Letter from Chancellor and Vice Chancellor Regarding Student Tragedy

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dear UC Merced Community,

It is with great sadness that we write to you about the passing of Hector Barrera-Barraza, member of the Class of 2010. Hector was found unconscious outside Tulare Hall yesterday (March 17) morning at approximately 9:50 a.m.

UC Merced Campus Police were immediately alerted, and an ambulance transported Hector to Mercy Hospital in Merced. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The cause of death has not yet been determined, and cannot be until the medical examiner completes an investigation. We hope that this will happen early this week. More information will be forthcoming as it becomes available.

Hector was from Moorpark, CA, where he graduated from Moorpark High School last year. He leaves his parents and his brother, Raul, who is a student at UC Davis.

Students and staff have begun planning a campus memorial service. Details will be forthcoming.

The chancellor and staff held meetings with students last night and tonight. The gatherings welcomed all students who are seeking comfort, support and the company of others affected by this tragedy.

Counseling services will be available tomorrow (Monday, March 19) as of 8 a.m. The Counseling Center can be reached (209) 228-6996.

This is a very sad time for the community, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to the Hector's family and friends. As a campus, let us come together to support each other through this tragedy.

Steve Kang, Chancellor

Jane F. Lawrence, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

[Below is the press release issued to the media this morning when Hector was publicly identified.]

Student Identified
Campus Planning Memorial Service

MERCED - The UC Merced student who passed away Saturday morning has been identified as Hector Hugo Barrera-Barraza, 18, an engineering student from Moorpark, CA.
University officials were informed this morning (March 18) that the family has been notified about Mr. Barrera-Barraza's death.

Students and staff have begun planning a campus memorial service. Details will be forthcoming.

"The campus wants to pay tribute to Hector who joined our community last fall," said Chancellor Steve Kang. "Anytime someone leaves us, it is tragic, but it is that much more difficult because we are such a close-knit group here. This is like losing family for all of us."

Mr. Barrera-Barraza was born Oct. 17, 1988, and listed his original hometown as Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. He was a soccer player, enjoyed playing the guitar, visiting Mexico and loved the beach. He was a member of at least two on-campus groups - UC Merced's Amnesty International group and the Tag/Hide & Seek Pillow Fight Society.

Two students discovered Mr. Barrera-Barraza lying on the ground near Tulare Hall, an on-campus residence, about 9:50 a.m. Saturday. He had no pulse, and a wound to the right side of his head.

The students notified campus police and an ambulance transported Mr. Barrera-Barraza to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy is planned for early this week to determine what caused Mr. Barrera-Barraza's death.

UC Merced Police Chief Rita Spaur said her department will handle the investigation, though the Merced County Coroner's Office will conduct the autopsy.

A group of students said they last saw Mr. Barrera-Barraza on Friday night on campus.
Campus officials held meetings with students Saturday night and are making sure the students have access to counseling and support. Chancellor Kang, whose San Joaquin Valley Listening Tour was scheduled to begin in Merced on Monday, will remain on campus instead, postponing the events that had been scheduled.

As information becomes available, the campus and the public will be updated.
Student body President Josh Franco said, "During this difficult time it is important for us to come together to remember a lost member of our family, to renew our spirit of community and togetherness, and to recognize that in a moment of weakness, we will discover the strength in ourselves and each other to persevere."

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