Are Universities Responsible For Preventing Student Suicides? Massachusetts Court Hands Down Ruling


Terry Haynes Contributor
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The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled Monday that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is not at fault in the suicide of a doctoral candidate.

Han Nguyen, 25, jumped from atop a campus building on June 2, 2009. The graduate student had a history of depression and was struggling academically. He had previously received treatment from mental health providers on campus and elsewhere.

Following Nguyen’s death, his father filed a suit against the private research university, claiming it had a “duty of reasonable care” to avert his son’s fatality.

Although the state’s highest court sided with MIT, it also declared schools can be held liable for not taking sensible action after learning a student has attempted suicide during or just prior to enrollment, or that the student has threatened to commit the act.

The court concluded that Nguyen had not informed any collegiate faculty of his intention to harm himself, and that his prior suicidal attempts had been made over one year before he began at MIT.

Nguyen leaped to his death only minutes after a professor castigated him for an email sent to another university official which the instructor believed was inappropriate.

Justice Scott Kafker’s decision stated, “Universities are not responsible for monitoring and controlling all aspects of their students’ lives.”