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Carpenter Lawsuit is Settled Out of Court Amount of Settlement Will be Confidential

By Angeline Wang

MIT and the parents of Julia M. Carpenter ’03, a sophomore who committed suicide in April 2001, have settled the wrongful death lawsuit against MIT, several Institute officials, and Charvak P. Karpe G, who is accused of stalking her. The parties agreed that all terms of the settlement would remain confidential and that “there will be no further comment from any of the parties,” according to a message Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 sent to the MIT community on Sept. 1.

In a joint statement also released Sept. 1, Clay cited many changes that MIT has made over the last five years, including “suicide prevention initiatives” and “training programs for those involved in disciplinary processes and for identifying students at risk.”

“We are pleased that, since Julie’s death, MIT has made these changes,” the Carpenters said in the statement.

Carpenters’ parents filed the wrongful death suit in June 2003, seeking more than $20 million. The suit charged MIT and its officials with negligence in failing to prevent Carpenter’s suicide, as well as breach of contract for failing to keep Carpenter and Karpe apart. The suit also charged Karpe with assault and battery leading to her death.

MIT officials charged in the suit include then-President Charles M. Vest, Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, Senior Associate Dean for Students Robert M. Randolph, then-Assistant Dean Carol Orme-Johnson and Random Housemaster Nina Davis-Millis.

Karpe allegedly persisted in pursuing a romantic relationship with Carpenter. According to the lawsuit filing, Karpe slept in a lounge outside Carpenter’s room and stole a video of Carpenter having sex with her boyfriend. The video was allegedly shown to other students.

“I didn’t mean any harm, and it wasn’t meant to be doing anything to her,” Karpe said in an interview with The Tech in 2003. “I feel that many of the things I did back then don’t make sense to me anymore. I look back and see how confused I was at the time, and now, I can see what happened and it made so much more sense and I can see what I did was wrong.”

Karpe was brought in front of the Random Hall judicial committee and an MIT administrative review panel in early 2001, where he did not dispute Carpenter’s allegations against him, the suit stated.

According to a 2001 e-mail from Zev Arnold, Carpenter’s boyfriend who attended Washington University in St. Louis at the time, the decision of the review panel was that Karpe would be allowed back into Random Hall provided he read several books on and wrote an essay about “how it ‘feels’ to be a victim” and sought optional therapy.

MIT has said that the decision only allowed for Karpe to reapply for residence in Random.

Carpenter “picked up a copy of the panel’s decision left in an unattended room and signed for it,” the suit said. “No one from MIT spoke with Julie concerning the contents of the decision or monitored her reaction to it.”

Carpenter purchased sodium cyanide using her laptop that day, the suit said. Carpenter was found dead in her room a few days later by her roommate.

The Carpenter suit was the final outstanding wrongful death suit against MIT. MIT and the parents of Elizabeth H. Shin ‘02 settled the Shin case in April 2006, when both parties came to an agreement that the death was a tragic accident and not a suicide as originally confirmed by the Cambridge Fire Department and the Suffolk County medical examiner. Shin died in April 2000 from self-inflicted burns suffered in her room at Random Hall and the death was ruled a suicide, according to Shin’s death certificate.

In 2005, the family of Richard A. Guy Jr. ’99 settled its wrongful death lawsuit against MIT outside of court, establishing the Rick Guy Fund to sponsor students in pre-orientation programs. MIT also paid $6 million to the family of Scott S. Krueger ’01, who died in 1997 of alcohol poisoning after excessive drinking at an event at his fraternity Phi Gamma Delta. Of the $6 million, $1.25 million was to be used for a scholarship in Krueger’s memory, with the remaining $4.75 million compensatory damages to his parents.

Kenneth E. Arnold, Zev Arnold’s father, criticized the Carpenters for filing the lawsuit in Saturday’s Boston Globe.

“I believe wholeheartedly that Julie’s death was caused on that particular day by a failure of MIT’s systems,” Arnold said to the Globe. “But I think MIT has understood that for a while, and we could have gotten more accomplished without litigation.”

In response to an e-mail requesting comment, Clay said that “both parties have agreed that confidentiality is best.”

Keith J. Winstein G contributed to the reporting of this article.