Volume 16 • Issue 39 | February 27 - March 4, 2004

Pace copes with student’s death

By Albert Amateau and Melanie Wallis

Michael G. Hoppy, 19, a Pace University freshman from Geneva, N.Y., jumped to his death at 1:30 a.m. Fri. Feb. 20 from the 17th floor to the fourth-floor roof of the University’s Maria’s Tower dormitory at 1 Pace Plaza, police said.

David Caputo, university president, arrived at the scene soon after being notified.

“The Pace University community extends its fullest sympathies to Michael’s family and friends,” said Caputo in a statement issued the following day. “We are reaching out to his friends and other residents of Maria’s Tower and providing appropriate counseling to the family and friends who knew him.”

The university will sponsor a memorial service for Hoppy at 5:30 p.m. Fri. Feb. 27 at Drumgoole Park north of the campus at Gold and Frankfort Sts. “We’ll distribute daffodils and bamboo shoots, Michaels favorite plants, according to his fellow members in THINK Environment,” said Christopher Cory, said the school’s sposkesperson. The acronym for the student group stands for The Healthy Independent Natural Knowledge. Its student members are involved with the Department of Parks in maintaining Drumgoole Park.

Pace students were puzzled and anxious in the wake of the suicide. Several said they were instructed not to speak to reporters, but others were willing to comment.

Megan Ubuer, 18, a freshman, was there the night of the tragedy. “I was at the back of the building, it was a crazy night, everyone was really scared,” she said. When asked whether she thought the Pace University counseling service available to students was sufficient, she said, “There are always posters around the university offering counseling and help.”

Lili Lee, 21, a junior, said she has friends who knew Hoppy and were with him the night of the suicide. “They said he seemed fine but his AOL Away Message said ‘Window.’ No one knew what that meant at the time,” Lee recalled.

“Counseling is offered but there’s a stigma attached to it,” Lee said. “Everyone is very upset, even me and I didn’t know him.”

Alicia Trotman, 24, a senior, was a good friend of Hoopy and admired him. “He had good manners — responsible, sensitive on all issues. He was open-minded. And when he spoke, his message was clear and correct — not conservative at all,” she said.

Regarding counseling, Trotman said, “There is a stigma related to counseling here, so no one goes.” She also said that resources are stretched. “There are many organizations at Pace and a small staff. There’s not enough help. A lot of commuting students don’t have the time to contribute to these organizations.”

The city environment puts stress on some of the 5,400 undergraduates at the Downtown campus, Trotman suggested. “Being in the heart of the city, there isn’t a smooth transition from university to the working world — we go straight into corporations and students are fearful of the situation,” she said. “And being right next door to City Hall, after 9/11, we feel constantly on guard,” she added.

Hoopy was involved with several other campus groups and attended meetings of the Pace Community Outreach Program and the Stonewall Coalition which deals with gay rights issues, Trotman said.

Richard Shadick, director of counseling for the Downtown campus, was on the scene within an hour of the incident last week. Counselors and staff residential assistants awakened students in the building to make everyone aware of the situation and offer any assistance needed, a Pace spokesperson said.

“In the last several years, the university has intensified its suicide prevention efforts with multi-level outreach involving mental health screening days several times each year, extensive and regular outreach to faculty, students, staff and security personnel with information about recognizing signs of people at risk and resources for troubled students,” said a statement that Pace issued on the incident last week.

Last fall, three New York University students jumped to their deaths. A Brooklyn first-year student jumped to her death on Oct. 18 from a friend’s apartment on University Pl., and two male students jumped to their deaths into the Bobst Library atrium from a balcony, one on Sept. 12 and the other on Oct. 10.


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