On Nov. 28, a dim Monday morning in Columbus, Ohio, police cars and ambulances rushed with crime scene tapes and a bomb squad truck to Ohio State University (OSU). A student at the university had unexpectedly attacked students who were returning from their Thanksgiving breaks, critically injuring 11 people. OSU has since urged the community to remain strong, resilient, and accepting.
As a response to this attack, President Barbara R. Snyder addressed the university on Nov. 30, in her speech “State of the University 2016.” She provided students and faculty with a reminder of how a university can rapidly switch from a knowledge powerhouse to a mournful scene. To demonstrate, she mentioned an attack that took place in Case Western Reserve University’s own Peter B. Lewis Building in 2003, which led to the death of a first-year graduate student.
Additionally, Snyder stated that she has reached out to President Michael V. Drake of OSU to tell him that the CWRU community will be ready to assist them in any way, as OSU students and faculty cope with this incident. Urging students not to jump to conclusions about the alleged attacker’s background and the possibility that he was connected to radical terrorist groups, Snyder mentioned that it is important to unite people without rebuke, especially in light of this year’s presidential election.
She continued, stating that in the current political context, the role of a university can be seen very clearly: to encourage students to discover knowledge and its power, to deepen students’ understanding of others and to promote the constant exchange of ideas and insights among students and faculty. She reminded students to speak, learn and listen to each other; even though disagreement is likely to occur at times, students must have mutual respect for each other’s thoughts, ideas and opinions. This way, there is greater focus on unison rather than discord.
Hirsh Hede, a first-year student at CWRU, gave his thoughts on Snyder’s speech: “I just admire how President Snyder recognizes that the role of a university in this scenario is important, because nowhere else can you have such a large group of people with a common goal to learn and interact peacefully.” Saying that he believed that peaceful interactions are key in unifying people together, Hirsh added, “This can ultimately better our society—both at and outside of Case.”
Another CWRU student, Elizabeth Radics, has a slightly varied perspective on this matter: “I like the emphasis on coming together as a community for respectful discussions, but I wish there was more emphasis placed on how that can be done.” Radics thought that although some student groups had offered discussions on this issue, it would be better if there was a campus-wide discussion that could “hopefully bring together more viewpoints and maybe get us to think outside our own perspectives a bit more.”
To conclude her speech, Snyder highlighted that although her calls for unity and cooperation may not be enough to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring at CWRU, keeping peace in mind will contribute to the well-being of our society and thus serve as the foundation for a stronger and more empathetic community.