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Let’s think about this first

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that the state should not spend $40 million to tear down NIU’s Cole Hall and build something else on the site of the recent tragic shootings. It just seems like an expensive, feel-good overreaction that won’t accomplish anything. Plus, most of the students who are there now and are undoubtedly traumatized by the events will be gone in a few years. As Phil Kadner notes

The most obvious reason to do this is that students will find it difficult to enter the lecture hall without thinking of those who were killed or wounded I’m sure that’s true for those who were there that day or those who knew someone who was shot. It may also be somewhat upsetting in future years to students who had no personal connection to any of the victims.

But these aren’t young children we’re talking about. They’re young adults. Old enough to serve in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I think most of them are tough enough and smart enough to sit in Cole Lecture Hall and realize that life has to go on.

* The Tribune editorial board made some good points today

After last spring’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, the university formed a task force to decide the fate of Norris Hall, the site of the shootings. Late last year, the university’s president announced that the three-story building would be used for a new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. […]

Why not use the classroom where Steven Kazmierczak attacked in a way similar to what Virginia Tech has done? Use it to promote peace. Why not say, “We’re not going to allow Kazmierczak to change the face of Northern Illinois University”?

* Rep. Lang also had a good idea…

“My first reaction is we’d be better off spending a smaller amount of money and building a memorial right next to Cole Hall,” said Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie). “I’m not sure we benefit by spending that type of money for this purpose. Perhaps it’s good to keep [Cole Hall] there as a memory.”

* And a Northern Star columnist points out that another building on campus, the Stevens Building, is in dire need of repairs

…Gov. Blagojevich triumphantly announced in planning for fiscal year 2008 that he had included $19 million for Stevens Building work. It was exciting to feel like our governor was indeed listening to us and taking initiative in supporting our education as college students.

The problem: Our $19 million for the Stevens Building never made it to NIU. Like so much else having to do with funding in Illinois, it seems to have disappeared somewhere in Springfield.

* Chuck Sweeny laid it on the line

The governor and NIU leaders should not trivialize the massacre of students by using the traumatic event to lay a guilt trip on the General Assembly to fund a new building with $40 million the state doesn’t have.

* And the Daily Herald editorial board adds itself to the list of skeptics…

Unfortunately, the rushed presentation of the project could lead the more cynical among us to wonder whether this proposal may be a subtle manipulation of the tragedy.

After all, Peters conceded that NIU officials considered Cole Hall to be outdated and that the university already had plans to replace it rather than renovate it.

* And the shootings got dragged into a House committee hearing yesterday to ban semiautomatic weapons and outlaw more than one handgun purchase a month…

Also testifying against the idea was Joel Brunsvold, a lobbyist for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He said a one-gun-a-month law would not have prevented shooting deaths such as those at Northern Illinois University this month and Virginia Tech University last year. […]

Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the assault-weapon legislation, said he was “appalled” at Brunsvold’s suggestion that the committee was taking up the gun-control proposals because of the NIU shooting. “For years, we’ve been trying to pass common-sense gun-law legislation,” Acevedo said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Garp - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:24 am:

    The money would be much better spent screening mentally ill, identifying deranged individuals who could be a threat, campus security, creating an effective way of identifying dangerous gun sales, counseling etc.

    Of course this is not as effective a way of pandering.

  2. - wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:34 am:

    The Trib’s position is closest to mine — why empower the shooter?

  3. - He makes Ryan Look like a Saint - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:40 am:

    First of all I would like to say it was horrible what happened up there, but I think they should keep the hall and put a plaque or other monument outside as a memorial. The simple fact is that there will be a student turnover in 4 years. If the current students don’t want to go to class then that is their choice.

    As far as the gun ban, it is typical of anti gun legislators to through out these types of bills. The question that should be asked is would this bill have prevented the shootings and the answer is no. The only people that are affected by the bill will be law abiding citizens.

