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Suicide Prompts Controversy On Law School Leave Policy

By Peter Shapiro

An apparent suicide by a first-year student at the Law School earlier this week has touched off a controversy about the School's policy on leaves of absence.

A group of Law students have begun circulating a petition demanding that the Administration guarantee automatic readmission to all students taking leaves of absences and institute mandatory passfail grading for all first-year students.

The Law school currently requires a students returning from a leave of absence to get permission from the School's Administrative Board to re-enroll.


Two members of the Administrative Board had told the student, who was found dead in his room Wednesday, that they could not guarantee his re-admission if he withdrew from the School before completing the academic term.

Steven M. Bernardi, assistant dean of the Law School and a member of the Ad Board who spoke to the student prior to his death, said yesterday that "personal problems," and not the decision on the leave of absence, were the major factors in the death.

Close friends of the deceased agreed with Bernardi's analysis and said that the death had in no way been prompted by the school or its regulations.

Nonetheless, wide-spread student discontent with the School's re-admission policy had resulted from the death. Marley S. Weiss, a first-year law student helping circulate the petition, said yesterday that about 70 per cent of the first-year class has already signed the petition.

Laurence H. Tribe, professor of Law, said yesterday that he supports the students demands." "I share the sense that the environment at the Law School is somewhat more tense and less humane than it ought to be," Tribe said.

According to Bernardi, the reason behind the School's policy of not granting automatic readmission to students returning from leaves is the large number of people applying for admission to the School. He said, however, that readmission was guaranteed if a student had to withdraw because of medical, emotional or financial reasons or family problems.

Completing Academic Year

The suicide victim has spoken to Bernardi and James Vorenberg, professor of Law and Chairman of the Ad Board, Bernardi said. They asked him to complete the academic year before withdrawing and said that if he withdrew before the year's end they could not guarantee readmission.

Bernardi said he had not realized the extent of the student's personal problems prior to the death

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