A tragedy the university missed

Staff Commentary

Mike McKenna, Director of Print

For Chris Malloy’s obituary, click here.

During these past few weeks, Case Western Reserve University has seen an outpouring of community.

Support in the wake of the plane crash tragedy was given with outstretched arms. Individuals came together, and university officials responded, quickly informing students that help was available and that they were not suffering alone.

It was a tall task for CWRU’s Marketing and Communications Department, one that they worked through with taste, tact and compassion. But in the midst of their trial, they failed to cover another tragedy—the death of long-time facilities worker Chris Malloy.

The HVAC technician died as a result of suicide on Aug. 31.

Malloy had worked on campus for nearly 15 years, touching colleagues and
co-workers with his bright personality. Needless to say, his death came as a shock to those who worked directly with him, or even just saw him come into various offices on a daily basis.

And that news was delivered in the worst of ways. The university never alerted the campus community to what happened, and many of those who knew him found out via posts on the anonymous gossip app Yik-Yak or 100-word blurbs on Cleveland.com.

As of press time, no note from the president was sent to student inboxes, no university statement was released, no article in The Daily was posted, no message about services was distributed, no memorial was set up and the availability of counseling services was never mentioned. Many students, including customer service assistants who worked with Malloy, were left frustrated with the university’s response. Over 10 days passed without a word from the university.

To put it simply—CWRU’s Marketing and Communications Department screwed up.

Big time.

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting one exists; at least the department has done this.

“We did not respond how we should have,” Vice President for Marketing and Communications Chris Sheridan noted. “It’s something we deeply regret for his loved ones and the Case Western community.”

Sheridan explained that typically before the campus is notified of an employee death, the university likes to wait for services to be scheduled so they can send out that information in their university release.

Services for Malloy took longer than expected to schedule, she said, and her office did not check in adequately with the situation. Malloy’s funeral was held on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

Nothing was sent out regarding this either; university officials were not aware the services had occurred.

“We, being my office and others, just totally dropped the ball,” Sheridan said. “There is absolutely no excuse, we should have [responded better].”

According to Sheridan, after hearing about the student’s concerns, the university would release a message soon.

“We always planned on doing this, but we kept waiting, and we shouldn’t have,” she said.

Sheridan says she hopes a mistake like this will never happen again.

I hope so too. If we’re going to build a strong community, campus officials can’t forget about any member of the university.

Mike McKenna is The Observer’s director of print. A junior biology and psychology major, he has served in prior years in multiple capacities for the paper, including the news editor.

Correction: Sept. 12, 2:21 PM: Malloy’s funeral services were erroneously listed as having occurred on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Services were actually held on Wednesday, Sept. 10. The webpage has been updated to fix this mistake. The Observer apologizes for the error.