MSU Community Remains Torn Over Berkey Hall Opening

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Berkey Hall, a location on Michigan State University’s campus that had remained closed for two semesters after the mass shooting on Feb. 13, has been reopened for classes during the 2024 spring semester. 

This decision was immediately met with mixed reactions from students, faculty and community members. Emotions are still high weeks into the semester, especially as the one year anniversary of the shooting draws near. 

While no classes will be held in the room where two MSU students were shot and killed, the building itself still holds tragic memories for many. Journalism sophomore Cassidy Howard organized a protest on Jan. 8, where students gathered outside the Hannah Administration Building to oppose the opening of Berkey Hall. 

“After talking to classmates, after talking to friends, I realized just how much other people were, and are, struggling with the reopening of Berkey,” Howard said. “It was the fact that their voices weren’t being heard that made me want to organize the protest.”

Howard has an advanced poetry class in Berkey Hall two times a week this semester. They explained that they could not drop or switch the class, despite not wanting to be in the building. Howard worries that how they feel while being in Berkey Hall will negatively affect their academic performance and hinder their ability to enjoy the course. 

“Every time I get into the building I’m just anxious,” Howard said. “I dread going there despite the fact that I love the class that I’m in. Being in Berkey makes it so hard to focus on something that I love, something that I desperately want to focus on. Sitting in class, I’m always looking at the window or watching the door and just hardly able to focus on anything but that.”

Social sciences professor Mindy Morgan, who has worked in Berkey Hall for nearly 20 years, returned to the building in the fall for meetings before it was open to classes. Her return was an emotional one, but ultimately helped her in processing her trauma before the semester began.

“I am happy that they did reopen Berkey,” Morgan said. “I can’t imagine not having Berkey Hall on MSU’s campus – or not having it as a space that’s filled with classes and people. For me… it’s kind of my intellectual home and so I feel like it would have been a tremendous loss to keep it closed.” 

While Morgan personally felt ready to return to teaching in Berkey Hall, she also acknowledged that the faculty were deeply affected by the events of Feb. 13, and she understands the community’s conflicting feelings. 

“I would just like students to understand that (the faculty) are with them in that trauma,” Morgan said. “We’re not separated from it… We really are one MSU community that was affected by that trauma and affected by that night and I’m glad that we can kind of work through it together.” 

The university administration stands by their decision to open the hall after having conversations last spring with students, faculty, staff and trauma experts, explained MSU Media and Public Information Communications Manager Mark Bullion. According to Bullion, an overwhelming majority of community members supported the opening of Berkey Hall and have met the return to classes there with positivity. 

“Feedback on the opening of Berkey Hall to academic classes has largely been positive,” said Bullion. “During the first week of classes, we know students and staff were appreciative of the supportive resources that were available including therapy dogs, welcome tables, snacks and other amenities.”

Despite these resources and the university’s reclamation efforts are helpful to many students and faculty, many are also struggling with the return. Each person has a unique healing process, and Howard feels that the student body is not being allowed to heal at their own pace.

“If you need to be in Berkey to heal, if it’s part of reclaiming the campus, then you deserve that undoubtedly,” Howard said. “I also think that those who are not ready to be in Berkey deserve that time to heal and that time to process.”

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