Content warning: this article contains reference to suicide. If you or someone you know are in need of help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Three months ago, Stanford student Katie Meyer ’22 died in a campus residence. Now, Meyer’s parents, Gina and Steve, are pushing for a nationwide change to university policies that they believe can help save the lives of college students.
The proposed policy, named “Katie’s Save” after the women’s soccer goalkeeper, aims to establish institutional mechanisms that would allow for closer contact between universities and parents about challenges facing their children. The drafted policy offers students the choice to opt into a system that would automatically notify a designated advocate when the student faces circumstances including disciplinary action, physical injury, substance abuse and academic probation. The policy has since garnered more than 3,500 signatures in support from community members at Stanford and across the country.
According to University spokesperson Karla Hudson, Stanford administrators “have recently learned of Katie’s Save from the media and will be studying the proposed policy.”
“Clearly, with the storm of suicides, the systems in place have failed,” Steve and Gina told The Daily. “Our daughter, Katie, is gone. Gone far too soon. She died at a school she dreamed of going to and worked so hard to prepare for; and gave her entire self to, in attempts to succeed and represent the school with strength, fierce spirit and loyalty, innovation and intelligence.”
“So we are now fighting to find purpose through our pain,” they added. “And we believe the time for some real change is right now.”
The Meyer family hopes that such a policy would help mitigate what they see as a critical disconnect between parents and children attending college. After Meyer’s death by suicide, Gina and Steve explained that there were “no red flags” about their daughter’s mental health in the days preceding.
But in the days following Katie’s death, Gina and Steve shared that she had been in the process of dealing with potential disciplinary action for “defending a teammate on campus over an incident.” According to the family, Katie had been involved with the proceedings for more than six months prior without their knowledge.
“While we have been attempting to piece things together on our own, we continue to have many unanswered questions that remain of concern,” Gina and Steve said. “As a result of the lack of information provided, and other factors, we are not in a position to provide further details at this time.”
Beyond the details of Katie’s circumstances, the Meyers are concerned that campus pressures can be exacerbated by the stresses of college athletics.
On Tuesday, they spoke about the proposed measure on the Today Show along with a panel of parents of student athletes who died by suicide. While prompted by cases involving student athletes, the Meyers think that Katie’s Save has the potential to help any student overcoming adversity in college.
Though the policy recommendation has received an outpouring of support from community members and experts, the path toward implementing such a policy at Stanford is murky. Recent changes to mental health-related protocol have come as the result of legal action, not public pressure and advocacy alone. In 2019, Stanford was forced by a class-action lawsuit to change a policy that required students to take a leave of absence if the University determines there is a “significant risk to the student’s health or safety or the health or safety of others, or the student’s behavior severely disrupts the University environment.”
Currently, Stanford’s community standards policies do not include a mechanism to automatically notify designated individuals about disciplinary issues. According to the Office of Community Standards, the University has “accommodations available to protect the privacy of individuals who have brought forward a concern, to the greatest extent possible.”
The Meyer family believes the proposed policy would give students and parents the flexibility to make a plan that is tailored to their personal situations. In the process of crafting the policy, the Meyers worked with medical professionals at the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute and the Pac-12 Research Development Center, as well as other organizations “with interest in student mental health.”
Brian Hainline, the NCAA chief medical officer, told ESPN that Katie’s Save can serve as a “safety valve” for students in vulnerable situations as they navigate their unique circumstances.
The Meyer family is also considering spearheading a forum that would address “broader action items and other changes needed to evolve in the university systems that govern our students’ lives to ensure their safety and well-being in the future.” They said that while they recognize there may be hurdles to clear in the implementation of Katie’s Save and accompanying efforts, it constitutes “a battle well worth fighting.”
According to the family, Stanford has not offered any comment to them or their legal team on the proposed policy. But Gina and Steve said they hope Stanford and schools across the nation will support the initiative.
“Our goal is to continue to gain support to have Katie’s Save implemented nationwide — and we will take the necessary steps to obtain that support and ultimately, implementation in schools across the country.”
Support is available for students through Stanford’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 24/7 at (650) 723-3785. The Graduate Life Office (GLO) is available 24/7 via the Stanford operator at (650) 723-7288, pager 25085 and during office hours at (650) 736-7078. The Bridge Peer Counseling Center offers counseling by trained students 24/7 at (650) 723-3392. The Faculty Staff Help Center, located in Kingscote Gardens, offers confidential help for Stanford faculty and staff.
This article has been updated to include comment from a University spokesperson.