Newborn’s death could have been prevented
August 9, 2016
“Have you heard about the baby?”
It was the question asked by many who heard or read the news about the incident that occurred on campus March 13. A student at the University secretly gave birth to a child in a bathroom of Bousfield Hall and hid the baby in a backpack to conceal the act. The baby was later found dead inside the backpack.
A police investigation began, and the school sent out a massmail to residents of the dorm to warn them about what had taken place. Nearly a month later, Lindsay Johnson, 20, was charged on Tuesday with alleged first-degree murder of her newborn son, child endangerment and concealment of a homicidal death.
The news not only brought out sadness and outrage within the students and faculty members, but it also presented the question of how such a tragic event could take place at a prestigious academic institution. The school provides support for female students on campus through the Women’s Resource Center and counseling sessions with various advisors.
However, this incident suggests that maybe there is insufficient attention given to individual students due to our campus’ enormity. I can’t help but wonder how weeks of pregnancy went unnoticed by others who knew Johnson until the birth and ensuing police investigation.
Commonly, it’s expected that a student having issues at school should realize their problems and seek help to improve their situations. But the rest of the community is at fault for not paying attention to the struggles of a member of the school, to the point where birth was given in a dormitory setting without any medical care.
Sergio A Dorado, a sophomore in LAS, was present at Bousfield Hall when the police investigation was taking place. After learning the full account of what happened, he said: “I hope the University realizes from this that women do need help with more than just preventing rape and unprotected sex. In a University of this ranking, we should open a door to help those who do mess up.”
Although the University provides rape prevention and sex education sessions, what should students do if they do get pregnant? While preventing pregnancy would be ideal for those who aren’t ready for the responsibility, there is no universally acceptable protocol that female students can take if they do become pregnant.
Modern methods of contraceptives such as Plan B come with chances of failure. Our society should provide an environment where another plan is readily available for women who are not ready to be mothers yet. Maybe if Johnson didn’t panic at the consequences of accidental pregnancy, and knew that there are other options available, the child wouldn’t have been tragically lost.
Another concerning issue is the number of jokes about the death of the newborn baby posted on online discussion forums such as Yik Yak or Reddit. While it is true that humor can uplift spirits, and anyone can exercise freedom of speech, the timing seems much too soon and insensitive. When a devastating ordeal happens on campus, members of the school must remain respectful of one another, even with the anonymity granted in virtual settings.
Some of the jokes included: “Stuffing a baby in a backpack to avoid paying extra for Peoria Charter,” “Sierra backpacks are perfect for carrying around an eight-ounce baby” and “When you can’t afford a babysitter, so you have to bring it to class with you in a backpack.”
A member of the campus likely committed the disturbing act in a frenzy of frustration and panic. And a child with every potential for living a fulfilling life was lost in its process. No matter how many upvotes or likes that a joke may receive, it is not worth lowering the dignity of a human being.
The University will need to make necessary adjustments to accommodate the impact of the incident. There should be more caution on the outcome of sex and pregnancy for all students to practice on campus. Also, comments on an incident such as this should be kept considerate; while we now know most of the story, there are still more legal proceedings to take place.
Despite the appalling nature of this incident, our University community can mend itself if its members extend their hospitality to every member of the school.
Da Yeon is a sophomore in ACES.