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Respecting the Life and Memory of Sydney Monfries

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Respecting the Life and Memory of Sydney Monfries

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On the morning of Sunday, April 14, members of the Fordham community received an email from Public Safety informing them that a student was critically injured in a fall from the Keating Hall clock tower.

Updates from Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, on the condition of Sydney Monfries, FCRH ’19, continued throughout the day, notifying individuals of a mass held in her honor and of her ultimate passing.

The coverage of the incident by the New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily Mail and Inside Edition, among others, was offensive and irresponsible journalism.

There are opportunities for exciting storytelling in news journalism, and there are moments when this style of reporting is completely inappropriate. Similarly, there are times when the sharing of sensitive information is justified and times when it is, unquestionably, not.

Fordham lost a valued member of its community this past Sunday.

The aforementioned outlets’ romanticization of the “forbidden” campus clock tower from which Sydney fell and the sensationalizing of the incident through its vivid description were as disrespectful as they were abhorrent.

The use of The Ram’s 2013 feature article in an attempt to portray the incident as the latest development in a systemic phenomenon involving mischievous student trips up the tower was misguided and misleading.

The positioning of her death as an attempt to “get a good picture for Instagram” and of Sydney as just another selfie-obsessed young person was obnoxious and despicable.

It is not the media’s place to create blame for an incident that is, at its core, senseless.

Sydney did not die because she and her friends succumbed to the “irresistible” “allure” of the iconic structure. Her death was not a failure to fulfill a mythicized “rite of passage” or a symptom of a student-wide thrill-seeking craze or social media takeover.

Sydney’s death was just tragic. Any news coverage that paints the incident with dramatic macabre or presents it as an indicator of some wider trend instead of the heart-wrenching accident it was is a shameful and inexcusable exploitation of her memory.

There are stereotypes that cast journalists as manipulative and ruthless storytellers who take advantage of high-interest situations for fleeting moments of visibility in return. It is unfortunate that many reporters fed into those tropes on Sunday.

The Ram chose not to disclose intimate details of the incident or to release Sydney’s identity before the university put out a statement in an attempt to be considerate of her loved ones. We wish other outlets had treated the incident with the same care.

We cannot imagine what it must be like for those close to Sydney to be exposed to such harrowing and exploitative depictions of an event that is already likely to stay in their hearts and minds forever.

The best way we at The Ram can show our respect to Sydney, her family and all those affected during this time is by reporting on her death with integrity. The best way we all as individuals can show our respect is by discussing her death in the same way.  

We urge you — for this incident and all going forward — not to share or engage with the sort of journalistic coverage that exploits tragedy for its shock or entertainment value. We urge you to keep in mind the realities behind the dramatized narratives, as well as the real people behind them.

Sydney’s death was a life-altering occurrence in the lives of many people, on Fordham’s campus and elsewhere. It is a painful tragedy. It is not part of a larger phenomenon, and it should not be used as click-bait.

There is a palpable air of devastation at Rose Hill that outside reporters and readers do not nor cannot experience for themselves. This devastation has been exacerbated by the spectacle with which the tragedy is circulating throughout the media. The reporters and their respective outlets should feel ashamed of themselves for compounding the grief of a community so already heartbroken.

The Fordham community has a beautiful and organic tendency to come together during even the most difficult of times. Lean on the support systems — those offered by the university and those you have built yourself — that are available to you at this time and continue to expand those networks with care and integrity going forward.

Honor Sydney’s memory by strengthening your connections with one another and with all things genuine, and honor her by condemning the sensationalism surrounding her passing.

The Ram continues to send comfort and support to those close to the incident and to the Fordham community at large.


Counseling services are available in the Counseling and Psychological Services office in O’Hare Hall. They can be contacted at (718) 817-3725.

Residential Life staff is available in residence halls, and campus ministers are available around campus to speak with at any point. Campus Ministry can be reached at (718) 817-4500.


17 Responses to “Respecting the Life and Memory of Sydney Monfries”

  1. James R. Stanton on April 17th, 2019 11:48 am

    Bravo and kudo’s to the entire Fordham community that contributed to the thoughts and words that were directly and indirectly related to this article.

    May her soul rest in peace and may her family, friends, fellow students and acquaintances receive the blessing of our Lord to deal with this event for the rest of their lives.

    Grandfather of one of her fellow students.

  2. Brian Donnelly on April 17th, 2019 1:34 pm

    Thank you. As the parent of a Fordham senior and good friend of Ms. Monfries, I was distressed to see much of the new coverage regarding this tragic event. I had the pleasure of meeting this amazing young woman and her family. My heart goes out to her family and to all of the other friends and family she touched. This was a horrible accident. Nothing more. Sydney will be missed (and remembered) by many.

