Dear UNC Charlotte Community,
With the start of the new academic year quickly approaching, I want to share with you some updates about the work we have been doing over the past several weeks and what you can expect in the coming semester.
As I have said many times, there is nothing more important to us than ensuring the safety of our campus community. Our internal review of the April 30 tragedy and our response to it is complete, and I will receive the report within the next couple of weeks. Additionally, we will commission a thorough and completely independent external review that will include recommendations on any areas that the reviewers think could improve campus safety or emergency response. We have retained the National Police Foundation (NPF) to lead this process. They will partner with the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) and a cross-functional team of experts in emergency management, communications, behavioral health, and academic and student affairs to conduct this assessment. I expect the team to begin their work in earnest in late August or early September.
In the meantime, we have already taken some steps I want to bring to your attention:
Support services are available to faculty and staff through the Employee Assistance Program and to students through the Christine F. Price Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). These services will continue throughout the fall. Everyone is moving at their own pace in recovery, and I encourage you to reach out to our trained counselors if you need to talk with someone.
Additionally, CAPS, the Dean of Students Office, and the Department of Safety and Security have partnered to offer a workshop for faculty and staff on how they can best support students as they return for the fall semester. Topics covered in the workshop will include how to identify students in need of support; understanding available campus resources; facilitating difficult conversations about the shooting; and building a community of care in the classroom. You may register online to attend one of these sessions.
The Niner Nation Remembrance Commission will reconvene in August to chart its work and review research compiled over the summer to gain insight into how others who have experienced similar tragedies have chosen to honor their victims and to memorialize what had taken place in their institutions or communities.
Moving forward after a tragedy of this magnitude isn’t easy. When classes begin in August, two important members of the Niner Nation family will be missing. We will never forget Reed and Riley, the injuries sustained by Rami, Sean, Emily, and Drew, or the collective pain we experienced on April 30.
The past few months have shown the world the depth and breadth of Niner Nation. The pride for this special place is evident. The importance of our University to the city and surrounding region has never been more apparent.
You will see the words “We Are All Niners” frequently in the weeks and months ahead, both on campus and off. It isn’t a slogan or a motto. It is a declaration. Together, our future is bright, bold, and strong.
Philip L. Dubois
Dear UNC Charlotte Community:
We have shared a wide range of experiences and emotions on our campus over this past month: tragedy and grief, compassion and support, resiliency and recovery.
As we pause together to reflect on the one-month anniversary of the day that forever touched our University community, it is important to note that each of us has our own timeline for how we respond to and recover from the events of April 30. We react differently, and we require different kinds of support.
I encourage you to review information from Dr. David Spano, associate vice chancellor and director of the Christine F. Price Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
He explains how reactions to trauma are to be expected no matter where you were on April 30. As a member of Niner Nation, it is okay to be affected by this tragedy regardless of your physical location that day. Dr. Spano also offers some suggestions for coping strategies as we move forward, which we are doing one step at a time.
The Niner Nation Remembrance Commission held its first meeting yesterday. The members reviewed the Commission’s charter and developed a plan for necessary research to be conducted this summer. They will reconvene in August, and you can expect another update on their work early this fall.
Today, however, I want to share with you one decision that has already been made. The space in Kennedy where the tragedy occurred will not be used for any purpose for the upcoming academic year (2019-2020). I will await the Commission’s recommendations for the future of the space before making any final decisions.
Over the next few weeks, CAPS, the Dean of Students Office, and Safety and Security will work together to create training opportunities for faculty and staff in advance of the start of the next academic year. We want to fully support our faculty and staff so that, in turn, they have the capacity to fully support our students. There will also be additional safety training offered this fall. More information will be shared as soon as it is available.
Additionally, we are making progress on our internal and external reviews. The internal after-action report is well underway, and we are currently considering which individuals, organizations, and firms might help us with the external assessment of our response on April 30.
The days ahead will continue to present challenges, but I remain confident we will rise to meet them together.
Philip L. Dubois
I am happy to share that Drew Pescaro has been discharged from Duke University Hospital after being readmitted a few days ago for an infection.
