College campuses reacted with sorrow and anger this week after an 18-year-old killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, before law enforcement officers fatally shot him.
Students and faculty gathered at the University of Oregon on Wednesday at 11:32 a.m., the same time the shooting started in Texas the day before, reported The Register-Guard, of Eugene, Oregon. The dean of the university’s college of education said she had no script and told the newspaper she had trouble as her own children went to school that day.
College presidents across the U.S. issued statements on the killings. Some expressed shock and anger. Others said shootings are occurring too frequently to be surprising. Several labeled the violence senseless. Some issued or reissued calls for gun control.
Presidents frequently called attention to counseling and support resources available to students and staff. And they drew connections to their own families and students, some of whom are studying to be teachers.
Excerpts from the words of college presidents and others affiliated with higher ed follow.
“Amid our sorrow, let us maintain the hope we have that our alumni, faculty, and staff dedicating their lives to pursuing careers in law enforcement, public service, and mental health — and our students who are preparing to make their own mark on the world — will help us as a society to transcend these senseless acts of violence and help prevent these tragedies from occurring,” said a statement from Steven Kaplan, president of the University of New Haven, in Connecticut.
Gary May, the chancellor of the University of California, Davis, said in a statement that his daughter is a preschool teacher and that they spent much of Tuesday talking about how she would protect her students and herself in a shooter situation.
“I am so tired,” May said. “I grieve for the children whose lives were stolen, and the parents and families whose lives will never be the same because of the gun violence in Uvalde. I can’t stop thinking of these fourth-grade children, their whole lives in front of them, and their loved ones, excited by the end of the school year, and one person with a gun who took that all away.”
May called for policy action to cut gun violence.
The president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins, in a statement called for “comprehensive gun control measures” as well as better mental health interventions.
“Now we must add Uvalde, Texas, to the list of tragic, senseless shootings of innocent people at the hand of a gunman,” Jenkins said. “With hearts broken, we can only pray for the young victims and their suffering families.”
Regis College, in Massachusetts, posted a statement calling for national gun safety laws.
“And we’ve seen enough,” it said. “Our politicians must recognize that we need to implement national gun safety laws and regulations. There have been too many incidences of gun violence in our country and, as citizens we must take a stand.”
The State University of New York’s board of trustees and the system’s interim chancellor, Deborah Stanley, issued a statement supporting a call to action from the state’s governor, Kathy Hochul. Hochul, a Democrat, proposed a set of executive orders and gun control legislation in the wake of a racist shooting at a Buffalo supermarket earlier this month, then put out another call for policy changes after the Texas shooting this week.
“It is unacceptable and heartbreaking for any individual to fear for their life as they pursue an education, or for any educator to feel the burden of protecting their students from gunfire,” the statement from the SUNY officials said. “We assure SUNY’s students, faculty, and staff that every effort is being made to protect and support them as they pursue their dreams and go about their lives on our campuses.”
The University of Michigan’s interim president, Mary Sue Coleman, issued a statement recounting a recent conversation she had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy said that losing children in Ukraine is like losing the future, according to Coleman.
“Classrooms should be safe havens where young people feel welcomed and where learning is celebrated,” Coleman said. “I am brokenhearted about the lost lives and the loss of innocence for the children who survived this terrible event.”
Western Washington University’s president, Sabah Randhawa, said students, parents and others in the community might need extra support and called for ending “violence in our communities” by standing together.
“Our thoughts are also with the many students here who will be our nation’s future teachers,” Randhawa said in a Wednesday statement. “Teachers, staff, and school administrators work hard to create safe, nurturing, and inclusive schools. Yesterday’s shooting yet again shattered what should be a sanctuary for students.”
The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, in New Jersey, posted a statement saying American democracy offers the power to demand change. It argued that good governance requires lawmakers to respond to crises with solutions.
“Yet, gun violence continues and the American public’s call for change has been met with government inaction,” it said. “Eagleton calls on elected officials to act, respond to public calls for change, and provide common sense solutions to safeguard our entire community, including schools, supermarkets, malls, movie theaters, and houses of worship. Inaction is unacceptable, and perhaps the most undemocratic act of all.”
The day of the shooting, the National Education Association and Texas State Teachers association issued a joint statement. The NEA represents more than 3 million elementary teachers, secondary teachers, higher ed faculty and other education professionals.
The statement, attributed to Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina and National Education Association President Becky Pringle, demanded state and federal policymakers act to keep firearms away from those who should not have them.
“Tragedies like this one keep happening while elected officials do nothing; except, in Texas’ case, make firearms more available,” they said. “How many more mass shootings need to happen before these lawmakers finally take responsibility and address the gun safety issue?”
The NEA later rejected the idea of arming teachers in response to the shootings.