West Virginia University’s leadership is missing.
In recent days, the University has been quick to engage in posturing and misdirection, if anything at all. Since Benjamin Pravecek, a 20-year-old student, fell to his death on Friday afternoon, no statement came from either University President E. Gordon Gee or Provost Maryanne Reed, nor has there been any sort of updated plan for combating what many students consider a mental health crisis on campus.
The WVU police department says it does not believe that foul play was involved, pointing to the likelihood that Pravecek took matters into his own hands. While nobody can say for certain one way or the other, many feel as if the dots connect themselves. Thus, many people find that WVU’s issuing of a press release and a handful of social media posts is ineffective and far from enough to combat the broader issue of campus mental health challenges, especially during a pandemic.
After all, you don’t have to go far to find the disappointment expressed by the University community. Just look at comments on social media. On Saturday afternoon, the official WVU Twitter account posted a tweet mourning the passing and ending the message with “Our Mountaineer family is here for you. You are valued. You are needed. You are loved.”
Replies ranged from characterizing the University as not caring about its students, disgruntled claims of dealing with the Carruth Center and a general request for the University to take mental well-being more seriously.
Another common perspective of students was to urge the University to provide them with adequate time off, which seems logical after University leaders adjusted the spring semester schedule to remove the traditional week-long spring break. The decision, made with COVID-19 transmission in mind, completely neglected to consider the mental hardships students experience in a normal year and the increased intensity of those issues in a year in which a pandemic rages on.
In the days since Pravecek’s death, students have banded together to establish a makeshift memorial in his memory and gathered for a balloon launch in his remembrance. University leaders sat on their hands.
Benjamin Pravecek was a person. The University’s feeble response makes him appear as just another statistic.
If you are fighting with your own inner demons, you are not alone. You can contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you would like to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign in honor of Benjamin Pravecek, visit tinyurl.com/InMemoryOfBenPravecek.