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Saturday, December 03, 2022

UF responds to death of graduate student

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UF has responded to the recent death of a graduate student amid calls for an investigation.

The university issued a statement regarding the death of Huixiang Chen, an international doctoral candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was found dead on campus in Benton Hall after taking his own life on June 13. A celebration of life memorial service for Chen is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the UF Baughman Center.

UF released the statement after UF Graduate Assistants United (GAU) requested an investigation following the circumstances that led up to Chen’s death.

 In the statement, the university said Chen left behind a note suggesting possible research misconduct by his faculty adviser, Tao Li.

The university is issuing an investigation through the Office of Research in addition to the University Police’s investigation, the statement said. UF is also examining the circumstances surrounding his death, including hiring an independent investigator with experience in working with students in higher education.

The university also sent out an email addressed to graduate students regarding the news on behalf of President Kent Fuchs. The Alligator obtained a copy from UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.

 In the email, Fuchs addresses the difficulties of being a graduate student. He also suggests resources available through the university to receive mental health care including the Counseling and Wellness Center and U Matter, We Care.

“Like many of you, I was extremely saddened to learn of the death of Huixiang Chen,” Fuchs said in the email. “I know from my own eight difficult years in graduate school that under any circumstances being a graduate student is challenging and losing a colleague in such a tragic way is incredibly hard.”

 Bobby Mermer, co-president of the GAU, appreciates the measures UF and the community are taking for Chen and the university's quick response in letting GAU know about the investigation.

 “To have this public event where people can come in real time to remember Mr. Chen and be around one another — I think that's very good for our international community,” he said.

 Mermer said there is an issue with UF where international graduate assistants are afraid to come forward with allegations against their supervisors, out of fear of retaliation.

Mermer said GAU is concerned UF will not investigate mistreatment of graduate students further than this case.

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The UF CWC has a variety of resources to help students struggling with mental health. Appointments are available during their on-campus hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. They can also be reached by phone at (352) 392-1575.

The number for the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1 (800) 273-8255.

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