Field of Science

NIU's Cole Hall - A Rational Reaction?

The news that NIU wants to tear down Cole Hall and replace it with a new $40 million building seems both inappropriate and an overly emotional response that borders on downright stupid.

Cole Hall is a building, no better and no worse than most in the Illinois system of public schools. A terrible tragedy occurred there, but this administrative/political reaction makes no sense. Six violent deaths do not argue for attempting to erase the event by tearing the building down, attempting to turn Cole Hall into "consecrated ground", or attempting to build an expensive memorial.

Without doubt this was an emotional event, and many people react with understandable emotional in the immediate time frame. But memories do fade, and their emotional impact will diminish. Put up a plaque or other suitable memorial, but don't be irrational. In one sense the official reaction to the NIU deaths is symptomatic of the climate of fear that has been propagated in this country. The shooter wanted to instill fear, an act of terrorism, but not one with a political motive. And no matter what the motive, you defeat terrorism simply by not being afraid.

No doubt some will think this a callous reaction, but what if only 1 person had been killed? What if students had only been injured and their had been no fatalities? People die senselessly all the time, and while we should react with compassion, we also should react with reason. Four teenagers were just killed in our area in a senseless automobile accident; the result of an overcrowded pickup truck, no seat belts, and reckless driving. Should we rip out the blacktop eliminate the road and then rebulid it as the "Memorial highway"? Is the NIU tragedy 50% more awful and demanding of more drastic reaction? Are these any greater tragedies than a lonely, desperate person who commits suicide alone?

There is no hard fast line where a tragedy is of such a magnitude that it demands some type of extraordinary public reaction. Close Cole Hall, gut and refurbish the lecture halls, then a year from now reopen the building in honor of the memories of the students who died there. And you demonstrate to everyone that you are not going to give in to terrorism, to a climate of fear, especially at an institution whose mission encourages rational thinking.

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