Updated: Third-year found dead in I-House yesterday

More details will be posted as they become available.

Update, 2/16/14, 3:18 p.m.: The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said that cause and time of death will not be definitive for four to six weeks, after evidence has gone through a toxicology screening.

Update, 2/16/14, 2:15 p.m.: Dean of Students in the College Susan Art sent a College-wide e-mail describing Barnes’ activities on campus. He was a Germanic studies and history major, and originally lived in Halperin House in South Campus. He moved to Booth House after studying abroad in Vienna during fall quarter 2012. He was also involved in Sliced Bread, the campus literary magazine. 

This article was last updated at 11:46 a.m. on Feb. 16 to reflect the contents of Karen Warren Coleman’s e-mail.

Third-year Nicholas Barnes, age 20, was found dead in International House on Saturday. He was found around 4:15 p.m., according to Chicago Police Department spokesperson Hector Alfaro.

Barnes apparently last swiped in with his UCID a little before 11 p.m. on February 7, according to the Chicago Tribune. The student was discovered on Saturday after residents noticed a bad smell coming from the room. His body was found in a “decomposed state,” and he was pronounced dead at 4:50 p.m., the article said.

According to Alfaro, Area Central detectives are handling the case as a general death investigation pending cause of death. The student’s body will be examined on Sunday morning, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. There is no evidence of foul play, according to an e-mail sent out Sunday morning from Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren Coleman.

According to Warren Coleman’s e-mail, the family is planning a funeral in Pittsburgh, where Barnes grew up. A campus memorial service will be held as well, with details to come.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

  • Tom

    How is it that NO ONE noticed that this student was missing for that number of days?? This should never have been allowed to happen. I-House should be ashamed that its pastoral care system failed this student so severely.

    • Don’t

      Please don’t blame people in I-House for this (disclaimer: I’m a third year who’s only been in there once). No one should be “ashamed.” It is just a tragedy. Please let it be. As a friend of his, the family, the house, myself are all going through this. And we don’t need blame.

      • N

        That said, though, I hope there will be dialogue about how housing staff and the friends-of-the-resident should take care to notice when someone they know has been off the radar for a week. I understand that sometimes accidents happen, and that’s okay.

        It’s not about blame-throwing, it’s about talking to see what we can do better to prevent similar situations from happening, which I think is an appropriate and respectful move.

        But I understand that right now is not the time for such discussion. Until then, we mourn.

    • k

      Putting blame aside, your question is a good one:
      “How is it that NO ONE noticed that this student was missing for that number of days??”

      The housing rules are byzantine. Is it a problem that Housing punishes people for taking a study abroad? When this guy came home why did he have to live in a different house where nobody knew him? Why can’t people get back into housing if they’ve left it for an apartment? It seems to be a punishment oriented kind of system and doesn’t serve the undergraduates as well as it could. Other schools better understand the power of consistent community for forming friendships and support and often don’t allow students to leave the system for longer than one year.

      • N

        People CAN get back into housing after moving out, but sometimes it takes a quarter or two to get them into their original houses. Housing can’t keep open rooms for study abroad students in every house, and they can’t kick someone out of their room every time someone comes back from study abroad. In a case like this, where the student stayed in their new house after the end of an academic year, it was because they chose to, not because Housing couldn’t accommodate them.

        • Flora Roberts

          point of information: Nick did not request to return to his former house after studying abroad in Vienna, and he did not take part in the end of quarter lotteries. I know, because I was his RH, and administered that lottery whereby he could have returned to his house. RIP, gentle droll Nick.

    • Bub

      RAs are not babysitters. It is not an RAs job to check on students once a week, its their job to try to get them involved in the house community and provide support when necessary. To say that a student was “severely failed” by this because he dropped dead in his private dorm room is a misguided view.

  • 2011 grad

    Exactly how I remember this school, a frigid, depressing place. This is a travesty. How very awful for the family.

