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After UCF Student Suicide, A Look at Non-Traditional Students


March 22, 2013 | WMFE - After the suicide of a former University of Central Florida student who was apparently planning a massacre at his dorm, the university is examining whether it can improve campus safety. The incident has also sparked a conversation about what support services are available to non-traditional students.

[Image: James Seevakumaran]

Thirty-year old James Seevakumaran was described as a loner by his family. He lived on campus in a four-bedroom apartment with three roommates he'd never met before. One of them, Chris Folk, said Seevakumaran didn't try to make friends.

"When I first moved in I tried to talk to him, tried to get to know him a little bit. But he never really wanted to talk so after that I mean you really only can do so much."

Seevakumaran had no student conduct record and was never seen by UCF Counseling and Psychological Services. But after his suicide some are wondering whether his age added to his isolation. Of nearly 6,000 students who live on campus only a few dozen are 25 or older. UCF doesn't restrict housing based on age, but it does try to group students of the same age together.

University counselor Valeska Wilson-Cathcart says non-traditional students - those who haven't gone straight from high school to college - face unique challenges.

"I don't think it necessarily is just about age. It could also be about, I'm also a mom and so I feel like, hey, there's also these 18- to 22-year-olds who don't have the responsibility of being a mom. Or veterans, people who've had a career."

Wilson-Cathcart says the university has offered support groups for non-traditional students. But these students often are juggling multiple responsibilities, and it can be hard for them to find the time to participate.

UCF offers a Non-Traditional Knight Project aimed at non-traditional students. A spokesperson declined an interview. But she told 90.7 the university aims to be inclusive and doesn't want to separate students by age or anything else.

Seevakumaran hadn't paid his fees for the spring semester. While he was in the process of being evicted he amassed guns, ammunition and explosives in preparation for an attack on fellow students. The police say they haven't found a motive, and they may never know why he planned the massacre.

 

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