He is doing well, and we all look forward to welcoming him back to campus this fall.
Philip L. Dubois
Dear Niner Nation,
I was traveling in the Raleigh area today and had an opportunity to visit with Sean DeHart and his parents, John and Trish, in their home in Apex.
I enjoyed my time with them and was happy to see Sean doing so well. He plans to return to Charlotte soon for his summer job, and we look forward to welcoming him back to campus in the fall for the start of his junior year.
Sean told me on April 30 he fled into Chick-fil-A in Prospector, where he was aided by a young woman who placed a tourniquet on him to help stop his bleeding. Sean said he believed she was a student sitting in the area. He and his family would like to thank this woman for her help. If you have any information on who she is, please email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear UNC Charlotte Community,
I am pleased to share an update from another Niner who is continuing his recovery. Rami Alramadhan asked us to let you know he recently had a follow-up surgery to remove a bullet from his abdomen, but he is healing and doing great.
Please continue to keep Rami, Drew, Sean and Emily in your thoughts.
Philip L. Dubois
I am pleased to provide an additional update on Drew. His girlfriend, Erin Wilson, sent me this photo this past weekend, along with the following update to share: "We still have a little time left here in the hospital, but Drew is feeling strong, and as you can see, he is happy as ever to be a Niner!"
We are as happy as ever for him to be a Niner, too.
Philip L. Dubois
Chancellor, UNC Charlotte
Dear Niner Nation:
Each passing day since the tragic events of April 30 has left its own imprint on the collective consciousness of Niner Nation. We shared disbelief and sadness as we learned of the loss of Reed Parlier and Riley Howell. We united physically and virtually in memory of them and in support of Rami, Sean, Emily, and Drew through the candlelight vigil, in-person and online donations of time and resources, countless supportive words and texts, and the permanent Niner Nation Remembers website.
At commencement this past weekend, we rose together in celebration as Emily and nearly 4,800 other Niners graduated, and we rose together in honor as the families of Reed and Riley courageously took the stage to accept Degrees in Memoriam on their behalf. We will continue to rise together to meet the challenges and opportunities awaiting us in the days ahead.
While I’m grateful for the many ways Niner Nation has come together since April 30, it is important to acknowledge that our personal experiences are unique to each of us. Many of you have shared with me and with each other your own stories from the night of the attack and the hours and days that followed. Many of these stories are uplifting and affirming of our response, while others reflect the fear and confusion the attack inspired. Every story deserves to be heard.
As part of our after-action review, we have established a webform through which members of Niner Nation can share their own experiences and suggestions. Each submission will be provided to independent reviewers and considered internally to ensure your safety and well-being remain our top priorities. We can and should be proud of what we did right, but we also need to examine and learn from what we must do better.
Niner Nation has united together, and now we will rise together. Rising together requires acknowledging and understanding what we have endured as a community and as individuals. Rising together requires reaching out when we need help or encouragement, and lending strength when we have some to spare. Rising together requires embracing our grief and each other, allowing the memories of April 30 to propel us forward one step at a time. Niner Nation rises, but we will never forget.
Philip L. Dubois
Dear Future 49ers and Families,
It’s been nearly two weeks since the unthinkable happened on our campus. Sometimes, it seems like yesterday; at other times, it seems like a lifetime ago.
We have been amazed by the outpouring of support from the local community, the state, and across the nation.
I know last week’s tragedy affected you too, so I wanted to reach out to you as a future 49er to offer my encouragement and support as you process this right along with the rest of us. A “Niner Nation Remembers” page on our website has been set up to capture the communications, responses, reactions, and messages of support. I encourage you to visit the page and get a glimpse into how our community has truly come together. We have mourned, we have united, and now we will find a path forward together.
I want to assure you that safety remains a top priority at UNC Charlotte, and our institution practices regular training and frequent drilling to plan for the unexpected. Our Department of Police and Public Safety is fully staffed year-round with regular patrols and instantaneous communications through a robust “NinerAlert” communication system. Additionally, our students (and their parents) are encouraged to download the LiveSafe app, which gives you a direct line to campus police.
