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Kirk Wu, CC ’21, Has Passed Away

Editor’s Note: This article includes mentions of death.

Kirk Wu, a CC sophomore from Pasadena, CA, has passed away. Dean Valentini has sent out an email to the Columbia community regarding his passing, available below.

There will be a “space for reflection and conversation” tonight from 8 pm to 10 pm in the McBain first floor lounge, with Counseling and Psychological Services and Residential Life will be present. The Office of the University Chaplain will offer counseling tonight from 8 pm to 10 pm in the Schiff Room in Earl Hall.

In addition, CPS is available during their regular hours at 212-854-2878, and they will hold extended walk-in hours tonight until 11 pm. Nightline Peer Listening is available at 212-854-7777 for students to call between 10 pm and 3 am every night.

Below is the full text of the email that was sent by Dean Valentini.

Dear Students,

With a heavy heart, I write to let you know of the loss of a member of our community. Kirk Wu, a Columbia College sophomore from Pasadena, CA and a resident of McBain Hall, has died.

Kirk was an active member of our community who participated in the (COÖP) Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program last summer, was an editor of Columbia Economics Review, and was a member of Columbia Taekwondo as well as 180 Degrees Consulting. Kirk was also a self-professed birdwatcher and museum enthusiast. His adviser told me he was a friendly student with a contagious laugh.

We have begun reaching out to Kirk’s friends and classmates to provide support and assistance during this difficult time. We care deeply about the grief and sadness you may be feeling, and we are here for you. Whether or not you knew Kirk, you may find comfort in gathering with your community. We have set up a space for reflection and conversation from 8:00–10:00 p.m. in the McBain Hall first floor lounge, with staff from Counseling and Psychological Services and Residential Life attending.

In addition to their regular hours, Counseling and Psychological Services will offer extended walk-in hours until 11:00 p.m. tonight in the CPS office on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall. This location will also be open until 9:00 p.m. tomorrow and 1:00–5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You may also call the 24/7 phone line at 212-854- 2878 to be connected with support.

The Office of the University Chaplain will offer counseling tonight from 8:00–10:00 p.m. in the Schiff Room in Earl Hall and will resume regular hours of counseling tomorrow, 12:00–5:00 p.m. in the same location.

This is an especially difficult time for all of us, and we encourage you to utilize the resources available to you. Remember that you are not alone. Reach out to your advisers, your Residential Life staff, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of the University Chaplain, family and friends for support. Please also reach out to your advisers and faculty if you have any academic concerns.
I know that all of you join me in sending our deepest condolences to Kirk’s family and friends.

Sincerely, James J. Valentini Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education

cc: Mary C. Boyce, Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science Lisa Rosen-Metsch, Dean of The School of General Studies Natalie Friedman, Dean of Studies, Barnard College

A reminder that the following resources are available to you:

  • There will be a space for reflection and conversation from 8:00–10:00 p.m. in the McBain Hall first floor lounge. Staff from Counseling and Psychological Services and Residential Life will be in attendance.
  • In addition to their regular hours, Counseling and Psychological Services (212-854-2878) will offer extended walk-in hours until 11:00 p.m. tonight in the CPS office on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall. This location will also be open until 9:00 p.m. tomorrow and 1:00-5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You may also call the 24/7 phone line at 212-854-2878 to be connected with support.
  • The Office of the University Chaplain (212-854-1493) will offer counseling from 8:00-10:00 p.m. tonight in the Schiff Room in Earl Hall and will resume counseling hours tomorrow from 12:00-5:00 p.m. in the same location.
  • Your advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising (212-854-6378) will be available to talk with you about any concerns 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. tomorrow.
  • You can seek support from Residential Life staff at any time, who may connect you with additional resources. Look for contact information in your residence hall to connect with your Residence Hall Directors and Associate Directors.
  • Nightline’s anonymous peer listening service (212-854-7777) will be open tonight and every night while school is in session from 10:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m.

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  • Classmate says:

    @Classmate No, no, no, no, no. The best, brightest, friendliest guy. We chatted last week before class, complaining about the stresses of midterm season…it’s such a common topic of conversation, I didn’t think about it twice. Until now. So much love to all who knew him. Please don’t be afraid to use the resources that are in place for you this week.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous F*ck Columbia. They’re so busy promoting the foundation their employees serve on the board for that they don’t have time to actually do stuff to prevent this from happening. Kirk should not have passed away. :(

  • Columbia Community says:

    @Columbia Community May peace be upon you, Kirk Wu. I’ve never met you before, but I will sincerely pray for you.

  • High School Classmate says:

    @High School Classmate Kirk was my classmate in high school. I didn’t know him too well personally but he was known for being one of the brightest kids in my grade along with being known for his contagious smile and laugh. This news is so tragic. Praying for his San Marino friends, Columbia community, and his family.

