WASHINGTON — Howard University Assistant Dean of Admissions Sharelle Williams knew something was wrong the moment she stepped into the office this week.
“My boss, [Dean of Admissions] Mr. [Clarence] Ross, usually empties out all the fax trays when he comes in, and they were full,” Williams said on Wednesday. “Also, there was a strong smell of blood and feces that I’d never noticed before.”
It was only when she walked into Ross’ private, inner office that Williams’ suspicions were confirmed – the dean had killed himself by microwaving aerosol cans and embracing the appliance until it exploded. Entrails and copies of the latest U.S. News & World Report littered the desk and floor.
Eleven months out of the year U.S. News & World Report is ignored. The publication, which has less than half the circulation of Time, was once described by Tom Wolfe as a “third-rate news weekly, aimed at businessmen who don’t like to read.”
Once a year, however, U.S. News releases its annual rankings of American colleges and universities—a event that, historically, boosts both the publication’s sales and the incidence of suicide among college administrators.
“It was those rankings that did it; they killed him,” Williams said. “He always said we live and die by those rankings. I just didn’t know he meant it so literally.”
Howard University dropped 22 spots in the 2013 list, falling to 142nd; in addition to Ross, one of the school’s professors killed himself with a paper-slicer.
Howard’s loss was nothing compared to that of Rutgers, however. The Newark, N.J., university fell 27 places in the latest rankings. On Tuesday, a mass suicide via printer ink consumption claimed seven at Rutgers’ admissions office.
“We have brought shame and ignominy to one of the finest institutions in New Jersey,” reads a suicide note signed by “The Rutgers 7.” The note goes on to apologize to the student body for an education found so horribly lacking.