I am very happy that you have decided to become a part of Niner Nation. If you have any questions or concerns that I can help to address, I encourage you to reach out to my office at email@example.com or 704-687-5700. And, of course, I know you’re in contact with our admissions folks who are the best in the business. We stand ready to provide help and support however we can.
I hope you have a great summer. Take care, and stay #CharlotteStrong! I look forward to welcoming you to campus in the fall.
Philip L. Dubois
Dear Niner Nation,
I was pleased to receive this photo today from Fred Whitfield, president of the Charlotte Hornets. He had the opportunity to visit with Drew Pescaro and his family in the hospital. Drew and his family gave permission for us to share the photo along with the update he is doing well. Pictured with Drew are his mom, Denise; Fred; his dad, Ed; and his girlfriend, Erin Wilson.
Drew is #CharlotteStrong.
We continue to hold him, Emily, Rami and Sean in our thoughts during their ongoing recovery.
Yesterday, I announced that I would be forming a Niner Nation Remembrance Commission to lead the difficult conversations that will address how best to memorialize the victims and remember the tragedy that occurred on April 30.
I am pleased to share with you that fourteen members of the University and Charlotte communities have generously agreed to serve in this capacity, led by Emily Zimmern, former executive director and president of the Levine Museum of the New South. You can read more about the members on the Niner Nation Remembers website.
I have asked the commission to meet by the end of this month to organize their work. They will use the upcoming summer months to complete research on how other institutions and communities have reacted to tragedies similar to ours, and to allow time for reflection on the events of the past week.
We expect to have more to share with you about their work when we return for the start of the fall semester.
April 30 will always be part of our history, and we want to be thoughtful about how best to remember it.
Today, I wrote an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer, thanking the community for the support they have given us and reflecting on the past week. I remain grateful to them and to you for rallying together, united as Niner Nation.
To the students, faculty, staff, families, alumni, and friends of Niner Nation:
The events of last week are woven into the fabric that binds Niner Nation together, from the fear and shock we shared as the tragedy unfolded to the acts of heroism and sacrifice that saved many lives.
To honor Riley Howell and Reed Parlier and in support of the four other students who suffered injuries -- Rami Alramadhan, Sean DeHart, Emily Houpt, and Drew Pescaro -- we have established a permanent website, Niner Nation Remembers. The site includes an index of information from the week, as well as a photo gallery and a video archive of Wednesday’s vigil inside Halton Arena and the candlelight vigil which followed outside. The website will also permit you to share your personal thoughts and reflections about the tragedy we suffered on Tuesday, April 30.
In time, we will memorialize Reed and Riley in other ways after we have talked with their families and considered a number of options. To ensure what we do is reflective of their lives and dreams for the future, I have formed a Niner Nation Remembrance Commission to provide guidance and insight on next steps. I will share more about the commission and its charge in the days ahead.
In addition to reflecting on the events of the past several days, we are looking down the road to the coming weeks and months. As I said in my previous message to the campus community, my continuing priority will be the safety and security of our campus. It is my responsibility to keep you informed of all the work that we do, including the results of the independent external after-action review of the incident that we will commission.
I am so grateful for the love and support you have shown to me and for each other. I am so proud to be your chancellor. The events of last week are a part of all of us, but Niner Nation must be defined by how we have pulled together in response. Niner Nation is #CharlotteStrong.
Chancellor Philip L. Dubois
Last night, all of you received the message that we would be returning to “regular operations” today. The use of the word “regular” was intentional, and a departure from our usual phrasing of returning to “normal operations” following a weather-related closing.
As soon as Police and Public Safety was made aware of the attack in the Kennedy building, the entire campus was placed on lockdown. Many of you were teaching classes, working in your offices, cleaning a campus building, serving food to our students, or taking buses to your vehicles at the end of your workday. Some of you remained in place for hours providing comfort to each other and to our students; some of you remained in place for hours all alone. Others of you were at home, out to dinner with friends or loved ones, or at a child’s after-school event, reading and watching as an unimaginable tragedy unfolded in the heart of the campus you cherish and work so hard to support. Still others, our brave first responders, were running toward the sound of gunshots and administering first aid to the injured and dying.
