the last six weeks, an unusually high number in such a short stretch and one that has left both campuses reeling, officials say.

The deaths include two suicides, one murder and one killing by police; the cause of death of two others are pending test results. Just one occurred on campus. But the deaths have hit the school communities hard.

“This has been a painful semester,” read a tweet Monday from Temple’s student government. “We know. We hear you. We see you. We support you.”

That message came a day after 22-year-old Cariann Hithon was shot and killed by police in Miami Beach, Fla., on Sunday night. Hithon, of Bowie, Md., was shot after the car she was driving struck an officer in what appeared to be an attempt to leave the scene of an accident. Hithon had transferred to Temple last spring from Hampton University in Virginia, Temple said.

Her death occurred less than a week after Richard Dalcourt, 19, a mechanical-engineering major who graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey, jumped from his sixth-floor dorm room on Temple’s North Philadelphia campus. Dalcourt’s death was ruled a suicide.

Another Temple student, Jenna Burleigh, 22, was allegedly killed by a former Temple student she met at a bar near campus on Aug. 31.

“I have heard from faculty members. They have noticed and they’re very concerned,” said Steve Newman, an associate professor of English and president of the faculty union at Temple. “These are our students and we care very deeply about them.”

Because they died under different circumstances, he said, it’s too soon to know exactly what can or should be done in response, other than counseling for students in distress, he said.

“We all have to think about what if anything can be done to prevent further deaths,” he said, “and also to help those who were close to those who have died cope with a tragedy of this sort.”

At Penn, Wharton senior Henry W. Rogers died Monday in his off-campus residence. Rogers, 22, who was a finance and marketing student, belonged to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and was former captain of the heavyweight rowing team. He was from St. Louis.

His cause of death is pending results from the medical examiner, but officials say the death appears to be from natural causes.

“There are absolutely no words that can precisely convey how deeply sad we are as a Penn community to learn of the loss of any student, and I know how painful it is for you to read and absorb this news,” Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, vice provost for university life, said in an email announcing his death.

Last month, Brett Cooper, a student in the School of Veterinary Medicine, also died at his off-campus residence. The cause of his death remains under review.

And as the fall semester opened, senior Nicholas A. Moya, 21, a math and economics major from Radnor, killed himself off campus. Moya was a member and former president of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, a data analyst for the men’s basketball team, and a volunteer for the West Philadelphia Tutoring project.

“There’s always an assumption that young people are not going to pass away,” said Stephen J. MacCarthy, vice president for communications at Penn. “In any given year, there are going to be people who die from various different causes. It is always going to be sad, especially for the families.”

Ryan Snyder, 20, a Penn junior from Howell, N.J., said the deaths have been difficult on the university community and the Greek community in particular, given that two of the students who died were fraternity members.

“I was definitely jarred by it,” said Snyder, a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and vice president of the Penn College Republicans. “While I didn’t personally know either of those guys, you still feel some sort of connection to them.”