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Circus Subsiding, the Med Campus Remains Subdued

Few express fear, but many are shocked by student’s arrest


Photo by Edward A. Brown

In the days after a School of Medicine student was charged with murder, the Medical Campus has been neither frenzied nor business-as-usual. As the hours pass, final exams loom closer, and the media circus departs, students seem to be settling, incorporating horrible news into an always busy daily routine.

But the dominant feeling remains one of shock, the first wave passing over campus on Monday night, when the story broke that Philip Markoff, a second-year MED student, had been arrested for the murder of 26-year-old masseuse Julissa Brissman.

“People are definitely talking about it, but I don’t think they are scared to the point that they are going to be next,” says Priti Rawani (MED’10). “I just can’t believe he studied here and went to school with us.”

“It’s scary, but nothing has really changed,” adds a Boston Medical Center employee who prefers not to be named. “I always look over my shoulder.”

Others seem relieved. “I haven’t really talked to anyone about it yet, but there must be people who have been in his classes,” says Allyce Caines (MED’12), who is in the same program as Markoff. “I’m just glad they know who he is and they got him.”

On Tuesday, Markoff pleaded not guilty, and his fiancée, Megan McAllister, wrote an e-mail to ABC’s Good Morning America saying he “could not hurt a fly.”

In the streets surrounding the Medical Campus, people seem more willing to share their thoughts. Melissa Gallant, an employee of Blunch Restaurant on Harrison Avenue, isn’t surprised. “People think it’s so strange that this sort of thing happens,” she says, “but sometimes people just snap.”

Her sentiments echo a story published Wednesday in the Boston Globe, which quotes Markoff’s lab partner as saying he suffered from violent mood swings. Other media outlets have cited a gambling problem as a potential motive.

But no one associated with the BU Medical Campus wants to comment on his guilt or innocence, constrained both by legalities (University administrators and faculty are not allowed to talk about most aspects of a student’s personal life), and by decorum. Standing outside the MED building in a light drizzle, a Hartford Courant reporter sums it up: “Yes, people are talking about it, but no one really wants to talk about it.”

Brendan Gauthier contributed to this report.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Circus Subsiding, the Med Campus Remains Subdued

  • Anonymous on 04.23.2009 at 4:39 pm

    fathered by an absentee Voltaire?

    This story is shocking for a number of reasons one of which is that society holds doctors and students (and would be doctors) in such high regard. But obviously it’s a privilege that not all people pursuing or having attained a degree deserve i.e. students, graduates and doctors have been creeps and criminals. Are some people attracted to the medical profession because they are extraordinarily ambitious and/or motivated by status and financial privilege? Then to some degree the profession may require a rationalization of life itself. Scientists and engineers, those with scientific training including doctors, have tended to look for solutions to problems that are black and white, right and wrong. ‘I’m just saying’ these are associated traits, not causes. Rationalism in isolation has its pitfalls: People need moral guidance, moral motivations to lead a respectable life, rather than one based on ‘what can I get away with.’ We are all suffering a little now because that seems to be the commandment many lived by on Wall Street, in housing, on the boards of large corporations and in Government: what can I get away with. (See John Raulston Saul’s “Voltaire’s Bastards”). In fact, does a corporation have any other obligation but to get away with it? If indeed he is guilty, some will just say Markoff was “psycho.” Perhaps so, or perhaps a deviant extremist rationalist with no respect for humanity: the worst kind of sickness. I wish peace to the families that have been torn apart by this criminal.

  • Anonymous on 04.24.2009 at 2:44 am

    Re 'Absentee Voltaire'-Markoff

    I hope this isn’t indicative of what colleges are fostering.
    Clearly, the above writer needs to take a few years off and add missing life experience before concluding anything beyond his cluelessness and irrationality.

    I work with scientists and am a scientist. As an investor, I have abundant contact with the investment community. Some of my friends are deeply religious and I’ve spent plenty of time with members of their community. Scientist–by far–are the most ethical of the groups and I am certain you wont find many represented in the resumes of serial killers, assailants and thieves. It turns out–no surprise–that rational folks are also generally very decent folks. It just makes great good sense (something the best corporations similarly understand, despite the right wing twaddle that attempts to justify callous conduct).

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