Cornell’s Suicide Fences Staying Up

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Apparently Cornell University (now suicide-free for three months!) will be up keeping the hideous and sort of non-functional “temporary” fences it erected over campus bridges at the end of March. According to an article by Andrew Hu in the Cornell Daily Sun:

The City of Ithaca Common Council voted last week to extend the deadline for removal of the temporary fences on bridges around campus for an additional 10 weeks.

Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, sent the request on May 20 and the vote passed unanimously on June 2. The fences were constructed last semester during spring break after three students committed suicide from bridges within a one-month period. This vote means that the fences may stay until August 13. Murphy said physical barriers are emerging as the most likely permanent solution to deal with bridge suicides. Barriers could be a variety of structures, such as fences or nets. The administration has yet to determine which restrictions are most effective on which bridge, Murphy said.

This comes after Cornell hired outside consultants to assess the situation. The three suicide experts recommended that Cornell retrain barriers over its bridges because, according to the report issued:

The available scientific data regarding suicide deaths and attempts related to jumping from bridges strongly suggests that most individuals who jump from iconic sites are ambivalent, act impulsively, choose a specific site, and if thwarted from an attempt at that site at a particular time, will survive. Restricting access to community-recognized, accessible jumping sites has a substantial probability of reducing deaths by this means.

This ignores the fact that existing fences seem to have been more of a PR move than a serious suicide prevention tactic. Cornell, in fact, has only erected fences over the bridges it owns. Most of the bridges over steep gorges in town are still easily accessible for jumping purposes. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer