‘This is very deeply personal.’ Northeastern community gathers to remember Jaahnavi Kandula

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Members of the diverse Northeastern community gathered on the Boston campus on Tuesday to honor the memory of Jaahnavi Kandula, a graduate student who was struck and killed by a police SUV.

Kandula was in a crosswalk near the university’s Seattle campus in January when she was struck by officer Kevin Dave. Body camera video released last week shows another officer joking about Kandula’s death.

“We come to this place with a heavy heart,” said Bob Jose, Northeastern’s dean of Cultural and Spiritual Life, addressing the gathering of students, faculty and staff.

The release of the video has brought added suffering to Kandula’s family, friends and Northeastern community, Jose said.

“But we also gather to allow our community to come together in harmony and unity so that we can collectively heal from the hurt that has been done,” Jose said. “We want to honor Jaahnavi’s memory, to celebrate the bright spirit that she was.”

Kandula, 23, came to Northeastern from India to attend graduate school. She was working toward a master’s degree in information systems at Northeastern’s Seattle campus.

In the new police video, officer Daniel Auderer can be heard saying Kandula’s life “had limited value.”

“If you’re a student or anybody who’s felt anger and rage, just know that that’s absolutely what you should be feeling,” said Satyajit Dattagupta, chief enrollment officer, senior vice chancellor and special adviser to the president of Northeastern.

Dattagupta, who is also Indian, said Kandula had made numerous sacrifices to pursue higher education in America. Last week, the university announced that it will present Kandula’s degree to her family.

“This is very deeply personal,” Dattagupta said. “There is no greater tragedy than what she went through because it’s the end of a life so prematurely and the end of a promise that will remain unfulfilled.” 

“The pain that the members of the Indian and South Asian diaspora at Northeastern feel and have felt for a while can’t be put in words,” he said.

Anjali Premjit is a graduate student and vice president of student affairs for the Graduate Student Government. She spoke Tuesday on behalf of all international students.

“This strikes very close to home for most of us, and we can only hope that strict measures are taken to condemn these actions,” she said.

Northeastern graduate student Anish Christo Pius was in Seattle when Kandula was killed and said he was devastated when he heard the news. He attended Tuesday’s event to show his support.

“It’s nice that there was this remembrance that could help with healing with what happened in January and for what happened recently,” he said.    

Third-year undergraduate student Manasvini Venkatesh also attended Tuesday’s remembrance. 

“Bringing it to the Boston campus makes us feel more connected,” she said.  

Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern, reassured Indian and South Asian students that the university stands with them.

“We want to wrap our arms around you as an organization and as a community,” he said. “Know that everyone at Northeastern is welcomed.”

Henderson described Kandula as someone who readily made friends thanks to her bubbly personality and confidence. She was engaging with the members of the Seattle community and making new friends.

“We really feel with that community today,” he said. 

Alena Kuzub is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at a.kuzub@northeastern.edu. Follow her on Twitter @AlenaKuzub. NGN reporter Cesareo Contreras contributed to this story.