“I became an insomniac, and I could not sleep the night of February 14.”

I woke up the next morning on Tuesday, February the 14th. I turned on the television set at 7am. And there was the big story. The lead story on The Today Show was about the shooting that occurred on MSU campus. I was just absolutely horrified as I heard all of the details. At that point, there were three students who had died, and five others were at Sparrow Hospital in critical condition. It broke my heart. I also took the shooting very personally. It was a form of survivor’s guilt. I felt very personally involved. I will tell you the story of why. I am profoundly deaf, and in 2007 I took a six-month medical leave of absence from my job as a full professor in [Michigan State building] to have bilateral cochlear implant surgery. I returned to campus in time for the fall semester 2007. Most of my classes I taught in [Michigan State building]. And when I went back into the classroom in fall of 2007, I was assigned a room on the second floor of [Michigan State building]. It was in the north-south hallway. As you face north, it was the last classroom on the right. It was near a stairwell. I was assigned a real-time captioner to help me interpret voices when my students ask questions. Yes, I had had bilateral cochlear implant surgery, but the process of learning to hear with cochlear implants is a learning process that does not occur overnight. In fact, one’s hearing is so dynamic, changing monthly, that one is considered a disabled person, the equivalent of a deaf person, for the first year after cochlear implantation. And I was in that category.

So I was lecturing my class – oh, I’m sorry. I was giving an examination to my class. It was the end of September 2007. I was giving a written examination to my class of about 35 students because it was before the last date by which they could drop the class and get a full refund on tuition, and I wanted to give them that chance if they were disappointed in their performance on my exam. So I was standing there watching my class, monitoring my written exam. We were actually about three quarters of the way through the class period, and suddenly I saw about a dozen of my students jump up from their desks and they started looking around wildly. I looked over at my real-time captioner, and she had dove under a table at the front of the room. I did not know what in the world was going on. What had happened was that somebody had stomped on several cherry bombs in the stairwell near the second floor where my classroom was located. And stomping on the cherry bombs, let out a “pop pop pop” sound that my students interpreted as gunfire. Some of the big guys in the classroom pushed tables against the door, to try to block the entry of the shooter. The classroom doors could not be locked. There was no lock on the classroom doors. Then we all dove under tables and chairs. And we waited for about 20 minutes. We did not hear sirens. We decided that maybe it was safe to leave the building. So we exited the building through the north entrance. We waited in a cluster outside that entryway. We were finally told by the Department of Public Safety that it had been determined that what we had heard was not gunfire, and that it was safe to re-enter the building. So when we re-entered the classroom, I told my students that it was deeply unfortunate that our written examination had been interrupted, and that I wanted them to just turn in what they had been able to fill out so far on the exam, and we would meet again at the next appointed time and we would take things from there. So I took the exams home and the exams that had been completely filled out, I went ahead and graded them as if they were completed. Which it appeared to me that they had been completed, if there was an answer to every question. I had given half of the exam as essay questions and I gave them instructed choices, so they were not stuck in answering any pair of essay questions. So I felt that that gave my students the freedom to choose the questions to answer in essay form that they felt best able to do.

I received an email message, as did all other faculty members in the university, from President Lou Anna Kimsey Simon and she copied in the head of the Department of Public Safety. And it was stated in the email that it was believed that the cherry bombs were set off to interrupt an examination going on in [Michigan State building]. I replied to that email, replying just to President Simon and the Department of Public Safety. And I said, “Yes, my classroom was undergoing a written exam and the cherry bombs went off near one of our two doors. I believe it was my classroom that was being targeted for the disruption. In fact, I think I know the student involved. I would like to recommend to administrative leadership that locks be installed on classroom doors in all classrooms in the university, so that it would be possible for professors and students to lock themselves in when they believe that an active shooting is taking place”. I was never contacted by President Lou Anna Kimsey Simon nor by the head of the Department of Public Safety. Locks were never installed in [Michigan State building], where I continued to teach for three more years before I went on my consultantship year.

It is my hope and my prayer that now that we have had an active shooting on campus that resulted so sadly in the death of three innocent students in Berkey Hall and that four of the five – I’m sorry, one out of all eight of the people that got shot was not from the classroom 104 in Berkey Hall where the active shooting occurred on the night of February 13. I think we’re living in a meaner time now in February of 2023 than we were in September of 2007 when we had a fake active shooting. And I think it is now incumbent on the new interim president Woodruff and the Department of Public Safety to see that locks will be installed in all of the classrooms on the campus of Michigan State University. As the day wore on, the day of February the 14th, I became increasingly distraught over the tragedy that occurred in Berkey Hall where I had an office for 44 years and taught many classes. It felt like I was in some ways a survivor of a potential terrorist attack. I became an insomniac, and I could not sleep the night of February 14.

Recent Stories