World

Family of M’sian who killed herself sues US university over bullying

PETALING JAYA: She was a bright young Malaysian pursuing a doctorate in clinical and counselling psychology because she wanted to help children the world over.

But she also had to persevere through months of what she described as racial bullying and insults, and when her university's psychology department seemingly did nothing, she could endure no more.

Ms Jerusha Sanjeevi, a child rape survivor of Chinese and Indian descent, took her own life in 2017 at the age of 24.

Now her family is suing Utah State University (USU) for alleged inaction over Ms Sanjeevi's multiple reports of relentless racist bullying, according to reports by US media.

The Herald Journal said Ms Sanjeevi's family in Malaysia is seeking damages from the university. No amount was disclosed.

The lawsuit, filed by her boyfriend Matthew Brick, alleges that the university's psychology department did not do enough to intervene against the bullying that led to her death.

Ms Sanjeevi had a master's degree in clinical psychology and had enrolled as a doctoral student in USU's combined clinical and counselling psychology programme eight months before her suicide.

The lawsuit names as defendants USU, then-psychology department head Gretchen Peacock, Professor Melissa Tehee, Emeritus Professor Carolyn Barcus, and two students who were the alleged bullies, The Herald Journal reported.

It claims that the department "knowingly allowed one of its students to be verbally abused, intimidated and subjected to cultural and racist discrimination by favoured students over the course of eight months, when she was rendered so emotionally devastated and hopeless that she committed suicide".

The suit also alleges that the university, where 83 per cent of the students are white, had a pattern of favouritism as well as racism against international students, who faced a hostile environment, while faculty members had knowingly allowed such abuse to continue for years, according to the newspaper.

Reports said the bullying targeted her culture, and included statements likes "Asians only want to please their parents", "Asian names are weird", and its people "stupid" and "second best".

She had been growing increasingly despondent and withdrawn during the eight months, US news reports quoted the lawsuit as saying.

"I'm going to leave my lab because I can't take it anymore," Ms Sanjeevi told a friend before her death. - THE STAR

WORLD