    • Riva

      That’s literally the last thing that this school is, so don’t take an incredibly awful event — that furthermore, is quite removed from you — and turn it into a criticism of the entire University, which a lot of us happen to like. Don’t be petty.

  • UC’17

    ^Can we not do this right now? This is an incredibly sad event. A member of the UChicago community is dead. This is not the time to start blame-throwing- especially when we don’t have all the details.

  • L

    It’s extremely easy to go under the radar for a week. Let’s not immediately blame the university for this.

  • H

    This is absolutely tragic and should be treated delicately for the sake of the man’s friends and family; however, it should also be an opportunity to examine how the house system is taking effect. I’m luckily in a very strong house where I can’t imagine this happening; however, I’m sure many people would feel that way, even in I-House, so there needs to be a discussion on how we can stop people from slipping under the radar like this. Whether or not you want to lay blame, you have to admit that leaving a man dead for a week is cause for concern.

    • TR

      Honestly, it’s seventh week (I think?) and many people are holing up in their rooms or at the library and leaving at odd times. I know there are times when people I know might not see me for a week or may not notice because of the school work they have. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just tragic.

  • Student17

    As a resident of I-house, the fact that we were not notified of this before bothers me. I just happened to be scrolling through the Maroon and saw the article, but I would have appreciated some form of notification from the housing system as a member of the I-house community.

  • Tom

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to “throw blame around.” It’s just so unthinkable that something like this could happen.

    • CK

      The university can’t say anything official, in writing, until cleared by the parents.

  • studenttt

    Any news on who it was?

  • Parent

    How hard would it be to flag 24 or 48hrs of keycard inactivity from current dorm residents to trigger a well being check? All parents hear from the University is “back off we have it covered”. Apparently, that’s not completely accurate. This is so sad and certainly points to isolation. Maybe this death was preventable, maybe not. But why not use the tragedy to improve communication?

    • Fourth year

      24 or 48 hrs of inactivity? That’s not practical given how many times in a quarter an average student would be flagged. A week might make more sense though

    • dorm resident

      That would be impractical. For instance, over weekends, some students might not leave their dorm that much, particularly if their dorm is far enough from the quad and has a well stocked kitchen.

  • Hold on

    Please, it seems unhelpful to speculate until more details are released. This is already awful enough without people assigning blame and coming to hasty conclusions.

  • K ’13

    Considering how unsettled about this I am as an alum, I know this must be incredibly difficult to process for current students. I urge anyone who is upset by this to sit down and talk with someone. I hope the University will acknowledge the emotional impact of a discovery like this and provide grief counselors to students who knew this man, who live in I-House, or are otherwise affected. This is a time to support each other.

    Rest in Peace.

  • sonja aanensen

    My thoughts and prayers go out to this young man’s family. Our focus should not be on placing blame on anyone. We should be focusing instead on what this poor family is going through. And helping his friends, classmates and housemates get through this tradgedy.

  • CK

    Also please note that in I-House you don’t have to swipe in with your ID unless you’re coming in after 8pm, and even then if you’re with anyone else, only one card per group. So the last swipe doesn’t necessarily mean he died on February 7.

    • CB

      but you do have to swipe in to get to the elevators so I’m assuming that’s what they’re basing it off of

    • TK

      So the last swipe doesn’t necessarily mean he died on February 7.” Given this, “A resident in the dorm discovered the body after students reported a foul odor in the hallway of the dorm, according to the police report.” I’d bet you are wrong. At any rate, this is really tragic and sad.

      • CK

        The swipes to the security doors aren’t registered, only the front door. That’s why the swipe record is useless. But yes, the decomposition does mean it was several days.

