Processing 13 February

A meandering ramble to process some things before my biweekly counseling session tomorrow morning. So feel free to ignore the grammar and spelling issues.

For as much as of a Wolverine that I am and, if you know me, the struggles I endured while on staff, I equally fell in love with the Green and White community. And now, to see that community violated with such violence is heartbreaking.

The range of emotions are everywhere from heartbreak and worry to anger and bewilderment; from concern and reflectiveness to relief and guilt.

For most of my professional career we’ve trained and workshopped active shooter scenarios. One of the first things I learned when I got to Michigan State was our internal office code word for active shooter (which I still remember) and how we would “run, hide, fight” in offices comprised of floor to ceiling window walls. At that time I didn’t think it was ever going to happen to us but over the next 8 years, as I took the annual training video for “run, hide, fight”, the unease of the possibility grew. The country was racking up the mass shootings and in my gut I felt it would only be time before it would hit a college campus of someone I knew.

Then, six months ago I took on a new position with an association that has been a professional home to me. Part of my new role is to check in with association members during moments of tragedy and trauma for a plethora of reasons and let them know we are there for them. I foolishly never thought that in my first six months I would have to send that moment of care and check in to my own Spartan family, friends, colleagues and mentors.

Monday night was a whirlwind, even for me who isn’t embedded in the campus any more. Because we still live in the area I stayed on the Emergency Alert System. And when it went off my heart stopped for a brief moment but then the professional instinct kicked in. For the next couple of hours, I spent my time on my phone and computer getting ahold of friends, students I had worked with, colleagues I knew who did late night programming and our guys in our Chapter there. The amount of information I had retained from those damn training videos sadly came in handy in more than one chat. Its jarring to think of the number of times I messaged about barricading the doors, turning off the lights and staying away from windows and trying to reassure terrified souls that they’d be alright, all the while hoping that harm was going in the opposite direction but not knowing either.

As we learned more throughout the night the sadness deepened. Student lives were taken and that has been hard to wrap my mind and heart around. Young lives with such bright futures were distinguished.

Not only was there the heartbreak for the the lives lost, the critically injured and the community but for the locations as well.

The MSU Union was my home for 6 years. And because I was with the University Activities Board and most of their events in the building, I could probably run around the building blind folded and never trip. From the smell of the Union to the back stairwells that don’t make sense or the mismatch designs from decades between renovations, the Union was like the warm embracing living room of your favorite auntie. From hosting the Arts and Crafts Show to advising open mic nights to hosting the infamously over fire code UFest and to one on ones with students in my office and visits and catch ups with UAB alumni in the Lounge with Biggby, the Union was where I began to really find my advising style and who I was as a professional.

To think that the living room of campus, that is suppose to be warm and safe for the students to live in, is marred by death and insecurity due to gun violence shakes me to my core.

The emotional rollercoaster continues to roll which includes a loop of relief and guilt that I am not on staff any more. Late nights are not an uncommon practice especially at MSU for staffers and the likely hood of walking past Berkey just before the violence or being locked down in my office with a window view to the building would have been highly likely and right now unfathomable for me to wrap my head around right now. That I have the privilege of supporting my community at their and my pace while I know the staff on campus are DEEP in the trenches supporting the students and Spartan Community, all the while possibly not able to get the support they need to manage everything for themselves is challenging. And if you know me guilt is not something that I thrive with.

I got a text from a Spartan Kappa Sigma Undergrad Brother who just wanted to help but wasn’t sure what to do. He’s like me in many ways and is a Type A, get it done person. So when he asked about any options that I knew of to help or support his community, I knew his head space. Theres a sense of helplessness and slowness in the horrific situations that contradicts a drive within yourself to do something. I gave him a few suggestions but ultimately also shared (what I also needed to acknowledge as well) that it also may just take a minute of waiting while the community comes out of the numb and stunned phased before one might have something actionable to do. But in this case I was so proud when I saw him speaking at a rally on the State Capitol steps demanding action for safety earlier today, less than 48 hours after the shootings took place.

And speaking of safety. There’s of course the anger. WTF is it that we can’t get our shit together about gun control? I’m not coming for your guns but sweet mother of pearls can we make it more difficult to get the damn things? Additionally, why are we not supplying the resources for health services and education to be able to help curb this tide of gun violence incidents through support and better checks and balances of who should be able to get and/or maintain them? When will we prioritize humanity over guns? In the loosest sense of the clause being “the right to bear arms”, when does the Second Amendment infringe on ones right to life? And of course there will be some who read this who will want to counter and find the flaws of my points. If countering my points is the priority, and not understanding, then you’ve already missed the point and should read another blog.

A final thought I suppose is that if I’m feeling all this I can’t imagine what the community on campus is feeling. And so if you’re able donate to the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) please do so! It will help them to be able to continue supporting the community and to be able to grow the resources that are needed for a campus of Michigan State’s size. You can donate through the following link:

Thanks for reading my rambling processing. There’s still so much more in my head but I’m drifting and sleep must occur if I want to be coherent tomorrow.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas and Go Green, Spartan Strong

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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