LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The USC community is mourning the deaths of nine students this semester, a figure that is greater than the total for each of the two previous academic years.
University President Carol Folt — in a letter sent to USC students, parents and faculty over the weekend — said eight students had died since the fall semester began in the last week of August, two from unknown causes.
The number increased to nine on Monday, when a USC student was found dead at The Dunes apartment complex in University Park.
Kevin Franco, 27, of Los Angeles was found dead about 3 p.m. Monday in the 1200 block of West 29th Street, according to the coroner’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department. An autopsy was pending, but no foul play is suspected, according to the LAPD.
One of the other students who died this semester was freshman Matthew Olson of Newport Beach, who was killed while walking on the Harbor (110 Freeway early on Aug. 26.
Causes of death for all nine students vary and include suicide, according to the university.
According to the Daily Trojan, there were six student deaths during each of the last two academic years. A dozen students died during the 2016-17 academic year and four during the 2015-16 academic year, USC’s student newspaper reported.
Folt, in her letter, said the losses are devastating and heartbreaking for the school. She said that it is “not correct” that most of the deaths were the result of suicide.
“These tragic losses have resulted from a number of different causes. In some cases the cause of death is still undetermined, and in others loved ones do not want details disclosed,” Folt wrote.
Speculation over the deaths has been rampant on the campus.
“I’m glad the university recognized it and is kind of bringing this issue to light,” one student said.
USC senior Nicole Ricken says the recent deaths have really hit close to home.
“I’ve been acquaintances with at least four of the students who passed away,” she said. “One of them was one of my closest friends.”
Students in need of immediate help are encouraged to call USC’s 24- hour wellness line at (213) 740-WELL (9355). Anyone concerned about a friend or fellow student can communicate their concern through Trojans Care For Trojans.