College student falls to her death from clock tower in senior prank, N.Y. school says

Screengrab from WCBS video

Just weeks from graduation, a 22-year-old Oregon woman joined some friends in a senior tradition at Fordham University — climbing the stairs to the top of the New York university’s iconic clock tower, the New York Daily News reported.

But Sydney Monfries plunged through a hole in a stairway landing inside the tower, which is off-limits to students, at 3 a.m. Sunday, WNBC reported. She fell 30 to 40 feet, suffering fatal injuries and dying later Sunday at a New York hospital.

“There are no words sufficient to describe the loss of someone so young and full of promise — and mere weeks from graduation,” said Rev. Joseph M. McShane, Fordham University president, in a statement, USA Today reported.

Monfries had been “studying journalism with a focus on digital technology,” the Daily News reported. Her bachelor’s degree will be presented to her parents.

“When you’re so close to having the next chapter of your life begin, that’s going to hit you even harder,” student Greg Bianchi said, WCBS reported. “It’s such a terrible thing to realize.”

Founded in 1841, Fordham University is a Jesuit university in the Bronx with 9,600 undergraduates and 6,500 graduate students, according to its website.

The 83-year-old granite Gothic clock tower, also described as a bell tower, rises from Keating Hall, a classroom and administrative building,The New York Times reported. Commencement ceremonies are held on the hall’s front steps.

The hall has been featured in films such as “The Exorcist” and “A Beautiful Mind,” CNN reported.

Keating Hall and the tower are normally locked at night, according to The New York Times.

“It’s like a tradition, apparently, for seniors to sneak into the tower and climb up,” student Antonia Greene said, WCBS reported. “And they were like trying to get good views of the city.”

“It’s like a senior thing to go on the most popular building on campus,” said Priscilla Morales, a psychology student at the university, The New York Times reported. “Recently people heard the door was open or found a passageway. They usually go late at night at around 1 or 2 a.m. to drink and see the view.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.