  4. - A Citizen - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:42 am:

    These tragic events are horrible. Whether at schools, the State Capitol, automobile fatalities etc. However, society’s perceived need to focus on death and tragedy beyond a proper and needed period of mourning is simply misplaced. Life does indeed go on and being continually reminded of tragedies, e.g. roadside crosses with plastic flowers is simply morbid and depressing. Memorializing these events is way out of proportion to the need to move on in a positive way.

  5. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:44 am:

    Macbeth, try again without the profanity.

  6. - Ghost - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:50 am:

    This compilation is basically the point I was trying to raise previously. As the Northern Star columist note for NIU, we have many educational facilties which had already been earmakred for repairs etc which never recieved their funding! We need to get our back log of promised educational capital work completed before we take on more.

    I would drop a lot of this on NIU, I think they are working the tragedy to get speedy fnding for a new building. But I would note they have a pretty good reason to do so, their other attmempts to get funding for repairs are being granted but not funded, so they are trying whatever they can to get what the school needs.

  7. - Ken in Aurora - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:52 am:

    “Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the assault-weapon legislation, said he was “appalled” at Brunsvold’s suggestion that the committee was taking up the gun-control proposals because of the NIU shooting. “For years, we’ve been trying to pass common-sense gun-law legislation,” Acevedo said.”

    Like we’re supposed to believe there’s no connection between these two bills clearing committee and the NIU tragedy? Acevedo knows no boundaries when it comes to attempting to ban guns.

  8. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:54 am:

    ===Like we’re supposed to believe there’s no connection between these two bills clearing committee and the NIU tragedy? ===

    He runs those bills every year, and they usually clear committee. Committees are meeting now and voting on tons of bills. It’s that time of year.

  9. - Macbeth - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:57 am:

    LOL. You mean we can’t even use profane placeholders?

    Three thoughts:

    Thought 1: It doesn’t matter what you, me, or anyone else thinks. The decision isn’t ours. NIU students, faculty, and alumni should make the decision — and take whatever time they need to decide. Maybe they’ve already decided. And maybe this is the outcome. But I doubt it. This is the outcome suggested by desperate politicians.

    Thought 2: Blagojevich should stay the … away from this one. His touch is as heavy — or heavier — than most journalist. Public Official A has neither the brains nor compassion to make a decision like this. He’s at the center of everything that’s wrong with this state — and the fact that he’s flying back and forth to DeKalb for newsconferences and memorials is icky. Sure, he’s the governor. This is what a governor is supposed to do. But this is not what Blagojevich should be doing — not now, and not for a while.

    Thought 3: The pragmatic “I’m a taxpayer” view. The money’s coming out of our pockets — this 40 million dollars — and we should have a say. Well, yes — but no. The pragmatic view doesn’t work here and is equally icky.

    So I’m for letting the NIU folks decide. And I’d like the politicians — especially Blagojevich — to stay out of the decision process. This is a social and cultural issue, and Illinois politicians — especially Blagojevich — have proven themselves incapable of moving beyond the politics to address the larger, more human (humane?) issues.

    And yes, I know my Aristotle. Man *is* a political animal, and I understand the theoretical intersection of politics with the human. Or the intersection of the human with the politics. But in this case, the rush to simply *do* something — anything — is purely political and has nothing to do with *any* sort of healing process.

  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 10:59 am:

    ===You mean we can’t even use profane placeholders?===


    ===It doesn’t matter what you, me, or anyone else thinks. The decision isn’t ours. ===

    If this was a minor expenditure, it wouldn’t really be “ours.” But we’re talking some big bucks here.

  11. - DumberThanYouThink - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:00 am:

    Capt. Fax:
    Thanks for squaring Klueless Ken away

    One can only wonder what the react would have been if NIU brass and/or student body had first raised the idea (rather than Blaggoaf)

    The negative comment and skepticism seems like a new testimonial to Mr.Full Time (could a new character be emerging?)

