One week before Thanksgiving, freshman Anthony Wilkerson died in Indianapolis, his hometown. The University did not notify the public.
One reason is because it happened off campus, said Goldsmith. “Part of it is a privacy issue for the family.”
But when Kelly Hackendahl died in August, in the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house, the University worked quickly to dispel rumors. Students saw police cruisers racing through campus and drew their own conclusions as their Twitter feeds flooded with speculation.
“We felt we had an obligation that the public knows the facts,” said Mark Land, the University spokesperson. “We can help shut down speculation.”
After confirming Kelly’s death and her family was notified, Land released basic information to the media.
It was minutes too soon, he said.
At the same moment, Goldsmith was driving to the sorority house where Kelly had died to speak with her sorority sisters. Before he pulled up, some of the girls had already seen news of Kelly’s death on Twitter.
“The flow of information is so instantaneous now,” Land said. “Everybody is going to know in minutes.”
The University never tries to conceal a death because it would reflect poorly on IU, he said. Sometimes, IU officials don’t know themselves or don’t have enough answers.
If a death occurs during the summer, a family might not notify the University for months. Sometimes, the family is prompted to contact IU when they receive a bill.
“Some parents say ‘I want to know every time there is a student death,’” Land said. “If my daughter died, I wouldn’t think it was the right of everyone in the community to know.”