Cornell’s attempt to prevent further suicides by fencing off all the campus bridges has left the once-beautiful gorges an eyesore. Check out this set of Flickr photos titled Re-Think the Fence to see for yourself what they look like. As a further measure, according to The Huffington Post, “the school has posted security guards at the bridges, who will be on call until at least after spring break.”
The recent Cornell sun piece, Ithaca Is Fences, does a good job of debunking the utility of erecting fences on Cornell’s bridges. As the fences only protect bridges, not the entire brim of the various gorges, they do not present a plausible barrier to jumpers, who can simply leap off of some other precipice:
Even if we see a drop in suicide rates, it will be difficult to claim success. Given that the number of bridge jumps this year likely constitutes an outlier, statistical theory dictates that the number of jumps per year will regress to the mean — in our case, somewhere around zero. Therefore, we should anticipate seeing a drop in the number of suicides — but for reasons having to do with chance, not policy.
A student lead initiative called Re-think the fence calls for artistic submissions that re-imagine Cornell’s fenced bridges. There are no parameters; one could fully remove the guard rails, or send in a submission of an enclose-on-four-sides bridge.
On October 8th, 2008 Jakub Jan Janecka decided to dive head-first into Cascadilla Gorge, under the College Avenue bridge that connects collegetown to central campus. It’s not immediately clear why the Cornell ‘98 alumnus decided to take his own life. According to the Ithaca Journal, an autopsy was performed at Lourdes in Binghamton, and an investigation is ongoing. The body is scheduled for cremation after the mass of of Christian burial.
Name: Jakub Jan Janecka
Hometown: The Hideout, Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania
Here are all the relevant resources I could find about this story:
According to comments left on his facebook wall, Ash Thotambilu, a recently graduating Cornell Senior, is dead. Mike Shafer wrote on June 1st, “You were my best friend, Ash. I’ll always love you for being you. I’ll catch you on the flip side, brother. Make heaven REAL for us. Rest in peace, old friend.” His real name was Ashumantha Jayakumar Thotambilu; according to Cornell search, he was a student in Human Ecology.
Although Ash appeared to have high ambition, describing himself on facebook with, “gonna be a millionaire before i turn 30,” the comments on his Facebook wall appear to indicate that he died between May 31st to June 1st. He was spending his summer break in Ithaca, after graduation. As I didn’t know him, cannot confirm the circumstances of his death or even that Ash actually died, the best I can do is archive his facebook profile:
Apparently, Ash also had a blogspot and a xanga blog, but neither have been recently updated. His aim address, brepubpimp23, turns up nothing. From online materials, I can find no motivation for suicide, and no mention of Ash’s death. The only possibility in my mind for suicide would be if Ash received some traumatic news, such as some kind of suspension of his diploma. Draw what conclusions you will.
Former CU Daily Sun EIC writes in, “A cursory look through the remnants of his several blogs reveals a few constant themes.”
According to CUInfo, Ash Thotambilu was a student in the college of Human Ecology, supposed to graduate this year. However, since I graduated as well, I received a document for the One Hundred Thirty Eighth Commencement listing all the graduates this year. Guess what–Ash was not among them:
If Ash didn’t graduate, the theory that he committed suicide because of academic pressure from his parents (at least one of which is a doctor in Syracuse) becomes more plausible. Without a Cornell degree, there’s no way he could have gone to medical school and fulfilled their family’s desires.
Ash Thotambilu’s xanga profile gives us a little more information about his family situation. He writes (emphasis mine):
I’m currently a student at the school of Human Ecology at Cornell. My major is Human Biology Health and Society. I want to go med school and become a heart surgeon. Here’s a little bit about me: I was born in Scotland and lived there for two years. I then moved to a town in England called Blackpool and lived there until I was 8 years old. My family and I moved to America on the 4th of July (wierd, right?) and I’ve been living in Syracuse ever since. I have a sister who’s a year younger than me and is in college for business. My dad is a cardiologist and my mom runs his office. My parents are from India, so it’s sometimes hard living in America while being raised in a more traditional household.. But overall, they’re pretty cool parents.
Another interesting piece in the puzzle is Ash’s MySpace, which only recently turned up on Google. It was last updated May 30th, 2006, the night or the night before he allegedly committed suicide. In his profile, he writes (emphasis mine):
I’m an extremely introspective person and sometimes too analytical for my own good. Everything happens for a reason, so I have an obsesion to think about the ‘why.’ For this reason, my moods tend to fluctuate. Sometimes things may seem to be going well, and other times, my analyses will conclude me to believe things are going badly. However, I’m introvert with my emotions. Noone knows the real me. Noone knows what and how I feel deep down inside. This may seem bad to not want to open up to people, but I fear that they’ll judge me. So, I tell people enough so that they empathize, but I keep enough to myself so that they don’t sympathize.
The puzzle only thickens. If anyone would like to leave an anonymous tip as to why Ash killed himself, send me an email.