  12. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:00 am:

    This was certainly a horrible tragedy, but I have a problem with $40 million appearing all of a sudden for a new building when we’ve been hearing for years about how cash-strapped the state supposedly is. I also have to question the priorities of the NIU administration when in the course of dealing with undoubtedly the worst tragedy in the history of their school they manage to find time to break out their infrastructure wish list and take advantage of the situation. Focus on the students, not on the bricks and mortar.

  13. - Freezeup - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:02 am:

    It keeps occuring to me that the new building would not be completed until most of the current NIU students have graduated.

    Secondly, for me, part of dealing with grief is looking it in the eye and putting it behind me. Yet, I am not sure that this is a “normal” grieving situation.

    Third- Isn’t tearing the building down somehow caving in to the gunman? Does it create a bigger effect for him? Are we helping him accomplish his goal of terror by tearing it down?

    This is a hard issue to get my arms around. My gut is telling me that tearing the building down is neither necessary or appropriate. My gut tells me we are sending the wrong message to future gunmen.

    I mistrust the motivation of our Governor. What is best for NIU should not have a “political” feel. I wish felt confidence in the Governor’s leadership. I think at a time like this confidence and trust would be invaluable.

  14. - Macbeth - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:10 am:

    ===It doesn’t matter what you, me, or anyone else thinks. The decision isn’t ours. ===

    ======If this was a minor expenditure, it wouldn’t really be “ours.” But we’re talking some big bucks here.

    See “Thought 3.” There’s a time for fiscal pragmatism. That’s fine. The idea of swinging around the “big bucks” to influence the decision is, as I state above, not the line to take here.

    It’s the line the politicians take, of course. They ignore the big bucks — and simply say, “Make it so.” Well, great. That’s Illinois politics.

    And it’s the line that (apparently) many of us NIU outsiders take as we armchair quarterback what we perceive to be the “measured” or “correct” or “most pragmatic” response.

    “Gee, you know what? They shouldn’t knock it down, after all.”

    Well, great. Great that we have platforms like this to spout our learned opinions. (And, hey, I include myself here.)

    But this is extraordinary. It’s not “somewhat” extraordinary. It’s not unusual. It’s one of those outliers that should be considered. Two weeks of consideration does not a process make.

    I don’t know which is more absured here: the speed with which the decisions are being made or the governor’s involvement. Both, I think, peg the “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me” scale in the red zone.

  15. - Hickory - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:16 am:

    If NIU gets a new building Springfield should get new East sidewalks and streets. People must move on after a death.

  16. - Macbeth - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:22 am:

    The larger cultural issue here is interesting — the idea of what a “memorial” means and how does one properly “memorialize.”

    I’m always struck — and curious about — the controversy that surrounds memorials — Oklahoma City, the Vietnam memorial, Virginia Tech.

    What strikes me most is that the process has to define itself — and often takes some time to do so — and politicians (especially) do themselves no favors by stepping in to accelerate the process, drop fiscal hammers, or codify their (often misplaced) responses in official jargon.

    And actually — I lump the media in with the politicians. Both are equally lead-footed.

  17. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:44 am:

    1300 people died in traffic accidents in IL last year, some by drivers in a mental state where bad decisions were made, as was the case with the NIU gunman. Did we remove a piece of the road and build a memorial at each spot? Or, think about all the Chicago high schools where a shooting death has occurred on the premises. Is the memory of those deaths less worthy of a tear-down and memorial than those at NIU (and let’s not even get into the ethnic and economic strata issues that that can of worms opens).

    There was a difference in the OKC bombing and the WTC terror incident, where the buildings were destroyed and a decision on what/if to rebuild was forced. NIU Cole is a coming decision that might be based far more on emotion rather than reason, although the emotions are perfectly legitimate.

