LOGAN – Utah State University officials posted updates to the school’s website this week in response to a complaint filed in federal court last week involving the suicide death of a onetime Ph.d. candidate Jerusha Sanjeevi.
The lawsuit names USU, plus students and staff from the school’s Psychology department – including assistant professor Melissa Tehee, Clinical Assistant Professor (Emeritus) Carolyn Barcus, and Professor Gretchen Peacock, and Ph.D. candidates Tamara Barrett and Amanda Blume – as defendants.
Court papers filed last week charge, “This is a case about a university clinical and counseling psychology training program that knowingly allowed one of its students to be verbally abused, intimidated and subjected to cultural and racial discrimination by favored students over the course of eight months, until she was rendered so emotionally devastated and hopeless that she committed suicide.”
USU’s post Tuesday referenced the huge impact Sanjeevi’s suicide has had on the USU Psychology Department and the entire university.
“It is inappropriate to wage litigation through media, and as with all student matters and pending litigation, Utah State University is limited in what it can say. The facts should, and will ultimately guide the outcome of this matter, and it is grossly inaccurate to say that USU did nothing.”
An update to the USU website Wednesday encouraged anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts to reach out for help. “Directly asking someone about suicidal thoughts in a caring manner does not raise the risk of suicide and, in fact, helps reduce stigma and make it more likely the person will seek help.”
KUTV reported Wednesday that Jerusha Sanjeevi’s boyfriend, who filed the complaint in federal court, said Sanjeevi repeatedly asked for the university’s protection against a classmate she claimed bullied her and she did not receive adequate assistance.
The complaint seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for Sanjeevi’s family in Malaysia.
She died of acute self-inflicted carbon monoxide poisoning in April 2017.