Robert M. Wells ’08 died Saturday morning after a five-story fall from the Delta Upsilon fraternity house. His death, which has been characterized as accidental by friends and family, is under investigation. Wells was 22.
A call to 911 was placed from the DU house at 5:44 a.m. on Saturday, March 1, said Officer Eddy Chrispin, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department. Chrispin said he did not know who placed the call. He said that “EMS responded … followed by police,” and that Wells was pronounced dead at the scene.
An autopsy is currently scheduled and results are expected in the next few days, said Chrispin. The police “don’t suspect foul play,” he said, but investigators have not made a final ruling. Chrispin said that alcohol was not suspected as a factor in Wells’s death.
In the fall 2004 subject Writing and Experience (21W.731), Wells wrote a piece titled “What Is Depression?” that outlined his personal struggles with bipolar disorder and atypical clinical depression. In the piece, which is posted online, Wells described a conversation with his doctor who said that he would be on three psychiatric medications “throughout college and maybe for the rest of [his] life.”
Friends of Wells have, however, stressed that his death was accidental. Michael R. Smith-Bronstein ’09, the president of DU, said that the death was almost certainly an accident. Asked about the possibility that Wells killed himself, “almost everyone is sure that that was not the case … the entire brotherhood,” said Smith-Bronstein. “Rob’s bed was situated close to the window,” he said, adding that “everyone was asleep [when Wells fell].” Smith-Bronstein said that Wells’s window did not have a fire escape outside.
Robert Kevin Moore ’92, a DU alumnus, told the Boston Globe that he was in town for a DU initiation ceremony and that Wells slept very close to an open window because the house was usually very hot.
In the past year, three Boston-area college students have accidentally died in falls from residences.
In January, Michael Robertson, a Boston University sophomore, died after falling out of a fourth-floor window. Last November, Shawn Dow, a student at the Art Institute of Boston, was killed after falling off of a roof at a party. Last August, James T. Albrecht ’08 died after falling from the roof of a New York apartment building.
Pamela Dumas Serfes, MIT’s executive director of news and communications, said that “fraternities have a very … robust safety program that has to conform to city standards in Boston.”
Kaya Miller, the assistant dean of Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups and Residential Life Programs, said that FSILGs have multiple safety inspections each year. Each FSILG in Boston is inspected by the fire department and the Boston Inspectional Services Department, said Miller. “Boston Fire does have to approve all lofts and … sleeping area[s],” said Miller. DU was “current in their inspection,” she said.
Miller also said that MIT likely would not issue additional restrictions on FSILGs. “[MIT] doesn’t get into the nuances of what exactly the building needs to be,” she said.
MIT has, however, altered on-campus housing for safety reasons before. In February 2004, MIT banned all flags and banners from the outsides of dormitory windows, allegedly because they posed a fire hazard. MIT also added window restraints — which allowed windows to open only 15 degrees — in the lounges of MacGregor House following the 1990 suicide of Younes Borki ’92. The restraints were strengthened in the summer of 1996 after the suicide of Melissa N. Ronge ’98. In January of 2000, MIT replaced the restraints with strong metal screens after the Feb. 1999 suicide of Michael P. Manley ’02.