  • college freshman says:

    @college freshman kirk was a good guy

    he taught me and many others so much about a bunch of different things during HS and i’ll always remember (in particular) the spirit and character he brought to the debate team

    rest in peace, dude

  • High school classmate says:

    @High school classmate Kirk was such an amazing and loving person. We were in the same AP Spanish class together and he always brightened up the class with his smile and charm. I never thought I’d be reading about his passing. Rest in peace Kirk.

  • Acquaintance that went to Samuelson Academy says:

    @Acquaintance that went to Samuelson Academy Oh my God, I first met him around 7-8 years ago, and he seemed like a chill guy who liked listening to Adele. He was smart, funny, and always seemed like he knew where life was taking him. This is so sad to see. I hope he finds rest especially with how bright of an individual he was.

  • Classmate / Teammate says:

    @Classmate / Teammate I have been at Columbia for many years. There were many incidents, but this is the first time I feel affected. Kirk was always very silly whenever he came to practice. After the first practice, everyone remembered his name because he made everyone laugh. Then I realized this wasn’t just an isolated incident. Whether it be talking to him during practice or crossing by him on campus, he would always crack a joke that made me laugh. We will miss you – CUTKD

    Rest in peace.

  • Concerned Student says:

    @Concerned Student Oh my goodness… What happened? He always seemed so energetic and happy. You never know what someone else is going through. Please remember to always be kind to one another.

  • Debora says:

    @Debora My daughter is attending Barnard, her first year. She was crying so much over the phone. She was supposed to meet him since he was a friend of a friend and they were planning to get together the three of them. As a parent, sometimes I ask myself if we are expecting too much from these very young kids! There is too much competition to be success, the best….. for some it’s just not worried! When my daughter was afraid of failing, I told her that failure is part of life… we fail sometimes, but we can stand up again and go on. I told her that if she doesn’t like NY or the school itself or whatever the reasons, the doors are open for her and she can transfer back home or whatever she wish to do. As a mother, I would just like to tell you that the hard times sooner or later are going g to get better and you don’t have to be on top all the times and if you are not happy where you are, you always have other choices. Please, be nice to each other and don’t make assumptions! I am so heartbroken for Kirk Wu and his family since he could have been my child. Young people are the future and I hope you will all work together to try to make it better.

  • Same High School says:

    @Same High School Wow…I was a freshman when he was a senior, and I looked up to him so much because of his leadership, academic achievements and amazing personality. This was completely unexpected :( I wish I talked to him more in the past. Rest in peace to the legend who did not deserve to pass in such a fleeting moment.

  • Friend says:

    @Friend Kirk Wu was the embodiment of good spirits. No matter where he went, Kirk brought a wave of enthusiasm that could lift the mood of any solemn situation. Approaching him was always easy; he was constantly cheerful and open to talk about any topic. Getting to like him was even easier; nothing about his laid back yet dependable personality could put you off. But most importantly, being his friend was the easiest task; Kirk has left an impact on every individual he has met. He drives people through wisdom and charisma, making people laugh while tutoring them about calculus at the same time. It is truly disheartening that such a genuine figure has left our world today.

    Kirk, I truly hope you rest in peace. Thank you for everything. You will be missed.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Shouldn’t we all question why this kind of tragic incidents can’t be prevented to such bright and nice kids like Kirk Wu in Columbia University? I wish, as a parent of CU, we hear more communication emails/letters close to normal “human talking” instead of those politically 100% correct “bad news” notice from the school! How many times you get emails or approached by the CU staff for anything related your students life in school comparing with those fundraising emails, calls, flyers, etc. coming to you, to the parents of students constantly, non-stop, and enthusiastically? It maybe convenient to say it’s mental health problem of some students when they are going through their tough time in the Columbia University environment, but why can’t the school pay a little more attention and give understanding and help needed to lift up those students when they are down emotionally? This needs to be fixed by the school high up there leaders with their hearts really loving their students instead of just doing their jobs and running school as a business!

    Rest In Peace!

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Although I agree with you, blaming Columbia ( or any college) for this is totally misplaced. This young man attended Columbia for all of a year (nine months) of his life. Unfortunately these mental health issues start way before college, but college is the first time many students are independent and way from home. Failure to recognize and treat until you are 20 and at college is a big denial of parents, friends, teachers at home.

      1. Found the administrator says:

        @Found the administrator Go back to the ramps of Lerner where you belong, and cover your ass from there.

