Although an unsettling quietness persisted on the UW-Madison campus Tuesday, shocked students, faculty and administrators continued with their school duties.
Despite the cancelling of classes at many public universities across the nation in response to Tuesday’s terrorism attack, learning went on at UW.
“We have been briefed by security staff on what happened this morning,” UW System president Katharine Lyall said. “There are no indications of a threat to any university campus.”
Lyall’s decision was reportedly passed down from Gov. McCallum.
However, UW’s insistence that classes continue did have some flexibility. Many UW professors were told they did not have to teach, and students made their own decisions about attending class.
“I woke up at 8:45, and it just seemed like every five minutes, something was happening,” junior Carrie Uutala said. “I didn’t feel like I could go anywhere until things had finally stopped.”
“I think it’s a good idea [for classes to be cancelled] during a really big emergency like this,” sophomore Katie Forecki said. “A lot of people have friends and family out there, and I think it’s really hard to focus on classes. I think it’s a nice thing to kind of show respect.”
Some professors let their students leave early, and many called off class entirely.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to teach,” journalism professor James Baughman said. “I was sick. The story was breaking and it was difficult for me and my students to concentrate. It was not an appropriate morning for [class].”
But for some professors, class must go on.
“It’s important we continue to carry on with our normal activities as much as possible,” chemical engineering assistant professor Sean Palecek said.
Apparently UW echoed Palecek’s sentiments.
In addition to Lyall’s statement, UW Chancellor John Wiley and Interim Provost Gary Sandefur agreed that lack of immediate danger meant retaining the usual schedule.
“At present there is no reason to believe that the university community is at risk,” Wiley said. “Classes and other regular events are proceeding as scheduled.”
However, many schools closed their academic doors, not because of imminent danger, but out of respect for students and faculty.
“This is an enormous human tragedy for our country,” said University of Michigan President Lee C. Bollinger. “Out of respect and grief for the magnitude of this loss, the university will suspend all classes today.”
The University of Minnesota also cancelled its classes for the same reasons.
“What led to the decision is recognition that many of our students were emotionally in shock,”University of Minnesota News Service director Amy Phoenix said . “The university and the president and provost who made the decision felt it would be unrealistic to think it would be business as usual.”
UW soon changed its reasoning, saying it was an act of goodwill.
“We remained open primarily because we thought it was better to have our faculty and services to be open so our students had the opportunity to be around other people and talk about these terrible and tragic events,” Sandefur said. “We thought it was the best thing to do for students here.”
Some even say cancelling classes falls right into the hands of the terrorists.
“They want us to fall apart,” UW junior Carson Hinkley said. “That’s what terrorism’s all about. We need to work through this.”
Some students attended classes despite concerns. Many students felt classes should continue, but without too much added stress.
“I don’t necessarily think classes should have been cancelled, but I hope instructors understand it’s a very emotional event,” UW senior Katie Saarinen said.