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GSAS Student Dies After Four-Floor Fall

By Adam S. Hickey, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

A first-year graduate student died in an apparent suicide early yesterday afternoon after falling four stories from the Gordon Mckay Library in Pierce Hall on Oxford Street.

Hailei Ge, a Computer Science student from Beijing in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, died at 7:45 p.m. last night at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said Patty Jacobs, director of media relations.

Ge was unconscious with critical head trauma when transported to the hospital by ambulance, said Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Peggy McNamara.

There were no witnesses to the fall itself, which occurred shortly after 2 p.m.

Joshua Cohen '98 said he was near Pierce Hall on his way to class with two other friends when they heard a crash.

Ge was lying on his side on the paved walkway in front of Pierce Hall, said Cohen, who said he went with this friends over to Ge.

"It didn't look like he was breathing. I elevated his head, and he coughed up a lot blood," Cohen said.

Cohen said he stayed and talked to Ge until ambulances arrived about 10 minutes later but that he did not respond and his eyes were closed.

"[He had] severe head trauma [and] had lost an awful lot of blood," Cohen said, adding that medics on the scene had difficulty intubating Ge because his jaw was broken and locked.

According to Albert Gold, associate dean of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a student from anoth- er school who was studying roughly 10 feet away in the library heard Ge open a window. The witness returned to his studies, heard a noise and, upon looking up, noticed the student had disappeared.

Officials who work in administrative offices within the building said that they called 911 when one of their employees--a Harvard student on the scene at the same time as Cohen--reported seeing a badly injured student on the ground in front of the building.

The case will be investigated by both HUPD and Massachusetts state investigators, said Alex Huppe, University spokesperson.

Those who had contact with Ge said they had no indication that he was having serious problems.

"He talked with his advisor about a programming task that he thought was a good idea to do, and he was going off to do it, as far as people knew," said Paul C. Martin '51, dean of the division of applied sciences.

"There is a group of students who knew him, but no one knew him very well because he had only been here two months. People working with him this morning had no suspicion that anything was in the offing," Martin added.

H. T. Kung, McKay professor of electrical engineering and computer science, was Ge's adviser.

"I remember in September 1997 when he first met me he proudly showed me a printed circuit board that he had designed in China," Kung wrote in an e-mail.

"Computer science faculty and students who knew him were all deeply saddened by the loss," he added.

Jian Liu, also a first year, had a lot in common with Ge: they lived on the same floor in Child Hall, were in the same program in the same major with some of the same classes, and both were international students from China.

But it wasn't homesickness that troubled Ge, Liu said. Rather, it was the academic challengers of Harvard.

"I think he showed signs of difficulty in adapting to the study life of Harvard, and sometime he felt very disappointed and discouraged," Liu said.

First-year stress seemed to hit Ge harder than others.

"He was very sensitive. He cared too much about some of the [academic] things that happened to him," Liu said.

But Liu said that Ge never gave any indication that he was suicidal, saying he was always smiling and talking with other students. Ge did not have any hobbies, however, nor was did he go out a lot on weekends, Liu said.

"He put lots of time into studying," which is typical, Liu said.

"Every new student--especially for us [from China]--is now experiencing hardship, not only him, but also me," Liu said.

Two summers ago, an international graduate student from Moscow, Dmitry V. Podhopaev, committed suicide by jumping from the ninth floor of Holyoke Center. A year before, Sinedu Tadessi '96, an undergraduate from Ethiopia, killed her roommate and then herself at the close of spring exam period.

After Pdhopaev's death in 1996, University Health Services Director Dr. David S. Rosenthal '59 said that although many perceive that international students have a more difficult time adjusting to Harvard, they often bond together to form strong, supportive communities.

There will be a meeting today at 10 a.m. in Pierce 209 for those who wish to discuss the incident.

"Everyone is devastated by this. We expect to try to get together and have a session where we try and get everybody to understand as best as possible what happened and to try to understand if there are ways to prevent similar things in the future," Martin said.

--Marc J. Ambinder and Barbara E. Martinez contributed to this story.

Officials who work in administrative offices within the building said that they called 911 when one of their employees--a Harvard student on the scene at the same time as Cohen--reported seeing a badly injured student on the ground in front of the building.

The case will be investigated by both HUPD and Massachusetts state investigators, said Alex Huppe, University spokesperson.

Those who had contact with Ge said they had no indication that he was having serious problems.

"He talked with his advisor about a programming task that he thought was a good idea to do, and he was going off to do it, as far as people knew," said Paul C. Martin '51, dean of the division of applied sciences.

"There is a group of students who knew him, but no one knew him very well because he had only been here two months. People working with him this morning had no suspicion that anything was in the offing," Martin added.

H. T. Kung, McKay professor of electrical engineering and computer science, was Ge's adviser.

"I remember in September 1997 when he first met me he proudly showed me a printed circuit board that he had designed in China," Kung wrote in an e-mail.

"Computer science faculty and students who knew him were all deeply saddened by the loss," he added.

Jian Liu, also a first year, had a lot in common with Ge: they lived on the same floor in Child Hall, were in the same program in the same major with some of the same classes, and both were international students from China.

But it wasn't homesickness that troubled Ge, Liu said. Rather, it was the academic challengers of Harvard.

"I think he showed signs of difficulty in adapting to the study life of Harvard, and sometime he felt very disappointed and discouraged," Liu said.

First-year stress seemed to hit Ge harder than others.

"He was very sensitive. He cared too much about some of the [academic] things that happened to him," Liu said.

But Liu said that Ge never gave any indication that he was suicidal, saying he was always smiling and talking with other students. Ge did not have any hobbies, however, nor was did he go out a lot on weekends, Liu said.

"He put lots of time into studying," which is typical, Liu said.

"Every new student--especially for us [from China]--is now experiencing hardship, not only him, but also me," Liu said.

Two summers ago, an international graduate student from Moscow, Dmitry V. Podhopaev, committed suicide by jumping from the ninth floor of Holyoke Center. A year before, Sinedu Tadessi '96, an undergraduate from Ethiopia, killed her roommate and then herself at the close of spring exam period.

After Pdhopaev's death in 1996, University Health Services Director Dr. David S. Rosenthal '59 said that although many perceive that international students have a more difficult time adjusting to Harvard, they often bond together to form strong, supportive communities.

There will be a meeting today at 10 a.m. in Pierce 209 for those who wish to discuss the incident.

"Everyone is devastated by this. We expect to try to get together and have a session where we try and get everybody to understand as best as possible what happened and to try to understand if there are ways to prevent similar things in the future," Martin said.

--Marc J. Ambinder and Barbara E. Martinez contributed to this story.

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