        As for this incident, OP, you are absolutely correct. There is a general apathy at Columbia nested within a larger culture of anomie that has always existed in the city. When that environment is combined with a hyper-competitive environment there’s a terrible synergy that makes students feel stressed, alone, and hopeless. When we look at all of this in the context of late adolescence, it’s no wonder that mental health at Columbia is a significant issue.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous For whatever it is worth, one hundred percent of the suicides at Columbia over the last three years were of Asian descent. That is a more disturbing statistic.

          1. Anon says:

            @Anon That’s not true. There was only other Asian who committed suicide since this suicide wave began and she was an Asian exchange student.


          2. Parent of a Columbia Student says:

            @Parent of a Columbia Student Absolutely untrue; see today’s story in tre NYPost of Kirk’s passing; it links to an article from last year concerning a rash of suicides of Columbia undergrads.
            Pictures of the deceased students accompany their bios and details of their passing.

          3. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous What a cold blood message you are sending out here! Why a life of Columbia University student should be distinguished by races??!!!

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous As an Asian-American applicant to an Ivy League school, I’m not at all surprised by this comment.

        What you see here is the new representation of the oppression of we, the model minority. That somehow, if we end our rich, vibrant, successful lives dangling on a bathroom door, that somehow, that is our fault.

        Yes, we are Asians! We are supposed to be perfect, competitive, in every way fitting the normal model. That if we have any faults or weaknesses, we can’t speak up, or else, we are seen as losers! That’s why Kirk Wu died, because of people who have made the above comment. Because of people who truly have no sympathy for the experiences and lives of others.

        What I fear more is that the above person might be my admissions officer, might be the professor of a school. Regardless, I don’t know any other way American discrimination can be represented so perfectly.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Your comment makes no sense. A fact is a fact is a fact. The majority if not all suicides were Asian. Other groups are not doing this. This should be studied, not pushed under the rug as you suggest. Not sure why you want to ignore this or blame other people.

          1. Have Some Morals, People says:

            @Have Some Morals, People ALL suicides are Asian?! Sure, I agree with you when you say that this is DEFINITELY a problem. But, you suggest that I’m BLAMING people.

            There is nothing to STUDY in suicide. I think one thing is clear: There is something INSTITUTIONAL within Columbia that is causing the suicides, and maybe, the best way to prevent Asian suicides is to actually listen to them, and support them.

  • CHAN, Siu-Wai says:

    @CHAN, Siu-Wai My heart sank this morning when I saw Dean Mary’s email. No student should die .

    Remember life first. Be kind to your fellow classmates and especially to yourself.

    Depression can overtake even the best of us. Remember President Abraham Lincoln was so depressed that all sharp objects were removed from his room. He lived on and freed the slave. Please just wait. For a day, a week, a month. Things do get better.

    Eventually may you also emerge from your sadness and be our sunshine.

    Rest in peace Kirk. Our hearts and prayers go to your Mom, Dad and family.

  • Concerned Student says:

    @Concerned Student Besides the perfectionism and fear of failure Columbia, and the Ivy League system in general, is so good at inculcating in its students, I think social media really exacerbates these problems. We have to remember that these are still only kids. At Columbia, and in society in general, we need to send a message to these kids that is greater, and far more important, than the need to always being productive and to never fall short. We need to guide, mentor, and actually give a shit about these kids instead of treating them like customers or having these kids view each other as their competition. We need to be focused on teaching these kids more life skills and less resume skills. Kids, please remember, grades are not everything and there are things much more important than credentials or climbing to the top–and that is, life itself.

    Rest well, my friend.

  • Dr. Wei Li says:

    @Dr. Wei Li Also as parents of a Columbia student and having met Kirk in person before he started at Columbia, our hearts go out to the Wu family. We are still in complete shock………

  • CU Student says:

    @CU Student If you feel as though you can’t go on another day, please, please, just wait. Wait another minute, another hour, another day, another week. Please don’t do it.

    If you go, it’s not just your loved ones who will hurt. It is every soul that has encountered yours. Every acquaintance you had a class with. Every person you once said hi to freshman year. We all miss you. Feel the weight of your loss, wish we could have done something to help, wonder for the rest of our lives what we could have changed.

    I know what it feels like to have every second be difficult. To feel like to live is to suffer. But I promise you–from the bottom of my heart–that every arduous second is leading to a better day, a better month, a better year. “It gets better” is not nothing but a banality — it is true. It is so, 100%, completely, utterly true. And if you remember to tell yourself that, it will become a reality. So please, wait that extra second, minute, hour, and day.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous So much appreciate you speak out your thoughts on this and sharing your experiences tough days.

      To school administrators:
      Can’t you put more efforts to organize and get this kind of message spread out to as many students as you can?!!

