MIT's Reaction To Suicides Woefully Inadequate
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I am writing to inform you that the article about my son Douglas P. Rodger '93 that appeared on the front page of the June 26 issue of The Tech is incorrect and misleading.
It is true that Douglas died of carbon monoxide poisoning; but it is not true that he was working on his car at the time, and it is not true that his death has been declared an accident.
The author of the story was careful to call me before publishing the article to check the spelling of names and to ask me about Douglas' interests. At that time I asked him please not to use the word "suicide" because it was such a painful thought for my wife and me, and because in our minds there was still some doubt about what actually happened.
I thought the reporter was going to write something neutral, like "he died of carbon monoxide poisoning," and leave it at that. The police officially declared the death a suicide, but it wasn't until July 3 that they finally agreed to meet with us and share all the data they had. We have now painfully accepted that the death was truly a suicide.
I will leave it up to you to decide if and how you want to correct the news as your paper has reported it. It's understandable that your paper received incorrect information (probably from Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert M. Randolph's office, whom we contacted), although it's unfortunate that it wasn't checked more carefully before making it sound so certain that it was an accident.
My real concern at this time
is how casually MIT seems to accept suicide. Although there were, in fact, two MIT suicides in the month of June, your paper missed one and reported the other rather blandly.
The reporter told me there are several suicides per year at MIT. I am appalled and outraged that the MIT community finds this normal and acceptable. Although I'm obviously biased and not objective, I'm disappointed that you chose to use your editorial page for a humorous story about baseball.
I am enclosing a copy of a letter I have sent to President Charles M. Vest and several deans, and I'm hopeful that you will consider using your paper to make MIT a more considerate, thoughtful and sensitive place where there might be fewer suicides.
(Editor's note: The Tech received information that Douglas P. Rodger was working on his car at the time of death from the Dean's Office. At press time,
the death had not been declared
a suicide, but rather had been mistakenly called an accident. According to the reporter, Tod Rodger never mentioned his son's death being a suicide in their conversation June 25.)