Sukaina's death still a priority

Sukaina Mohsin Ali, a first-year international student from Pakistan, died in her West Campus residence room over six months ago, and students are still waiting for answers.

Ali had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and depression before coming to Queen’s in 2005, and her psychiatrist in Pakistan sent the University a letter informing them of her medical conditions saying that while she saw no reason why Sukaina would be unable to cope with a full-time study schedule, but “of course, she would need monitoring by a general physician and counselor.” According to some of her friends, Ali didn’t know she could receive health services or councelling for free.

In April, Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane announced that the University was opening up an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ali’s death, and that a report would be completed by the end of the summer. Six weeks after the administration’s self-imposed deadline there is still no further information.

The Journal scheduled numerous appointments with Deane to discuss the report, but unfortunately his office cancelled them, saying only that the report was still a priority. If the administration was running behind their own schedule it would have been appreciated for Deane to keep his appointments to show students that information wasn’t being withheld.

Although the Health, Counselling and Disability Services have appropriate and well-defined confidentiality codes, it is also their responsibility to ensure the information they receive allows students to get the help they need on a day-to-day basis. Filing away a letter into a students’ file will not assist them if they are unaware they can even make an appointment. The letter sent by Ali’s psychiatrist was meant for people to know about it, yet somehow nobody claims to have seen it. The system needs more specific communication and confidentiality guidelines so that their policies can be put to good use.

While such an in-depth report should be carefully attended to, by not going public, even with the status of the report status it appears as if the University is hiding something. It’s important that members of the Queen’s community are kept up-to-date, and if a preset date was no longer feasible, it should at least have been acknowledged. It’s fine if the administration needs more time, but they shouldn’t let deadlines pass without any explanation.

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