  • Anon says:

    @Anon I read the details about his death on the NY Post and my stomach churned. This is so tragic. I can’t imagine what he must have been going through inside to end his life so violently. I can’t imagine the horror the janitor must have felt in finding a young, promising life that ended so soon. I know I’ve felt so bad sometimes that I also wanted to end my life, but I’m glad I stayed. The grief endured by those who love you most cannot be measured and cannot be felt when you are feeling at your lowest. Please reach out to someone. Remember that you matter and that you are loved. RIP.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Kirk Wu was beyond a student, a debate team member, a friend, a mentor who guided me through high school debate as a freshman. He was simply a model citizen- a blend of intelligence, light-hearted humor, of genuine interest in people. I am a senior in the high school which he attends, and without a doubt, there is no one in my high school today that is like him.

    Some members in my community think otherwise.

    “It was a shame that he died. He got into an Ivy League University. He got everything going for him!”

    “That’s great. Someone died. What else are we doing today in class?”

    And while so many of my peers took an opportunity to step out of class to cry, to mourn the loss of a brother, one student pretended to mourn Kirk, just to ditch class.

    Before we start criticizing Columbia, or the Dean, or the Ivy League…let’s start accessing the attitudes of our community first.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous What is more important to Columbia? A student’s mental health? Or a usatoday ranking? My local community knew Kirk, hell Kirk was a brother to all of us. Kirk placed everyone else before himself. He had little to no academic troubles here. He was the most upbeat person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He could take all the hits and get back up.

    Us, The speech & debate team, his 2nd family, mourned him not just as a friend, but as a family member. Our school allowed us, the ones who truly experienced grief today, to speak with teachers and counselors. Yet, our peers couldn’t care less. They complained about the disruption of class, some even exploited this opportunity to “mourn”. Kirk was supposed to grow up and make the world a better place, more than his existence already did.

    CC students said that “these sort of things are expected around midterms”. What the fuck, why the hell should suicide be expected. Don’t tell me the academic stress got to him. Those who knew him best know that he wasn’t a quitter. Columbia turned him into a quitter. Kirk was 19. He was barely an adult. Columbia, don’t tell me you care; show me you care.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Indeed, it is such a shame to the school to have this kind of tragic incidents happened again and again, and have their students believe “these sort of things are expected ……” as normal!

  • anon says:

    @anon Believe me, no one thinks student deaths are normal.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous The CC student from the NY Post article, verbatim:

      “I notice this happening around midterms and finals.”

      As if there is nothing more he could say for someone who was the focus of his community for 4-5 years of his life, the inspiration in the eyes of everyone he met.

      Columbia, don’t tell me you care; show me you care.

  • Parent of CC says:

    @Parent of CC I am repeating this from message above:


  • Andy Cheng (CC 1989) says:

    @Andy Cheng (CC 1989) To our beloved sons and daughters at Columbia (especially those from Asian American families):

    When we are looking at the world with eyes of wisdom and perspective, our highest wish is that you are well and balanced and that you will be with us for the long haul. So if the culture of success ever affects your health, you should know that we value your well-being above everything else. Better to take a break, withdraw, drop out, appear to be a failure (which is nonsense and provisional) than to let your mental or physical health deteriorate.

    All meaningful success is long-term and even inter-generational, so please pace yourself for a marathon, not a sprint. Being at Columbia or other future equivalents is just the starting point. Life is truly hard for everyone — a daily battle with many unforeseen difficulties and crises. Even those who seemingly cruise through life have or will have to deal with the loss of loved ones, jobs, dreams. These crises and how you respond to them will shape the person you become.

    If we (your parents or family) do not have the right perspective, you are within your rights to push back hard and carve out the life that works for you — not the one that fulfills our or societal expectations. There is always another tournament with stiffer competition. You can choose to play or not play; and it should be on your terms.

    Remember that your accomplishments that got you to Columbia do not define you as a human being. A truer measure would include the number of people you have helped or affected positively, how you have responded to adversity, and how you have grown from your mistakes.

    We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Kirk’s family.

  • Andy Yang says:

    @Andy Yang Kirk’s death has led me and my family to reflect deeply. As a younger student what I took from this tragic incident is that no matter what you do in life, you must take care of your mental health. From my experience there is a stigma around seeking psychological guidance, as if that well-being can somehow be ignored as long as you continue to achieve great things. That is just not true especially for young minds that have not fully matured yet. It was not his fault for failing to reach out, because nobody saw it coming, not even himself, being used to certain expectations. If only someone had asked him how he was feeling, if he needed any help, and let him know that it’s okay, that there’s nothing that can’t be solved. But it’s rare that someone would suspect something is wrong with a bright, kindhearted, happy kid. Rest in peace.

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