updated on 11/07/2018
Hallie Lauer | Features Editor & Josiah Martin | A&E Editor
Duquesne student Marquis Jaylen “JB” Brown died after jumping from a 16th-floor window in Brottier Hall, according to Pittsburgh police, on Oct. 5, 2018. Exactly one month later, members of the student body held a “walk-out” on Art Rooney Field to demand answers for the Brown family.
“I’m disappointed in Duquesne. I understand on both sides too, that Duquesne is still part of the investigation … being a Catholic campus, founded on the Spiritan fathers who look out for the community, [Duquesne] has not done anything. I am heartbroken,” said international relations major Essence Criswell.
Organized by Nakya Thomas, head of the Duquesne chapter of the NAACP, the walk-out began at noon on Nov. 5. The students came armed with a set of demands for the university, including “full transparency, a surplus of grief counselling for friends and teammates of JB and that the university should host a forum addressing the incident and discussing what the steps going forward are to prevent tragedies of this nature,” according to prepared remarks by Bella Guzzi, elementary education junior and one of the event’s main speakers.
According to the GoFundMe page created under the name of Jaylen’s mother Dannielle Brown, “she [Danielle] has not been given the name of a University official or University officers who were present at the time of the incident, his cell phone, the clothes that he was wearing, the preliminary autopsy, incident report, case status update or any other answers that will explain why he fell some 16 stories to his death.”
Citing the ongoing nature of the investigation, the Pittsburgh police said they could not comment.
The majority of the emphasis from the walk-out was not that students themselves were searching for answers, but that they wanted answers for the Brown family, specifically his mother.
“JB’s mom is the most incredible, kind, selfless woman. Duquesne is an amazing university, Duquesne has offered us a lot, but in this situation, they dropped the ball,” said Gabriella Meyers, a music therapy major and friend of Jaylen.
While the students in attendance are asking the university to be more transparent, it is unclear whether Duquesne has any knowledge of the incident that has not already been made public.
Before the walk-out, Doug Frizzell, the vice president for student life, sent a campus-wide email stating, “We know that you are anxious to understand the details of this heartbreaking incident. The University is equally anxious to learn what led to the loss of this wonderful student … It is difficult to be patient in situations such as this, however, we also understand that we must allow the authorities the time they need to do their work thoroughly in order to provide meaningful answers.”
“[The university has] acted in a reactive way, rather than a proactive way,” said Lauren Petrillo, one of many in attendance who were dissatisfied with Frizzell’s email.
“I think they missed the point. The point is to get information for his mom. It’s not really about us. We understand that results are going to take time but there are things that his mom should know, incident reports, case updates,” Guzzi said.
Some students disagree with this sentiment. In a comment on Guzzi’s Facebook post announcing the walk-out, student Jess Chan said, “the poster is ‘demanding full transparency’ because everyone’s ‘kept in the dark.’ The investigation is ongoing, thus there are no solid answers yet, not even to the family. That’s just how investigations work, they take time. Also, counselling has been made available and numerous emails were sent out about it. (Which was another point on your flyer). So I’m confused as to what you’re really protesting here.”
Between 70 and 80 Duquesne students turned out on Rooney Field in search of answers, many of them feeling that the university had not done enough to support students during this tragedy.
“I feel like the most support I got from Duquesne was from the student body. I feel like Duquesne didn’t talk about it. Professors didn’t talk about it. Someone I was friends with died and no one cared,” Criswell said.
“The counseling staff has worked valiantly and selflessly to meet these demands, in addition to meeting the needs of our existing clients, and we will continue to do so,” said Ian Edwards assistant vice president for student wellbeing and director of counseling services. “Based on student feedback, we are bringing in counselors from outside of the University to help supplement the additional need at this time.”
“I think way too many people are hurting. We need to start creating a culture where we feel speaking up and out about things we find wrong. Obviously we all care, that’s why we’re here. Obviously we’re all bothered,” said Sarah Gethers, senior corporate communications major.
Guzzi also mentioned that if the list of demands was not met, they would meet again on Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Towers Multi-Purpose Room.
Counseling and Wellbeing Center can be reached at 412.396.6204 and Spiritan Campus Ministry at 412.396.6020. Additionally, students are encouraged to share their feedback about the University’s counseling services by emailing Ian Edwards at email@example.com.