The most common reaction to yesterday’s national tragedy was surely disbelief. But we all grasped the significance of yesterday’s events — all of us, that is, except the UW administration.
While most of America was grieving or searching for loved ones, UW hosted classes.
The insensitivity shown by campus and system administrators is horrifying, and an apology is needed.
Administrators at the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and dozens of other schools around the nation had the decency to cancel classes. Major League Baseball was cancelled for the first time since D-Day. Markets stopped trading. Planes stopped flying. But UW expected us to continue doing homework.
As news of the terrorist attacks spread, Interim Provost Gary Sandefur issued a statement that said, “In order to protect the public safety, certain key governmental offices in Madison and other cities have been closed, in addition to all national airports. At present, there is no reason to believe that there is any threat to the university community. Classes will continue as scheduled, and all offices will remain open.”
On its surface, the university’s ad-hoc policy was unbelievably presumptuous and misguided. After all, offices six blocks off campus were being evacuated just as students began reporting to class.
But even more incredible is the university’s disrespect for the thousands of Americans who died yesterday, and the hundreds of students who lost or could not find their loved ones. Given the national nature of UW’s student body, it would not be unreasonable to think that students on this campus had much more at stake in yesterday’s tragedy than did state government officials.
In the coming weeks, virtually every student, staff and faculty member will learn of an acquaintance who died yesterday. The university needs to come to terms with this reality, and with the widespread impact of yesterday’s calamity.
Our generation has never experienced anything comparable to yesterday’s events. We need more understanding, patience and respect than the university displayed yesterday, and an apology for yesterday’s insensitivity would be a good start.