Student Death on Campus

Thursday, February 11, 2016

It is our deep regret to inform you that on Thursday, February 11 a student death was reported in Johnson Hall. There is no known threat to the campus community. We ask that non-residents of Johnson stay clear of the area while the Whittier Police Department conducts its investigation.  

Counseling services are available for students, faculty, and staff 24/7 by calling the Department of Campus Safety at 562.907.4211 and asking for the on-call therapist.  

The student's parent has already been notified. Our thoughts and prayers are with the student's loved ones. 

Update, 2/12/16 4:15 p.m.

The student has been identified as sophomore Margo Latif and according to authorities there is no sign of foul play, but the investigation is still ongoing.

Margo was majoring in political science at Whittier and was known as an enthusiastic student. Her goal was to focus on foreign policy and eventually pursue a career in a policy-related field.

As you can imagine, the news of Margo’s death has hit the Whittier community very hard. We have held two vigils, bringing hundreds of people together on each occasion to remember her and also to console each other. Last night, students led the way, with leaders from our Associated Students of Whittier College and all of our Societies gathering people together in candlelight and for quiet remembrances.

Professor of Political Science Joyce Kaufman, Margo’s academic advisor, spoke at a gathering today, remembering her student as an “upbeat young woman who was excited about her direction and future goals,” was “deeply concerned about much of what she saw taking place in the world,” and was looking for a way to give back. In fact, Margo had recently joined the College’s Center for Engagement with Communities mentor program and was excited to begin the process of mentoring a high school student. In addition, Margo was a proud Metaphonian and belonged to the Hawaiian Islander Club, and the Food Recovery Network.

Professor of History Laura McEnaney was Latif’s first year advisor, “Margo loved learning and it was a delight to have her in my class and in my mentor group. She loved Whittier and I will miss her enthusiasm.”    

“I saw her at the mentor training meeting last week and she was eager to get started,” said Kaufman, director of the CEC.  

Hailing from Kilauea, Hawaii, Latif was a graduate of the Island School. She was 20 years old.

“Margo was a bright young woman with tremendous promise,” said President Sharon Herzberger. “I have heard so many stories over the last day about her smile, her leadership qualities, and her desire to help others. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family, her friends, staff, and the faculty who came to know her well. She will be sorely missed by her Poet family.”

Update, 2/12/16, 11:30 a.m.

As we informed you yesterday, Campus Safety found the student in her room at around 4:30 p.m. Whittier Police Department and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office are still conducting an investigation. The WPD has said that there are no signs of foul play. The College will not release the student’s name until official confirmation is given by the Coroner’s office.

Johnson Hall was closed yesterday and alternative housing options are being provided by the Office of Residential Life. The residence hall will be closed for at least another day. Residents will be allowed back into their rooms to gather belongings starting at noon until 3pm. After 3pm students can contact Campus Safety to make arrangements.

Students, faculty, and staff are gathering as a community to remember our fellow Poet and provide support to each other as we mourn our loss. The gathering will take place today at noon at The Rock. There will be opportunities to provide personal reflections and place flowers at The Rock.

During business hours, grief counseling is available on-site. After hours you can call the Department of Campus Counseling services are available for students, faculty, and staff 24/7 by calling the Department of Campus Safety at 562.907.4211 and asking for the on-call therapist.  

We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time for our campus community.

Update, 2/11/16, 9:30 p.m.

We believe it is best for our community - and especially our students - to have classes meet tomorrow.  We feel that having the community be present; to be together in support of each other is important. Therefore, classes will meet on Friday. However, we ask faculty not to penalize students who miss class or do not participate.