Dear Member of the Duke University Community,
I write to share my great sadness over the sudden and senseless death of Abhijit Mahato, a graduate student in the Pratt School of Engineering, who was murdered in his off-campus apartment this weekend.
Having spoken with Professor Tod Laursen, in whose lab Abhijit was making important contributions, I have a sense of his great promise and endearing character. I extend my sympathy to Abhijit’s friends and colleagues and to all members of the Indian and Hindu community for this appalling loss. A celebration of his life will be held in Duke Chapel later this week.
Since news of Abhijit’s death was first reported by the Durham Police, many people at Duke have been working to provide support. I am grateful to Professor Laursen and his Pratt colleagues and to our International House for reaching out to students, especially our many international students, at this painful time. The professional staff of CAPS is providing counselling to those who need assistance. I met today with representatives of the Indian Ambassador from Washington to express our grief and concern for Abhijit’s friends and family in India.
We have also learned from Durham Police that there has been a spike in armed robberies throughout Durham in recent weeks. This means that recent assaults on Duke graduate students are part of a larger issue. We have received assurances from city authorities that they will make every effort to investigate and resolve these issues. Meanwhile, under the direction of Associate Vice President for Campus Safety and Security Aaron Graves, Duke is increasing off-campus patrols by Duke Police in selected areas near the campus, consistent with our agreement with the city. Since this will divert some police personnel from their usual campus responsibilities, the university is increasing its use of hired security forces to maintain a strong security presence on campus. A meeting is also being scheduled with off-campus landlords to discuss improving security in facilities that have experienced recent crimes.
On Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 7:30 p.m., an open forum for the Duke Community will be held in the Schiciano Auditorium of the FCIEMAS Building. Aaron Graves, Larry Moneta and other university officials as well as representatives of the Durham Police will answer questions and review the things each of us can do to help ensure our own safety.
Finally, anyone with possible information about Abhijit Mahato’s death or any of the recent robberies is encouraged to contact the Duke Police at 919-684-2444 or Crimestoppers at 919- 683-1200.
Richard H. Brodhead