  3. John Hurley on April 17th, 2019 2:21 pm

    As the parent of two Fordham grads my families thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. No one can really understand what they are going through.

  4. Krista on April 17th, 2019 4:29 pm

    Very well said. As an alumni, I saw many of these articles shared on my Facebook feed this past week. I had many of the same thoughts and feelings in reading them. Truly tragic.

  5. Doreen Donnelly on April 17th, 2019 4:37 pm

    Thank you for this much needed editorial! It’s perfect.

  6. David Bernard Santana on April 17th, 2019 5:30 pm

    This is incredibly well written and I hope whoever wrote this becomes a journalist because theirs is a voice to be heard. It’s regrettably rare to come across an article with such poise, passion, and respect as this one had.

  7. Deanna Unger on April 17th, 2019 6:14 pm

    What a genuine, moving article. A breath of fresh air among the reporting agencies covering this terrible accident. You are to be commended for taking the high road out of respect for Sydney and her tragic death. One can only hope that the well made points are heeded by others in the journalism community. Thank you for your effort to minimize the titillation factor and to treat the subject matter with dignity and respect.

    Highest regards,
    Deanna Unger

  8. Paul Hogan on April 17th, 2019 7:37 pm

    To the Fordham Ram:

    Thank you for much for this trenchant and heartfelt editorial. We at Jesuit High School in Portland, OR, Sydney’s high school alma mater, also mourn Sydney’s loss,. We are doing our best to support and pray for and with Sydney’s family and friends in this moment of heartbreaking loss.

    Your comments are right on point. Thanks again for your integrity and cura personalis.

    Peace and prayers to all of you in the Bronx from your Ignatian sisters and brothers in Portland. We are feeling the agony of Good Friday right now, but looking to the promise of the Resurrection and an Easter rising for Sydney, and all of us.

    Paul J. Hogan
    Jesuit High School

  9. Julia on April 17th, 2019 8:22 pm

    Thank you for writing this and speaking out against the injustice from other articles published. I went to high school with Sydney, and while we were merely acquaintances, I was shocked when I woke up to numerous articles on Facebook and Google about her passing, detailing the grief her family suffered through in those early moments, and depicting her as careless and vain; as if trying to make light of the incident. I can’t even begin to imagine how articles like those must have affected her family and those close to her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and the Fordham community. Again, thank you for speaking out and standing up for Sydney and her family.

  10. Kathy Krell on April 18th, 2019 11:33 am

    My prayers are with Sydney’s family. My hope would be that the Class of 2019 starts a tradition which somehow honors her life and the causes she believed in. We would love for her to be remembered for the way she lived!

  11. Susan C on April 18th, 2019 11:38 am

    I love this article. It gives such poignant perspective and how easy it is for folks to get caught up in salacious media habits.

    Our son is a freshman at Fordham, living on Rose Hill campus, and although he didn’t know Sydney personally, he felt the impact of this horrible nightmare. Our family’s hearts & prayers go out to the Monfries Family as well as our Ramily.

  12. Barbara Marra Dower on April 18th, 2019 12:02 pm

    My condolences to the family. There are no words for the loss of a child. May she rest in peace. The family of the late Matthew Dower Fordham ’96.

  13. Jordan Meltzer on April 18th, 2019 12:19 pm

    Thank you

  14. michelle reignier on April 18th, 2019 12:40 pm

    I would like to believe, the great journalism professor Ray Scroth, SJ would be very proud of that article, as am I, class of ‘81.

  15. Jeffrey L. Gray I Senior Vice President for Student Affairs on April 18th, 2019 12:52 pm

    I commend our students, who have shown wisdom beyond their years with this well composed editorial. As a first hand observer in this tragic situation, and many others that have taken place before it, they are absolutely on point. The behavior of those in the external media in this instance was disrespectful, intrusive and showed a complete lack of regard for a grieving family and community. I will spare all the details that would support this characterization, but they exist. Those in the world outside our gates could learn something from our students.

  16. Jacqueline zarate on April 18th, 2019 12:57 pm

    BRAVO! We, the Fordham family, stand by this tragic accident of one of kids in unity with our hearts broken . Her death shouldn’t be used by the sensationalistic media to sell fake news! Her passing must be respected for her family, her fellow RAM peers and all of us who are sadly mourning the tragic departure of one of our kids. My daughter knew Sydney and she sad and extremely troubled by her departure. All comments about Sydney in such a lose way are inadmissible and we, her Fordham family will not tolerate it! . May God bless her soul. May God give her parents the peace and strength during this time.

  17. Elisa Palermo on April 18th, 2019 1:23 pm

    Thank you for this article. I did not know her. She was a human being and this is truly heartbreaking. As a parent I can’t imagine what her family must be going through. They deserve all the respect and privacy that can be given.

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