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A Message to the University Community: The Tragedy on January 15

January 19, 2011

Based on information that we know at this time, the tragedy that occurred at the University of Rochester appears solely to have involved an altercation between two of our students, Jeffrey Bordeaux and Daren Venable. Both were outstanding students. Both were well liked and accomplished. Neither had any record of disciplinary problems at the University.

This was a terrible tragedy that will touch the lives of the Bordeaux family, the Venable family, and Daren Venable for as long as they live. I know I speak for the entire University community in articulating our grief to all involved. No parent, no person should have to endure such pain.

It is for the justice system to determine questions of criminal guilt or innocence. I ask all to respect the integrity of our legal system and to accord Daren Venable the presumption of innocence before and during any trial. This is a hallmark of American justice and a vital strength of our society.

As a University we strive to provide a safe environment for all students, faculty and staff. When a tragedy of this dimension occurs, it is important to step back and ask if there is anything we should do in the future to make our University a safer place.

I have charged Sue Stewart, the University General Counsel, to lead an internal review, focusing on: (1) whether the University had appropriate policies when the events of January 15th occurred and whether they were followed on January 15th; (2) how well the University responded to these events; and (3) whether steps should be taken to improve the University’s preventive and response capabilities in the future.

To ensure candor on the part of all individuals, I have asked this to be an internal review.

I do anticipate summarizing to the public what we learned at an appropriate time in the future.

The ultimate question is what can we learn from this tragedy? How can we strengthen our community at the University of Rochester?