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.