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The woman killed by a SEPTA train at 40th Street this morning was a Penn student, according to a letter sent by Penn president Amy Gutmann to university employees.
The woman has been identified the student as Ao “Olivia” Kong, a junior. Authorities confirmed to The Daily News the death was an apparent suicide. The incident happened at about 7 a.m. and caused massive delays across the Market-Frankford line, routing passengers to buses for some of the route as investigators probed the accident.
Gutmann described Kong as “a bright, well-liked and successful member of our junior class.” She was a member of two fraternities for business and service and, according to her LinkedIn, graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia. She studied abroad last year at the University of Melbourne in Australia and has volunteered at several nonprofits throughout Philadelphia.
University officials say they are reaching out to her friends on campus and memorial service information will be provided after school leaders consult with the woman’s family.
The incident comes as the school has struggled in recent years with suicide. Ten Penn students died as a result of suicide over the last three years, according to school paper The Daily Pennsylvanian. Graduate student Stephen Kyle Wilshusen died of an apparent suicide over winter break.
Philadelphia’s representative of the Ivy League has faced criticism over the last several years for creating an environment where students feel immense pressure. There was national outcry against the school by February 2014 after four students committed suicide in a span of six months, three of them in the early months of 2014.
The 10-person Penn Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare was deployed by the university in early 2014 and took a year to study the school’s “culture of perfectionism.” The result? An eight-page report whose main takeaways were the creation of a website and a flier for faculty members.
Last year, a reporter for the student-run Daily Pennsylvanian wrote that administrators pressured the paper to tone down its coverage of students who died as a result of suicide.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death across America for people between the ages of 15 and 24. The number of students at Penn who die as a result of suicide is about double the national rate of suicide among college students.
A college suicide prevention bill named after Madison Holleran, a Penn student who died of suicide in January 2014, passed the New Jersey state Senate earlier this year. The bill requires mental health professionals be available on college campuses at all times to assist students in crisis.
Finals week at Penn begins the first week of May.