February 22, 2008
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Just one week ago, a brief but horrifying outburst of violence plunged our campus into the greatest turmoil most of us have ever experienced. Since that awful day, we have also witnessed the greatest outpouring of compassion and concern we could possibly imagine. Across campus, throughout our country and around the world, people are reaching out to NIU and to each other with support of every conceivable type.
Even as we mourn the loss of five wonderful students and the incalculable damage done to dozens more, the NIU family is working hard to prepare for our return to the business of teaching and learning. I am particularly grateful to faculty and staff who participated in sessions that prepared them to help students in the days and weeks ahead. As many of you know, we will have trained counselors in every classroom on Monday and throughout next week to provide on-site assistance for students. We know that healing takes time, and that the grieving process is different for everyone. We will continue to focus our efforts on support for all members of the NIU campus community, in whatever form is needed.
As we prepare for Monday’s resumption of classes, I would like to offer a few thoughts:
First, I want to reiterate our commitment to enhanced security activities in the days and weeks ahead. You will see an increased number of uniformed officers in and around campus next week. Their presence is intended to reassure, not alarm. Other security enhancements will be less obvious, and I’m sure you will appreciate the need to protect specific information on the nature of those enhancements.
Second, I want you to know that we expect a strong news media presence on our campus on Monday and, to a lesser extent, throughout the week. For the most part, reporters covering the February 14 attack and its aftermath have done so responsibly, and we expect that sensitivity to continue. If you are approached by members of the media, your response should be entirely guided by your own preferences in this regard. Some members of our community have welcomed the opportunity to speak publicly, while others have politely declined. Either response is completely acceptable. That said, we have asked reporters to respect certain limitations – in particular, that classrooms and faculty offices are off-limits.
Finally, I want to encourage all of you who are interested to attend the Memorial Service on Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Convocation Center. We will honor those whom we have lost, pray for those who suffer still, and acknowledge the effects of this tragedy on our entire community. We have made many efforts to make this service as widely available as possible, including the provision of overflow attendance locations and streaming of the entire event live over the Internet. Visit our website for details at www.niu.edu.
Our Internet presence is an important source for other information as well: in particular, I urge all students and faculty to check the website for updates on your class schedules, as several classes will be taught in different locations beginning Monday.
I am so very proud of all our students, faculty and staff. This week, the courage, compassion and generosity of spirit that is so much a part of NIU has been on display to the entire world. For everything you do and all that you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
John G. Peters