UVA Cancels All Classes Friday

Ben writes: John Casteen just sent out a letter to the University community, writing: “President Bush has designated Friday, September 14, a national day of prayer and remembrance, and has called for noonday memorial services to be held across the country. To honor the dead, most still uncounted, unknown, and unrecovered, the University will cancel all classes

tomorrow.” For more information, go here.

The University has been stunned and saddened by the senseless acts of terrorism that took place in the morning hours on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. No response is entirely appropriate to all that we feel in such a circumstance. We-faculty, students, staff-share the nation’s (indeed, the world’s) grief in this time of loss, of tragedy, even as we recognize our own bafflement, anger, and enforced awareness of the fragility of human life and dignity.

Family members and friends of members of this community are inevitably involved in these events. As the lists of victims begin to be known, these singularly vicious assaults against humankind itself begin to take lasting shape in the faces and lost lives of family members, friends, and acquaintances of many of our alumni, students, faculty members, and staff members.

Students here in Charlottesville and also at other University locations are receiving support and counseling as necessary. Counseling services for students have been made available through Newcomb Hall and also around the clock by way of calls placed to 924-5556. Faculty and staff are encouraged to contact Employee Assistance Programs at 924-9296.

Memorial events have been held throughout the University, and the Medical Center has taken part in the national mobilization of emergency service providers. Blood drives are in progress. Students have access to special bus service to take them to and from temporary blood banks in various parts of the community. In addition, our people and support units are responding in organized ways as requests for assistance in New York and Northern Virginia come to us through the disaster relief agencies.

Virginia’s state agencies have remained open, and most classes here have met, although often for purposes of discussion and mutual support rather than for strictly academic purposes. Students, faculty, and staff gathered on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, at vigil held on the south Lawn. Many of the religious organizations that serve students scheduled their own events, and most have also taken steps to provide counseling and support for students who turn to them.

Following a careful examination of how best to address the special needs and circumstances of large numbers of undergraduate students living away from home in a time of national emergency and distress, we suspended classes throughout the University from 10 a.m. until noon on Wednesday, September 12, so that students and others could gather in various places around the Grounds for the purpose of consoling each other for the losses incurred today and acknowledging our determination to stand together as a community even in the worst of times.

I was able to attend three of these observances. In the Old Cabell Hall auditorium, Mr. Ayers, the dean of the College and Graduate School, and Ms. Rue, the Dean of Students, stood with students on the platform while the students spoke of their concern for those lost in the attacks, of their grief and awareness of the grief of others, and of their need to assemble with others for the purpose of seeking ways to understand what has happened. In the Chapel, I sat with several dozen students who came simply to sit or kneel in silence. In the Nursing School’s auditorium, near the end of the scheduled hours, I sat with students while Katie Couric reported on the FBI’s early investigative findings.

Throughout the day, students have wanted to stop to talk briefly on the sidewalks and pathways that cross the Grounds. Their honest acknowledgment of bafflement as the news has become known and both sympathetic and personal pain and their conviction that they need to be together at this time has recurred in these conversations.

In this period of distress, we are taking steps to ensure the safety and well being of students, faculty, and staff. Because travel at this time is difficult and may be dangerous and particularly because visitors coming to look will inevitably interfere with disaster relief workers, I am urging students to remain here and not to travel insofar as possible. Because public safety officials have cautioned against large public gatherings, we have sponsored or taken part in small gatherings where students could talk directly to one another and to their deans or faculty mentors.

As new information becomes available, it will be posted on this web site and on recordings at 924-SNOW and 243-SNOW, which are our regular numbers for information in times of emergency. Read on for President Casteen’s letter.

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