  18. - Sir Reel - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 11:45 am:

    NIU is a semi-big university, with a sizable campus, lots of buildings, etc. Another solution is to tear down Cole Hall, but not replace it. How many classrooms would be lost? How many faculty offices? $40 million is a lot of capital money right now and there’s many, many capital needs in Illinois.

  19. - Ghost - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 12:04 pm:

    ===It doesn’t matter what you, me, or anyone else thinks. The decision isn’t ours. ===

    Sorry, anytime your spending tax dollars it is my decisions.

    ===The decision isn’t ours. NIU students, faculty, and alumni should make the decision ===
    This si the group we should least trust with the decisions. They have a direct conflict in that they are interested parties. Under this theory NIU would soon be getting billions of dollars to build whatever the faculty staff and alumni dream up for the school. The first rule of Govt spending should be that the decisions is made by those who do not have a vested interest. Taxpayers and the officials we elect to oversee Govt spending cover this function. taxpayors should be at the front of discussing and deciding how their dollars are spent.

  20. - I'll never give up - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 12:30 pm:

    The thing I find most troubling about the reaction of the Governor in pledging the $40+ million to raze the building is just how many people could be linked to mental health services with the same amount of money. It’s not dissimilar to the response of our state with the Statehouse guard was killed…we put in more security systems. Yet, not once since then has the state invested money in mental health services. Why can’t the Governor connect the dots here?

  21. - Don't Worry, Be Happy - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 12:37 pm:

    This is perhaps the single most shameless thing Blago has done yet. He’s trying to promote himself as the guy who swoops in to do things, while setting up the legislature to be criticized when cooler heads point out that this is a lot of money when the state is flat broke.

    These kinds of shootings are awful, but let’s put this in context (I’m not being callous, just trying to approach this from a policy perspective). People are murdered every day. Why is the governor responding to this one? Is he just asinine and there’s no rhyme or reason? Is it because they’re young, white appealing victims? Or is it just the timing of the Rezko stuff? In any case he has essentially put a price on the public response to murders - $8 million per victim.

    The Tribune reported today that a young man was killed this week in a shooting in a convenience store in Chicago. Where is the governor on this - shouldn’t he be proposing to tear down the convenience store and build a new $8 million community center in it’s place?

    What about all of the Chicago Public Schools students who have been gunned down - we could be building new schools in needy neighborhoods with $8 million per victim.

    There were 443 murders in Chicago last year. That would equate to a $3.5 billion capital program for Chicago. Is the governor going to propose that? Is it different when it’s white suburban victims instead of inner city black and latino kids?

    Or does he only propose such things when there’s bad news about him? Imagine how much it’s going to cost the state when he gets indicted.

    Again, I’m not trying make light of what has happened, just the opposite. I think the governor has gone way round the bend on this one without stopping to consider the implications of what he’s out there saying (surprise, surprise).

  22. - the Patriot - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 12:41 pm:

    We do have a say, because it is out money. Of course the Governor has had no problems spending billions for pet publicity stunts that the majority of taxpayers do not support in the past so I don’t know why anyone would be surprised.

    I wonder what the families want. I personally would have a problem if someone spent $40 mil in my memory to replace a functional building.

    To put that in perspective, that is 4 fairly nice $10 million dollar downstate schools or 8 smaller $5 million dollar schools. We are talking about money to fix something not broken which could otherwise benefit thousands of people.

  23. - Captain America - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 12:45 pm:

    Nothwithstanding the terrible tragedy at NIU,Governor A’s plan was a classic Blago PR stunt,and it is undoubtedly a total boondoggle.

  24. - Rich O. - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:22 pm:

    Cole is a problem building on campus- not Stevens level problem, but a problem building nearing the end of its functional life. The events of 2 weeks ago accelarted the end of that fuctional lifespan. NIU was going to seek funding for its replacement eventually.

