We returned to classes today after the shootings on my campus that killed 3 students: Arielle Anderson, Alexandria Verner, and Brian Fraser. We were told that classes would begin today. With the help and support of scholars like Alyssa Hadley Dunn and Jason Moser, I wrote the following script. I am posting it here because reading it reminds me why I keep doing this job. My colleague Patti Hamerski and I developed the plans and goals together.

Returning to STT 180

Thank you all for being here today. I know coming back to class in any way is filled with complicated emotions. I’m sorry that we faculty haven’t gotten the administration to understand that. We’re trying and are working on it.

I’ve written up this introduction, something I have never done in my life, because I don’t want to forget to say some things. Also, in writing it, I cried about ten times, so it’s gonna help me find my place. If you need to take a moment for yourself, if you need to leave, please do. You are welcome back anytime. I won’t take more than a few minutes before we get started.

The violence that we experienced last week has me feeling sad, scared, anxious, upset, frustrated, numb, exhausted, and angry all at the same time. I’m sure you have felt some of those feelings as well. They were certainly on display at the capital rally and the vigil last week. I have experienced gun violence twice as a kid. And the violence of last week brought back memories and emotions. I’m sure some of you have those feelings as well. Those feelings are valid. No one can tell you how to feel about this and you don’t owe anyone an explanation of those feelings. With time and work, you can decide how handle and use those feelings.

Before we start class, I want to take a moment to remember those students we lost: Arielle Anderson, Alexandria Verner, and Brian Fraser. And to send good feelings to those recovering in the hospital including John Hao, who we learned about this weekend. And finally to remind ourselves of what we are grateful for in our own lives. For me, in this moment, it’s my partner, Jamie, our kids, Juniper, Evelyn, and Olivia, our dogs and cats. I’m also grateful to be healthy enough to still skateboard. Please lower your heads, and try to name those things for yourself. I’ll call us back in a moment.

You are likely to experience these introductions in more of your classes. It might seem performative or disingenuous, and I get that. But, we are hurting, too. And this moment, here with you all, helps me immensely. Thank you.

Today’s class will not be like any of our prior ones. We are going to prioritize each other’s safety and well-being. My goal is not for any of us to be ok or to accept what has happened. My goal is to help you find your way back to learning.

I want to state a few overarching commitments we are making to you:

  • You can leave when and if you need to
  • Nothing on the syllabus is as important as your well-being
  • It’s important to ask for help in this class and beyond
  • We should prioritize flexibility, grace, and care for each other
  • You can engage however you want to / are able to
  • You are not be penalized for engaging at your own pace
  • This is ongoing, and we will continue to adapt to your needs

This is going to hard. For all of us. So, I hope you prioritize your safety and well-being. Class cannot be a therapy session; as far as I know, none of us are licensed counselors. There are many resources that MSU is providing and I would take advantage of them. I have used the Employee Assistance Program in the past and will again. It is excellent. Our counseling staff is very good.

Today we are going to take some time to reflect and talk. We will discuss the changes Patti and I are planning to make. We are going to solicit your feedback and make more changes based on that. We will also stick around after class if anyone wants to talk more.

I expect there will be lots of emotions today, so take care of yourself. If you need a moment, take it. If you need to leave, please do. You are welcome back anytime.