By Daniel Udell
The deaths of two Rollins students this past 2014-2015 academic school year were met with very different reactions from the administration and student body. Staff writer Daniel Udell analyzes these reactions and discusses the student safety policies needed on campus.
Rollins College has experienced two irreplaceable losses in the past academic year. Tragically, on October 27, 2014 Matthew Hoverman was found dead in the Sutton Apartments in the early morning, officially reported by the school as an accidental drug-related death. Only a few months later on February 2, 2015, Will Hauver, captain of the men’s lacrosse team and member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, passed away from medical complications possibly involving a dangerous combination of the flu and diabetic problems. Hoverman was studying real estate finance and Economics, while Hauver was about to graduate with a degree in communications.
Both students received different reactions from the school administration and student body in the wake of their passing. Although news spread quickly about Hoverman’s death and the school went through the necessary procedures of promoting College Assisted Psychological Services (CAPS), the details of Hoverman’s passing were kept oddly hushed when announcing the loss. Less than twenty mourners, several of whom did not know Hoverman, attended the small memorial service held that night.
In the wake of Hauver’s death, the school as a whole was quick to laud the athlete for all of his achievements and an enormous outpouring of love and grievance manifested, resulting in a massive and heartwarming turnout for the memorial service the night the news broke. Let me be clear: the reaction to the tragic news of Hauver’s death was entirely appropriate and moving, and it demonstrated how much Hauver meant to the Rollins community. This piece is not an indictment of how the school reacted to Hauver’s death, nor is it an attack on Rollins for treating Hoverman’s death differently. The two students were different, had different degrees of visibility, and simply had their lives cut short in drastically different ways. The two merited different responses, to a degree.
That said, I believe the way Hoverman’s death was handled can serve as an example of what not to do in these kinds of tragic and confusing situations. The details of Hoverman’s death are just as tragic as Hauver’s. However, only one of them was partially preventable, and that was the death of Hoverman. Drug use and college often tend to go hand in hand, or rather, a sudden lack of supervision combined with emotional turbulence in young adults tends to go hand in hand with drug use. People do not consume drugs in a vacuum—often, social pressures are a factor, along with a long list of other factors, such as depression, poor moral support, lack of supervision (by friends, parents, or administration), and a history of addiction either in the family or the individual. I am in no way laying blame on any of Hoverman’s friends, family, or the school administration. However, his death could have and still can serve as a moment in Rollins history where we seriously look at drug use here at Rollins in a mature and compassionate manner, so that the likelihood of such a tragedy happening again is decreased to the best of our ability.
The Sutton Apartments have always had an ominous reputation as the Wild West of Rollins’ campus. Due to its remote location on the far edge of the property, the apartments tend to be isolated from much of the school’s influence and most of the student body. Despite Rollins having a fairly rigorous “dry building” policy for freshman dorms, sophomores can move into the Sutton Apartments the next year with little to none of the supervision they experienced the year before. We are then trusting students we didn’t trust the year before with alcohol in a mostly unsupervised playground of booze, drugs, and low social responsibility, knowing full well that virtually no sophomore can legally drink. Now, that is not to say that I’m for a “dry campus” or a more authoritarian style of administration, nor am I suggesting that personal accountability is a non-issue. However, freshmen and sophomores should be delegated to “dry” buildings exclusively if we don’t want the pretense of responsibility for our incoming freshman to be purely for PR appearances.
I lived in McKean my freshman year. There was a lot of alcohol, both in and out of the dorms. The threat of supervision and potential punishment for breaking the rules forced most of the freshman body to drink or party in moderation. People who want to drink or want to consume illegal substances will do so, no matter what school they attend. However, school administrations can take steps to prohibit reckless abandon concerning student substance abuse. For those who are quick to dismiss “druggies” as being exclusively responsible for their actions and deserving to be caught or suffer the consequences, I have some news to break to you. I’ve tried drugs. Teachers have tried drugs. Upstanding citizens have tried drugs. You, the readers, in great likelihood, have tried drugs. We must hold each other accountable and treat each of these cases as if we were the ones being scrutinized. Would we want to be treated with compassion and dignity if we fell into addictive substances, or would we want to be vilified and disregarded as unworthy of grief and mourning? The death of Hoverman presented Rollins with an invaluable opportunity to discuss drug use on campus with the seriousness and somberness that the subject requires. If Hoverman truly did pass away from a drug-related incident, that should raise huge red flags about the state of his life on campus and the safety of the Sutton Apartments, not a tut-tut by those quick to judge.
Furthermore, a student’s popularity should not determine whether it is a necessity to come together for a moment of collective mourning. It broke my heart to see so few people turn up for Matthew’s memorial. I understand that everyone deals with loss and grief in their own way, so I am in no way vilifying those who did not attend either memorial. That said, the school administration should have used the tragedy of Hoverman’s death as an opportunity to discuss drug safety and use on campus, dorm safety for upperclassmen (who admittedly get a huge pass in terms of blind-eye from RA’s), and perhaps to have arranged an event that dealt with issues related to addiction and substance abuse. We need to discuss serious drug use on campus if they pose even an inkling of a threat to any member of the student body. Heroin is one hell of a drug, and no one casually dips into it. Cocaine is likewise a rampant issue on many college campuses, Rollins not excluded. If you’re using something as extreme as heroin, cocaine, or any other sort of hard drug, something is wrong, and you should seek help. As wonderful as Will Hauver’s memorial was, and as heartwarming as it was to see the majority of campus come together in their time of grief in solidarity for one another and the family of the deceased, it also broke my heart to remember how little attention and consideration went to Hoverman’s passing.
We cannot always prevent tragedies, but we can always take strides to lessen the chances that they will happen again.
Look out for your friends going through hard times. Try to put yourselves in situations where you’re less likely to abuse vices that you know you may have a tendency towards. Speak to CAPS if you’re unsure of whether you’re on a safe path or not. Don’t be afraid to report dangerous behavior on behalf of your friends’ or peers’ safety. Saving a life is above and beyond more important than the risk of possibly getting that person in trouble. I hope that Residential Life is seriously looking into reforms on safety and age demographics for the Sutton Apartments, and it’d be valuable if a mandatory freshman class on drugs and addiction were added to the orientation week. A drug-related death—whether an overdose, a bad mix, or a freak accident—on school premises is unacceptable —it is emotionally unacceptable, safety-wise unacceptable, and to dismiss such an event as mundane or insignificant is humanely unacceptable. For the sake of our students and the sake of our faculty who live to see these students grow, this much is owed. We cannot always prevent tragedies, but we can always take strides to lessen the chances that they will happen again. My heart goes out to the families of Matthew and Will – please know that both boys touched people’s lives here in different ways. I hope that the school can begin a discussion over the summer while preparing for the next incoming class on how to confront these issues, and I hope that we do not have the misfortune of experiencing another student death for a long, long time. Student deaths are common across the country for a myriad of reasons, too often with one common conceit: They don’t have to be.