27.8.08

REGROUPING. With the start of the new academic year come some retrospectives on our troubles of last year. For new arrivals on campus and in town, there's a look at the first responders.

[De Kalb Fire Acting Chief Bruce] Harrison said Feb. 14 started as a routine day. There were training exercises, emergency calls and equipment maintenance, and people were talking about their Valentine’s Day plans, he said.

But it turned out to be a day to put into practice what fire, EMS and law enforcement officials in and near DeKalb County had practiced just a few months prior to the shootings. In October 2007, they took part in a mass-casualty exercise that included a helicopter evacuation. And an emergency plan went into effect Dec. 18 at NIU, when graffiti threatening an attack was found scrawled on the wall of a campus bathroom.

“It takes a lot of work to be a prepared community, and what we did prior to Feb. 14 prepared us well,” Harrison said. “But it doesn’t stop, and our goal is to stay ready.”

Northern Illinois University has also added reinforcements to its Public Safety Department.

Our friends from Blacksburg are helping residents cope with the long-term effects.

"We found advertising grief gatherings didn’t work,” [New River Valley Community Services executive director Harvey] Barker said about coordinating treatment efforts after students returned to Virginia Tech. “But going to where a group normally meets worked much better.”

Barker described the Virginia Tech shooting as a “pure mental health disaster.” University students, faculty, staff and their relatives were greatly affected, he said, but so were alumni, people who live in the town and anyone else with a connection to the school or the area.

“No one is untouched when something like this happens,” Barker said.

And a body of evidence — including a journal from the American Medical Association — shows that a community that doesn’t respond effectively to such a crisis could see an increase in suicides, depression, school drop-out rates and family dysfunction, Barker said.

The Northern Star has obtained an interview with investigative journalist David Vann, who is writing a book that will elaborate on the thesis of his Esquire article.
The article was written about by the Associated Press, and that story was picked up by hundreds of news outlets. I’ve received positive feedback, also, from many of Steve’s professors and friends, many of the people who are mentioned in the article. I do believe everyone wants to know the truth and the full story, as painful as that may be in various ways, and that’s why I’m also writing the book.
I have read through the article, and without access to the primary sources, and with reservations about the work appearing in Esquire, I cannot vouch for its accuracy. I can confirm, however, that the article's basis for Kazmierczak enrolling in the Illinois graduate program is accurate.
He’s just started grad classes, and now it looks like he isn’t going to be able to stay at NIU. The university has cut half the faculty from its sociology department through attrition, stripped the advanced courses, especially in criminology.
To a great extent, current course offerings, university-wide, are path-dependent. If a subject specialist, or all the subject specialists, retire or are recruited away (the former is common enough as the large cohort of professors hired as the normal school became a doctoral university retires, the latter is encouraged by headquarters' if-you-can-find-a-better-offer-we'll-consider-a-match approach to merit raises) that area becomes unavailable to students. Headquarters has twigged to the problem, although no permanent increases in faculty or reductions in entering class size have been proposed.

All is not gloomy, however. The first Huskies on Parade have been whelped. The weather has been pleasant for move-in and for the first few days of classes, with cool nights, low humidity, and enough daytime sunshine for the young ladies to leave just the right amount to the imagination. (I won't fish off the company pier, but I don't mind looking at the lake!)

This weekend, the football team travels to Minnesota. I don't object to Saturday night college football, but in a dome?

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