Josh Falcone – General Assignment Reporter –
The shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary last Dec. 14 sent a shock wave of disbelief and sadness throughout the Southern community. The devastating tragedy happened in the university’s backyard and greatly affected Southern.
In response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, last week Southern held an open forum for students, faculty, and professional staff in the Michael J. Adanti Student Center theater to discuss Southern’s response to the tragic event.
Interim Vice-President for Student and University Affairs Dr. Peter Troiano said the university received a lot of reaction from the Southern community.
“We were flooded with phone calls and emails,” Troiano said, “not just in my office but many offices. There were a lot of conversations back and forth about a campus response.”
Troiano said that many times during tragedies, Southern, like many universities has various departments doing numerous wonderful things in response, but many times the various groups do not come together and pull their resources and efforts.
Troiano said that as tragic as events like the one that took place in Newtown are, they do present Southern the opportunity to come together as a group, of caring and concern people and put together a concerted effort to help in all and any way possible.
Carrie Pettit, of the Development and Advancement department said that the SCSU Foundation has established the Sandy Hook Scholarship. Beta Mu Sigma is working on a Sandy Hook remembrance wristband sale and they have already raised thousands of dollars.
Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Julie Liefeld said that Student Affairs has set up a support group for faculty and students who have dealt with gun violence and violence in general.
Karen Burke, from the Media Studies department said that the family of Chase Kowalski has put together a foundation and is looking to build a physical space for the Newtown community to go to for sports, and arts and crafts, for local students to go after school.
Burke said she believes this is something that the Southern community could and would help with, not only monetarily but physically helping come to fruition.
“I can imagine there are a lot of students, student groups, professional staff, and faculty that would love to dedicate some of their time to it,” Burke said. “I think that these are kind of things that all of us are looking to do. It’s one thing to raise funds, but to physically be able to work on something going to be made, it’s great.”
Dr. Doris Marino invited state senator Joe Chrisco to speak on mental health issues.
Dr. Rosalyn Amenta said there have been many emails received by Southern about starting some sort of lecture series on gun violence, mental health, and other social issues. Many in attendance at the forum agreed and supported the lecture series idea.
One additional idea brought up in the theater was setting up a debate on gun control. The contentious issue was something that many believed should be discussed, civilly, in another forum.
Dr. Raymond Mugno from the mathematics department said there are strong beliefs from both sides of the gun control issue but there should be attention brought to it.
“There is a danger [in discussing gun control],” Mugno said. “But it is something that needs to come out. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there.”
Southern student Charles Gholson also agreed with having a forum or debate on gun control but only if there was a goal aimed for at the end.
“Not just debate the two topics,” Gholson said, “but to say let’s bring the two sides together and educate both sides as why our arguments are what they are. And come to a final consensus instead of dividing the two.”
In the direct aftermath of the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook, Southern faculty provided emergency counseling services in the Newtown community, according to Dean Gregory Paveza.
“Dana Schneider, Liz Keenen and a couple of others were in the community almost on a 24 hour basis right after the shooting,” Paveza said.
Amenta said the university has received suggestions for some sort of memorial meditation center on the Southern campus.
“Somewhere where people could gather to remember and find a moment of silence,” she said.
Troiano said the plan is to have additional forums on Southern’s response to the Sandy Hook tragedy in the future, to give the community updates on various developments.