  • another student

    I’m sure there are autopsy procedures to determine a more accurate time of death. But yes in my experience of living in ihouse, ID is not always needed considering the flux of people coming in and out

  • J.Wisner

    As a former student and now a parent of a student at a similar university, this is incredibly tragic. Many questions I am sure will be asked, but I am not sure there will be answers. It is certainly an wake-up call for all of the University, students, faculty, resident heads, resident masters, staff, etc. that you all belong to a community and sometimes it is just plain kind to just go that extra step to make sure everyone is doing “okay.” Clearly, this student, whatever the circumstances of his death, was not.

  • E

    Why isn’t this the top story on the Maroon’s front page? This is far more important than college application levels.

    • Oh Really

      Between issues. Probably will move to the top when the new one comes out.

  • David Jimenez

    Nick was an amazing kid and good friend of mine from high school. A wonderful, loving, and brilliant guy. Such a great sense of humor, smile, laugh, and intellect. We may never know what/why happened but frankly I’m glad to see people wanting to ask questions after this. We do Nick and other people a disservice when we refuse to consider what we could have done better as individuals or community (myself included). But for now let us pray for his soul, his family, his friends, and loved ones.

  • JFrancis

    I am also a parent of students attending the school and I am stunned that my kids do not have faculty relationships after two and three years at UC. How is this possible? I urge the administration to find more ways for students to be connected with faculty – this may help too in avoiding such tragedies. It is unfathomable that the school does not place a priority on faculty/student relationships. This has been a tremendously difficult year in terms of weather, too, which contributes to the stress of students – all things the administration should be ahead of in terms of student outreach.

    • Student

      I agree with you, however what parents (not making a directed comment) often times forget is that it is also up to the students to make the effort. This might be the case only for certain majors, but my professors have been very engaging (on average my classes are 10-12). However, no matter how engaging a professor is, it’s up to the student to make that effort. Students at U of C blame the university system constantly while not realizing that there is a gold mine (quite literally in terms of funds as well) or resources out there for students. Emails are always sent out about stress management, depression etc and places where students can seek counsel. Professors open their doors, but I have found (especially after being a TA) that it is often times the university that gets blamed while the student body never accepts any guilt.

      There are things that do need to be changed, I’m not oblivious to that but I just hope that people aren’t jumping on the University. This is a tragedy that is affecting us all and I know that many of the students feel sorrow despite knowing him or not.

  • Thinker

    My prayers go up for the young man and his family and those who knew him. God’s peace to all. Amen.

  • MomatUchicago

    There’s been a debate for a long time now whether college campuses should act “in loco parentis,” and over the years that phrase took on a negative connotation. Well, what about changing that and having a “in loco familia”–where we do try to really be aware of our community as a family would be? I have had children at UChicago and another looking at it–and I have to say, this gives me pause.

  • Q

    Other news stories are reporting that the police do not suspect suicide. How can that be if they don’t have the toxicology report yet? I hope that the community is eventually informed of how this all happened, so that everyone can have some closure. I can’t imagine how his family is feeling.

  • Maroon Mom

    My heart and prayers go out to Nick’s family and friends. Sadly, this isn’t the first loss of a UofC student to suicide in recent years. As a parent of a current student, I urge the University administration to review Chicago’s advising, counseling, residential life and chaplaincy programs. More fundamentally, though, I would urge reconsideration of the quarter system, which creates a remarkably high stress level for students.

  • Bannef

    “Professors open their doors, but I have found (especially after being a TA) that it is often times the university that gets blamed while the student body never accepts any guilt.”

    Ah yes, I hope the students learn to accept the guilt for not having enough friends who worry about them, or teachers who notice and care when they’re missing, or RAs or RHs who actually know the names of their charges…

    The University is needlessly isolating, particularly for students who are struggling emotionally or academically. It’s either saying “you should be spending more time studying” or “you should be spending more time reaching out.” After all, the fate of students who don’t study enough is failure. And I guess the fate of students who don’t reach out enough is to die alone in your room and not be noticed until you start to rot.

    But if only students would accept the guilt for that, I’m sure it would improve.