University investigates student death

Deane aims to have report by end of summer

Sukaina Mohsin Ali, far right, poses with friends. Ali died in her dorm room April 10, 2006.
Sukaina Mohsin Ali, far right, poses with friends. Ali died in her dorm room April 10, 2006.
Photo courtesy of Rabia Khattak
Vice Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane is spearheading an investigation into the death of Sukaina Mohsin Ali.
Vice Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane is spearheading an investigation into the death of Sukaina Mohsin Ali.

The University is conducting an investigation into Sukaina Mohsin Ali’s death.

The first-year international student from Pakistan died of cardiac arrest in her dorm room on April 10.

Patrick Deane, vice-principal (academic), said the investigation is meant to better inform Ali’s family and the Queen’s community about the circumstances surrounding Ali’s death.

“The purpose of this is to allow us to understand what happened and if there are lessons to be learned from this situation,” he said. “I think an important part of this is to be able to report to the family a more complete, official assessment of the background.” Shortly after her death, the Journal learned that Ali suffered from an eating disorder.

A letter sent by Ali’s psychiatrist had informed the University of her condition at the time of her admission.

Deane said the date for the release of the investigation’s results has not yet been determined.

“It depends when the process is complete; it doesn’t have a fixed timeline,” he said. “My aim is to have [the investigation] finished by the end of the summer.”

Deane said the investigation is looking at any underlying issues surrounding Ali’s death.

“The investigation is really a routine procedure in cases like this where something untoward has happened,” he said. “One wants to know whether there were any issues [Ali] had socially in order to fill out the picture of what happened. Then there are more technical things such as [the letter], and which part of the University received it.”

Deane said the investigation will be made up of a number of reports from Roxy Denniston-Stewart, associate dean of student affairs, outgoing Dean of Student Affairs Janice Deakin, and “personal interviews” with various other individuals.

Deane said the Queen’s community may receive some, but not all, of the results.

Denniston-Stewart told the Journal via e-mail that any information to be released will require Sukaina’s family’s approval.

“It is my understanding that any information that can be released will be made public after the [Ali] family has been consulted,” she said.

Denniston-Stewart said residence administration is reviewing procedures and results will be released when deemed appropriate.

“Given that the well-being of students, and our student staff, is of utmost importance, it is essential that we take every opportunity to review our procedures in order to ensure that the support we provide to our students, and student staff, meets their needs,” she said.

Deane said although lessons can be learned from this event, he believes that Queen’s has an effective administration system.

“Human tragedy is just that, and not explicable in terms of administrative processes and procedures,” he said. “You can have the best processes in place and still have these things happen.”

Speaking on behalf of Ali’s family, her cousin, Armeen Hussain, said the Ali family is still grieving.

“She’s gone. Her parents are dealing with that now,” she said. “All the could-haves and should-haves, those questions are not important anymore.”

Hussain said the family wants to find out more about Ali’s death to prevent it from happening again.

“Our main purpose was to make sure nobody else goes through this,” she said. “No one should have to go through this.”

The family’s request to establish a scholarship in Ali’s name is on hold until the school year begins, Deane said.

“I think all I would say is that it is in process,” he said. “I would imagine that in the fall, those agencies within the University who deal with endowments and scholarships will take the appropriate actions.”

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