Rensselaer mourns loss of student life

Troy police suspect death by suicide

At approximately 6 am on the morning of Tuesday, April 23, a student was found dead in one of RPI’s residences. The Department of Public Safety—with agreement from the Troy Fire Department and the Troy Police Department—has announced that it believes the student in question committed suicide. According to an e-mail released by Vice President for Student Life Timothy Sams, the student in question was Michael Dickinson ’14.

The alleged suicide occurred at 11 Colvin Circle, which is located within the Rensselaer Apartment Housing Projects. According to reports, emergency vehicles and the Capital Region Forensic Hazardous Materials unit were on the scene by 6:20 am. Police Captain John Cooney stated that, upon their arrival, emergency personnel found notes that warned about chemical usage within the apartment, including hydrogen sulfide. According to NEWS10 ABC, “Police located six people who had entered the victim’s room and were exposed to the chemicals. All six, one an RPI Public Safety officer, were sent to Samaritan Hospital for precautionary measures.”

According to the second e-mail of the day, sent at approximately 4:56 pm via RPIAlert, an automatic alert notification system employed by RPI, “in working with Troy police and fire officials, [the Institute] took all appropriate steps to ensure the safety of other students in the residence hall on Colvin Circle and the overall campus community. As a precaution, several students in nearby apartments were temporarily evacuated.”

As the hazardous material team ventilated the apartment and made sure the area was clear of dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, Public Safety closed the roads allowing access into the RAHPs area. Only residents were able to pass in and out of the area. However, by 12:55 pm, Public Safety officers and the hazardous materials unit had left and the roads were reopened.

The first RPIAlert e-mail of the day was sent to the Rensselaer community at around 10:25 am. The e-mail stated: “Rensselaer officials are working with Troy Police and Fire Department officials on the death of a student in a residence hall, discovered early this morning. This is an active investigation so no further information is available at this time. We will provide additional information as it becomes available. As is the case with the death of any student, this can be a difficult event for a university community to experience. Rensselaer has many resources available to students, faculty, and staff dealing with emotional distress.”

It went on to list services that students can contact, such as the Counseling Center, Public Safety, and the Human Resources Employee Assistance Program. This information was reiterated by members of the student staff of the Office of Residence Life who supervise RAHPs, as well as Class of 2014 Dean Louis Trzepacz.

Sams said in his e-mail, “The loss of a student is a very difficult and sad moment for a university community to experience, and I understand that this news will be upsetting for many of you, especially those who were close to Michael. I strongly encourage the entire community to come together to help those who are grieving.” He added that, to assist grieving members of the Rensselaer community, a “special session” would be held from 6–8 pm on Tuesday in Mother’s Wine Emporium, during which counselors and deans were available for support.

Students in need of support can contact the Counseling Center via any of the numbers listed at or Public Safety via the numbers listed at These numbers can also be found on the back of any RPI ID.