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22 deaths in 10 years

PSUC reports second highest death rate in study

Editor In Chief

Published: Friday, April 30, 2010

Updated: Saturday, May 1, 2010 20:05

A senior at Plattsburgh State would remember the fire that took the life of Steven Fanning, the drowning of Joshua Szostak and the fight that Brian Mehan lost to cancer.

That senior might also remember Sabby Crecco, Patrick Karorero, Scott Wolff, Rachel Terry, N. John Racine and Meredith Fiacco. All of these students have died since 2006.

Between fall 1999 and fall 2009, 22 PSUC students have perished.



PSUC had the second highest student death rate of nine SUNY colleges, according to a Cardinal Points data collection and analysis. That rate is 3.56 student deaths per 1,000 students, when compared with the average enrollment of the same time period.

President John Ettling said he doesn't see anything alarming in the data.

"I don't see a pattern there, and I don't see anything … that would suggest that we have a certain kind of problem here that we would need to attend to right away, that would put our students in a dangerous situation," he said.

SUNY Geneseo had the highest rate, with 20 deaths at a rate of 3.58 per 1,000 students — just above PSUC's rate.

Robert Bonfiglio, vice president for student and campus life at Geneseo, said he doesn't think the rates of student death at Geneseo are unusual.

"What I have found sometimes is that these things are in cycles and happen in uneven rates," he said. He also said much of this has to do with illness. Five of the 15 students whose causes of death were known died of illness.

"We have been hit particularly hard with students who suffer from fatal illnesses in the last couple of years," he said.

Melinda DuBois, administrative director of health and counseling, said she was surprised by the volume of Geneseo students who are currently battling serious ailments.

"We do have a number of students who have chronic and severe medical conditions that, while healthy enough to be in college, require a lot of medical treatment," she said. "We see students who have cystic fibrosis, who have severe Crohn's disease, who have cancer — there are students with pretty extreme cases."

SUNY Oneonta had the lowest rate, with 7 deaths at a rate of 1.22 student deaths per 1,000 students. 

Ettling said he was puzzled as to how a school with such similar population and environment — an average enrollment for that period of 5,743 compared to our 6,175 — could have three times fewer deaths than PSUC.

Steve Perry, vice president for student development at Oneonta, said he has two explanations.

The first is successful programming to alert students to dangers on campus, comprehensive alcohol and other drug counseling, and a strong health and wellness center.

The other, he said, "is dumb luck."

He said: "(If) you look at the trends in alcohol-related deaths across the country among college students, you could say that every college campus had a 1 in 3 chance of having a death from alcohol every year. I think we've been fortunate at Oneonta not to have a lot of deaths. I'd like to attribute some of that to our preventative work."



Of those deceased SUNY students whose gender was provided, 60 percent were male and 40 percent were female.

PSUC's students were 72 percent male. This is closer to the national rate, as deaths of those between the ages of 18 and 25 from 1999 to 2006 were 75 percent male and 25 percent female, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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