BOSTON — The Boston University community is reeling from the deaths of three students in a car accident in New Zealand over the weekend.
Three other students were injured in the crash, one critically.
Austin Brashears, Daniela Lekhno and Roch Jauberty were sophomores and juniors studying in BU’s New Zealand study abroad program. They and their classmates were headed to see the mountains where the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed when their van rolled over.
“It’s a tragedy, It’s an awful, dreadful event,” said the Rev. Robert Allan Hill, the Chaplain of the university. “It will take us a while to absorb. Some of our work right now is just realizing what’s happened.”
The university has been absorbing bad news all semester. This tragedy is the latest in a long list of unfortunate news that has hit the university this year.
Less than two weeks ago, Hill held a memorial service for Sesh Rao. He was the business school graduate student shot and killed in Allston. It’s still a mystery what happened.
“It has been a rather difficult spring term. My first year here we also had a very trying and troubling year. I had seven students die that year,” Hill said. “Sometimes… when it rains it pours. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it.”
Hill says these accidents and tragedies should be put in context — BU is a large school, on a large campus in the middle of the city. When you have 30,000 students, accidents will happen to them.
But there were also stories of students behaving badly.
“This whole semester, pretty much, everything that could go wrong, I think, did go wrong. And it was just the mix of everything,” said Marlena Sherman.
Sherman was sunning herself outside with friends Sunday. All seniors, they ticked off the incidents: There were sexual assault allegations for two hockey players; hazing charges at a sorority and fraternity; a string of bizarre complaints about a peeping tom on campus; students who got caught with drugs on a bus from Canada.
Juliana Reinold says it’s been distracting to have news reporters on campus every time something happens.
“There has literally been so many things that I can’t keep track of what’s happened,” Reinold said.
Reinold and Sherman worry how the negative reports about BU might affect the school’s reputation, and now the value of the degree’s they’ll earn next week when they graduate.
“We go to this great university and all of sudden we’re being portrayed negatively in the news. We want to kind of tell the rest of the nation, I mean, we’re not this bad school,” Sherman said. “There’s 16,000 undergrads, 16,000 grad students. We’re not all bad people. We’re not doing bad things. We’re here to learn.”
Dean of Students Ken Elmore agrees.
“We still have very high-achieving people around here,” Elmore said. “Folks who are creating things at the university. Folks who are learning, folks who are teaching, people who are writing poetry, singing songs.”
Elmore says the school shouldn’t be characterized by a few bad actors or sad accidents.