Apparent suicide stuns campus
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 06:09
Akshay R. Venkatesh ’14 was found dead in Ziv 127 yesterday morning by two members of the Brandeis Police Department after an apparent suicide, University officials said.
Venkatesh, an international student, was studying neuroscience at the University.
The officers were performing a wellness visit on Venkatesh, according to an email from Bill Burger, associate vice president of communications. An off-campus source had called to notify University officials that there was reason for concern.
Senior administrators including Maggie Balch, Jamele Adams, David Bunis ’83, Andrew Flagel and Edward Callahan were on the scene in Ziv Quad a little after 10:30 a.m. Monday morning.
In addition to Brandeis staff and police, Waltham police and paramedics responded to the call.
Burger later confirmed that students were around the suite when the police arrived a little after 10 a.m. The police walked into Venkatesh’s room, shut the door and then cleared the suite.
The suitemates and building residents were later informed of Venkatesh’s death by Community Development Coordinator for Ziv and Ridgewood Quads Allison Leventhal and Community Advisor Natan Odenheimer ’14.
The Massachusetts Medical Examiner arrived at approximately 1 p.m. and removed the body from the building while Department of Community Living staff cleared the area. Before that point, students walked in and out of the building as normal.
Representatives from the Middlesex District Attorney's Office and Massachusetts State Police Department attended to the scene and are conducting an ongoing investigation, according to Burger.
University officials declined to comment on the details of the scene and the D.A.’s office could not be reached for comment by press time. Associate Dean of Student Life Maggie Balch was in touch with the family at least twice yesterday, though the University is unsure of what the family’s next steps will be.
According to club members, Venkatesh attended several Namaskr events, including Diwali, which is also known as the Festival of Lights and is an official holiday in India. This past summer, Venkatesh interned at the Genome Institute of Singapore, in the same city in which he attended high school.
In a campuswide email sent at 6:30 p.m., University President Frederick Lawrence announced the news.
At 9 p.m., the University held an informal community gathering for mutual support at Chapels Pond.
The candlelight vigil, attended by over one hundred members of the community, allowed students to “remember a member of our community whether they knew him or not. Being at the informal gathering … showed how unique Brandeis really is,” Student Union President Todd Kirkland ’13 said in an interview Monday night. During the ceremony, the candles were slowly lit, as students passed the flame from one to another.
“The Brandeis family is in mourning … There is a deep tear in the fabric of our Brandeis community.” Lawrence said, following an opening address from Coordinator of the Interfaith Chaplaincy Rev. Walter Cuenin. Balch, in an interview after the event, said that the family was comforted to hear that the community was coming together for a vigil.
Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel reminded students at the vigil, “what helps us make it through experiences like this is the support of friends.
“You never want a community to continue to go through it, but I’m very grateful for the enormous emotional and physical commitment that the team makes to making sure that every student feels supported, especially at a time like this.”
The counseling center was open all night to support students and will be having extended hours this week, according to Flagel.
—Fiona Lockyer contributed reporting.