Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
Our campus family has endured a tragedy of unfathomable proportions this week. Thursday afternoon’s tragedy took six lives and left others among us with serious wounds of body and spirit. Last night, more than 2,000 of us gathered for a vigil to commemorate the victims and begin the long process of healing and recovery. I personally took great comfort in the outpouring of concern for victims and love for each other that was expressed at that event, and believe we must carry those sentiments forward in our hearts in the days and weeks ahead.
Healing has many components – time to mourn, opportunities for expression, and ultimately, the return to teaching and learning. Over the past 48 hours, my efforts and those of my administrative team have been focused on all three aspects. Today, after consultation with students, faculty and staff, I have made several important decisions about resumption of life at NIU. It is my sincere hope that this letter will address most of your major concerns and answer many of your questions.
Faculty and staff are asked to return to work on Tuesday, February 19. Beginning that day and continuing through the end of that week, teaching and support personnel will receive information briefings and training to help students upon their return to classes the following week. All university events, including athletic competitions, remain cancelled through Feb. 24th.
Classes will resume on Monday, February 25, at all NIU locations. A week will be added to the end of our academic calendar at the end of the semester. This means that commencement, originally scheduled for May 10th, will be moved to May 17th. More specific details on these issues will be forthcoming in future communications.
Before classes resume, we will be holding a memorial service at the NIU Convocation Center on Sunday, February 24th. That service will initiate a set of activities and services aimed at community recovery that will continue throughout the semester. In the meantime, student counseling services are currently available around the clock, both in the residence halls and at the Counseling Center in the Campus Life Building. A grief counseling hotline is available at (815) 753-1206. Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program at (815) 753-6039 to discuss their concerns and obtain counseling services. A scholarship fund honoring the memory of those whom we have lost has been established through the NIU Foundation. Those wishing to express their concern in that manner should visit the Alumni Association website or contact the Foundation at 1-877-GIV2NIU.
Finally, I want to assure you that all available resources to us continue to be focused on campus security and perceptions about personal safety at NIU. As you return to campus, you may notice an increased police presence in and around campus buildings. This presence is intended to be reassuring and should not unduly alarm you.
In the weeks and months ahead, all of us will experience a rollercoaster of emotions. We need to take care of ourselves and each other, reaching out to those among us who are struggling and taking advantage of the many support services available to us in this difficult time. We especially appreciate the support of our extended community – from DeKalb, through the region, and around the world.
The eyes of the world are focused on Northern Illinois University. Let us continue to show the world that a single act of violence does not define us and will not keep us from being the individuals or the university community that I know we can be. Above all, please keep our victims in your hearts and your prayers. God bless you all.
John G. Peters