In emotional plea, Michigan State students ask for longer break from classes, more support

Op-ed details fear, grief, uncertainty felt by students

EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 15: Students, faculty and others in the community attend a vigil on the campus of Michigan State University following Monday's shooting on February 15, 2023 in East Lansing, Michigan. On February 13, a gunman opened fire on campus, killing students Alexandria Verner, Brian Fraser and Arielle Anderson and critically wounding five others. The gunman shot himself a short time later after a confrontation with police. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson, 2023 Getty Images)

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Some students at Michigan State University say they are not ready to return to classes next Monday -- one week after three students were killed, five were critically injured and thousands were terrorized when a gunman opened fire on campus.

In an op-ed written by the editorial board of the State News -- MSU’s independent, student-run news platform -- students deliver a profound message of fear, grief and uncertainty after having experienced a mass shooting that sent the East Lansing community into chaos on Monday night. A gunman shot and killed three students and injured five students in two on-campus buildings: Berkey Hall, an academic building, and the MSU Union.

Classes have been suspended since and are set to resume on Monday, Feb. 20, but students at the State News express again and again that they “aren’t ready.”

“Our home will never be the same.

“We can’t physically sit in a classroom on Monday. It’s been less than a week since we lost three fellow Spartans in those classrooms. We aren’t ready.

“But we also can’t log onto Zoom on Monday and meaningfully engage in our classwork. We’re processing trauma. We’re coming to terms with grief. We can’t be worried about a deadline or an exam.

“We need more time to process without a class to worry about. MSU must extend the pause they’ve given us so we can decide how we need to proceed to feel safe and secure.”

The State News Editorial Board

In the post, students say they understand that it’s not the university’s fault that they “lost their home” when the 43-year-old shooter stripped the campus community of its comfort, safety and security. Still, the students are pleading for more time to come to terms with what happened, and to determine what they need to cope with everything going forward.

They’re asking for “at least another week of healing,” saying that both next Monday and next Tuesday are just too soon to return to normalcy.

“As we struggle to figure out how to heal, we simply can’t fathom showing up to class; a place that, less than a week ago, was life-threatening, and for some, deadly,” the article reads, in part.

“What MSU needs to give us is the space to heal without thinking about an upcoming assignment deadline. And the power to decide if we can step foot in a classroom again this semester,” the article went on to say. “We need accommodations for classes. Many students, faculty and staff will never feel safe in these academic buildings again. Give them the space they need, to choose whether to return to campus or continue online.”

The students say they won’t be able to forget the fear they felt during those hours between the first report of a shooting and when police located the shooter. “Four hours of fear,” they called it, doing what they had to in order to protect themselves and wait out the terror they knew was happening around them.

“We locked ourselves in closets. We pushed furniture against our doors. We turned off the lights, laid down on the floor and hoped, with every fiber of our being, that it would all be over soon,” the article said.

The students say they need more time to process the trauma and grief following Monday night’s tragic mass shooting. In addition to more time, the students suggest other support from the university, such as satisfactory/non-satisfactory grading options, flexible deadlines, heightened on-campus security, counseling, continued transparency and empathy from administrators, faculty and staff.

“We were all there: the State News staff, the 50,000 students, the faculty and staff, the essential workers, the five injured students, Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner, Arielle Anderson,” students write. “We grieve with you, Michigan State University. We’ll be with you every step of the way.”

You can read the entire op-ed on the State News’ website here.

All MSU classes have been suspended through Sunday, in an effort to “offer time for healing to begin,” interim university President Teresa Woodruff said. In a statement posted Tuesday, Woodruff said she understands the “healing process will not be swift.”

Berkey Hall, one of the buildings involved in the shooting, will be closed through the remainder of the semester. Students with classes at that hall are asked to keep an eye out for instructions from their professors about what their next steps are.

Memorials have been erected around the East Lansing campus, and vigils are being held at MSU and around the state to honor the victims of the shootings.

A GoFundMe has been created to support Arielle Anderson.

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About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.