On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 6, SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian sent an email informing the campus community of the death of a first-year student.
According to the email, University Police responded to a 911 call about a non-responsive student in his residence hall room and found Eric Van de Laar, 18, of Monroe, N.Y. not breathing.
Both University Police and State Police have ruled out foul play in Van de Laar’s death. The cause of death is still pending a medical examiner’s report.
We at The New Paltz Oracle express our condolences to the family and friends of Eric Van de Laar. We also want to use this space to ask our campus to come together and be respectful.
This loss is a tragic experience for anyone who knew Eric. That is why it’s important for family, friends and the campus community at large to come together to support one and other, and particularly those who knew Eric personally. Give condolences to family and friends when the time is appropriate. Let them know that they are not alone, that there are people ready to uplift them in this sad time.
According to the email, Residence Life staff and counselors from the Psychological Counseling Center have been present, providing grief conuseling for those who lived with or near Eric. The school has made available these grief resources and we encourage those that need them to use them.
It’s also important to remain calm and to curb the spread of rumors surrounding Eric’s death. As of now, this is what we know: The medical examiner’s report has not been released and there is still no known cause of death. That’s it.
There is very little information that is known and available to the public. In light of that, and out of respect for Eric’s family and friends it’s important that people do not spread rumors. As students, we have heard from classmates and acquaintances what cause of death was and several other pieces of information that no one has publically released.
The news of a fellow peer passing away, especially one of our youngest, is always heavy on the heart. However, that does not mean we need to speculate how something so horrible could have happened.
Right now, it doesn’t matter how he died. There are members of this campus who are grieving and it’s crucial that students, faculty and staff keep that in mind when discussing Eric and his death. All of us have experienced loss at some point in their life and knows how difficult it is to deal with. Please remember to display empathy to all of those around you. Sensitivity is essential in a time like this. The spreading of jokes and rumors do not make for a healthy and safe environment. They are disrespectful to those who cherished him.
No one should be expected to deal with loss like this alone. The grieving process is difficult and that is why it is critical for anyone who may be struggling with this news to reach out and use the services available at the Counseling Center or at the Employee Assistance Program.
It’s important in a time like this to show support for students who may have known Eric. Be understanding of their situation and also supportive whenever the opportunity arises — even if it’s just being present to hear about what they’re struggling with. Encourage them to seek out further help if they need it.
With so much that is still unknown, the only thing that members of the community can do is make themselves available for those who need it, console those who are hurt and make sure that if someone needs help that they take advantage of places like the Psychological Counseling Center.