  25. - Bookworm - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:25 pm:

    My only possible insight on this matter stems from a very slight connection to a much different kind of tragedy, but I will offer it for what it’s worth.
    Years ago I lived (alone) in an old house that had been divided into upstairs and downstairs apartments. One day the upstairs apartment caught fire, and the man who lived there was killed. (I did not know him).
    My unit wasn’t damaged, and I moved back in two days after the fire. Was it creepy living there knowing someone had died upstairs? You bet. For several weeks I slept with the lights on, if I slept at all.
    What helped me get over that was confronting what had happened. I worked for the local newspaper at the time, so I wrote the story about the fire, and talked to the local fire chief, who explained how the fire started (discarded cigarette) and how the man had died (smoke inhalation). He showed me pictures of the damage to the upstairs, which actually was not as bad as I had imagined. Within a few weeks the landlord had the upstairs remodeled and new tenants moved in. After that, I felt fine living there.
    My point is that confronting what happened, and where it happened, might ultimately be more helpful and more therapeutic than trying to erase it and leave it to the imagination.
    Perhaps the students who want to keep Cole Hall sense this somehow. Maybe some of them might actually be helped by being allowed to enter the building, or even (under careful supervision) being allowed to see the room where it happened? Tearing it down too soon might impede this process.

  26. - Bookworm - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:26 pm:

    I want to emphasize that this would be ONLY for those who chose to do so and of course no one should be pushed to do this; however, those who feel it would help them should be permitted this option.

  27. - Anon - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:46 pm:

    In 1986, Judge Henry Gentile and two others were killed in a Daley Center courtroom when a husband in a divorce case opened up during a hearing with a gun smuggled in under his wheelchair.

    The Daley Center is still standing. There is a plaque in the courtroom honoring those slain.

  28. - Garp - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:47 pm:

    Research needs to be done to prevent this epidemic of school slaughter. Save lives by preventing the loss by identifying potenial attackers and dealing with them before they kill. After the incident, we hear of the tells and say, why couldn’t this be stopped. 40 million could go a long way toward saving lives.

    Blogo is desperate for any issue that might take voters minds off his failure as Governor and cannot be taken seriously anymore or we will all be broke by the time a new Governor is in place.

  29. - POA's BFF - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:49 pm:

    Cole Hall has not been torn down yet nor a new building erected in its place. Talk is cheap and POA does plenty of that when it brings him positive press. Even if NIU believes the state will come through with the money, they should brace themselves for having to pay for it up front and carry the costs for a few years. Just ask Rochester and Carterville about POA’s promise to pay for their new schools - money they have yet to receive. It’s all fluff for POA and we should brace ourselves for a lot more of it in the coming days/weeks/months/years. POA will do whatever he feels necessary to keep those nasty reporters from butting into his business and asking embarassing questions. And it also keeps POA from suffering more agony of foot in mouth disease. I really like reading “POA” now that it’s official. Can you tell?

  30. - Capitol View - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 1:52 pm:

    I would prefer to create a new program on Illinois campuses - for roommates and friends to contact university counselors and/or health care departments if a student (or faculty member) goes off his meds. The NIU shooter was a U of I /Urbana grad student who had broken up with his girl friend and went on his rampage on Valentine’s Day. Call the program the “No more NIU tragedies” and implement it on all campuses statewide.
    This is a more productive tribute or memorial, something that may prevent further incidents of this type on campus.

  31. - anon - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 2:29 pm:

    Any grief counselor will advise mourners to wait at least 6 months before making big changes. This decision needs to be postponed until hearts and heads are far into the healing process. It’s shameful for the gov to use this podium.

  32. - anon - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 2:37 pm:

    Give me a break, this is the governors way of getting a little time in front of the camera. As we all know, he is good on headlines and extremely poor on follow through. It is allways about Blago and how is looking out for the little guy. This gov. disgusts me. Does this kind of thinking mean we need to replace the Capitol building since an SOS Officer was shot there. Just a thought

  33. - ex state employee - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 3:33 pm:

    Our gov swings and misses again. What a transparent fool. I would love to sit in on one of his stategic sessions and hear the things that don’t make it out of the room.

  34. - As Usual.... - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 4:05 pm:

    Blagoofy only thinks about his own self-agrandizement. It seems TERRIBLY insensitive for him to suggest this dump-taxpayer-money concept when the psychological wounds are still this fresh at NIU. Can’t the gov ever just shut up?

  35. - DumberThanYouTHink - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 4:49 pm:

    Looks like POA is catching on

    How about spelling it Blaggoofy?

  36. - Mark Mountain - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 5:53 pm:

    Hy heart goes out to the victims of the NIU shootings and there family’s, This was an absolute tragedy. We cannot allow the next generation to become victims with no protection. I have a son who is planning on attending a major university next year in Illinois, As a Parent and elected official I have to rethink this. How many Innocent victims will it take for our leaders to wake up. We soon will begin the search for a college in a state that has concealed carry, and I suggest you do the same. I will not allow my son to become a victim of our states lack of leadership, because that is what it is! 48 States have some form of concealed carry, can you guess one of the 2 who don’t! I have big problem with a State that insists on you being PREY!
    Mark Mountain Vice Chairman Pike County Board

  37. - Some Guy - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 7:02 pm:

    NIU is a semi-big university, with a sizable campus, lots of buildings, etc. Another solution is to tear down Cole Hall, but not replace it. How many classrooms would be lost? How many faculty offices?

    Cole Hall is basically two giant lecture halls with a hallway between them. There’s no offices in it. There’s a minor room or two in the basement and some bathrooms, but functionally, the building is little more than those two large-sized lecture halls, including the one where the massacre occurred.

  38. - NIU Grad Too - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 8:34 pm:

    What has me fuming is the vitriol being spewed by many of the people commenting on this issue. The inane analogies being used are demeaning in the face of such a tragedy. Equating the mass shooting of students to car accidents or individual murders is ludicrous. Money was spent at Columbine and Virginia Tech to modify the usage of the involved buildings. Because Cole Hall only has two lecture rooms, it’s easier to understand the proposal to demolition the building. Unfortunately, much of this is a response to the involvement of our loser of a Governor.

    It is valid to question a proposal to spend $40 million on the project. I also fear that the Governor’s desire to grab headlines resulted in the administration of NIU moving too fast on a plan. Clearly some more thought is in order.

    I support eliminating the lecture halls. How this is done and whether the building should be demolished can be reviewed in greater detail by some group. I would also suggest that donors be sought to offset some of the cost of a revised plan. I’ve contributed to the February 14 Scholarship Fund and would be willing to contribute to a Cole Hall solution.

    I wouldn’t support turning Cole it into another “peace” center. This has been done to death. Devoting the space and some funding to addressing mental health issues, especially the problem of mentally ill individuals stopping their meds, would be a better response. However, I don’t know if NIU is well-placed to host such a program without significant funding.

    Now as penance for your insensitive comments, get your checkbooks out and send a contribution to the February 14 Student Scholarship Fund. Info at:

  39. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 28, 08 @ 8:46 pm:

    We were in our twenties when the person in my life woke one morning hearing a voice. She told me what the voice was saying, but little made any sense. To me. To her, everything was apparently clear. Except for when things became confused. Then the voice just seemed to become more insistent.

    This is one of the horrible things that can go wrong in human beings. Looking back, I am relieved beyond words that the voice never urged her to violence. Or maybe it did and she was able to resist. I don’t know. But with medication that made her feel terrible, she came to be able to keep a gag on the voice.

    My deep sadness for the victims in the NIU shooting.

    From the early news stories, Kazmierczak sounded like he had been an intelligent and outward looking young man, at one time possibly interested in doing some good in the world. I also grieve with his family.

    If the state is going to make a substantial investment in the aftermath of the shooting, I hope it is in guiding people most in need to psychiatric care and in ensuring that they can maintain treatment.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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