There is nothing “normal” about any of those experiences.
There is also nothing normal about the way our community has responded, both in rising to confront the evil as it occurred, and in the aftermath to provide resources and reassurance to those in physical and emotional need. There is nothing normal about the 8,000 people who packed Halton Arena last night for the beautiful candlelight vigil orchestrated by our students, or about the thousands of other individuals who showed their support by watching the vigil online or staging vigils in other locations. Niner Nation has spoken in word and deed.
In the days and weeks ahead, please make self-care a priority. Counseling services are available for all faculty and staff, and I strongly encourage you to take full advantage of those services as you process the events of this week. As we’re taking care of ourselves personally, let’s also ensure that we continue to look out for each other as we have over the past several days. That’s what Niners do.
I want to assure you that the safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff remains my #1 priority. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be conducting an extensive independent and external after-action review to look at what went well and to examine and address areas for improvement.
As I shared in the vigil, we will emerge from these difficult days. We will not emerge unchanged, but we will emerge united and stronger. That will be our new normal.
Thank you all for being here, for organizing our gathering this evening, and for being the compassionate and caring Niner Nation that you are. I am proud to be your chancellor.
Let me acknowledge the presence of Congresswoman Adams, Governor Cooper, Mayor Lyles, Chancellor Jim Woodward, and the dozens of state and local elected officials and community leaders who are present today. Thank you for being here.
Yesterday’s violence and the loss of Riley and Reed cuts to our core as a University community. We are heartsick to believe that anyone would act with such complete disregard for human life, and we hope beyond hope for the full recovery of Drew, Sean, Emily, and Rami. I can tell you that I was able to visit with Drew, Emily, and Rami in the hospital today, surrounded by their family and friends. They are doing OK, as is Sean I am told who did not require hospitalization.
The students we lost—Riley and Reed—and those who were injured, are all so young, like many of you, with dreams and aspirations and a purpose in life. As parents ourselves, Lisa and I grieve for this senseless loss of young life and share in the anguish of their parents, their families, and you, their friends. We can’t bring them back, but with your help we will find a way to remember their presence here as 49ers.
These next days, weeks, and months will test our collective strength. But, as I said yesterday, we have no course but to hold each other up, to work through this together, and to reaffirm our 49er purpose. UNC Charlotte cannot – and will not – be defined by this tragedy; we must be defined by how we respond to it. Our focus will be on those we lost, those who were hurt, and the countless others who were spared by the quick actions of our police officers. As the facts emerge about what actually happened in Kennedy 236, we may learn of additional acts of heroism by Riley and perhaps others that saved other lives.
With that, let’s stay Charlotte Strong. The days ahead will be difficult, but we will emerge from them. We will not emerge unchanged, but we will emerge united and stronger. Thank you all.
To the Students, Employees, Alumni, Families, and Supporters of UNC Charlotte:
Words cannot adequately express the heartbreak we feel over yesterday’s tragic events, nor can they describe the selfless, overwhelming support you have provided. Even in the midst of UNC Charlotte’s darkest day, our greatest strength--our ability to unify with one heart and a common purpose--shines clearly through.
In that spirit of unity, I would ask that you join me in turning our hearts and minds to the families of the two members of our community who lost their lives. Some of us knew these young men as our students, our classmates, our friends, our family, our sons. For all of us, they were fellow members of Niner Nation, and we will learn and forever remember their names and their legacy.
Riley Howell, of Waynesville, NC, was a 21-year-old Environmental Studies major who enrolled in UNC Charlotte in Fall 2018 as a transfer from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Riley loved the outdoors, and Star Wars, and pizza; he played soccer and ran cross country in high school and was described by those close to him as upbeat and optimistic, and always with a smile on his face. Riley’s family describes him as always putting others ahead of himself, and nothing exemplifies that more than his final, heroic actions in defense of his fellow students. We will not forget Riley.
Ellis Reed Parlier, of Midland, NC, was a 19-year-old who intended to pursue a Computer Science major after enrolling at UNC Charlotte in Fall of 2017. Reed loved video games and aspired to one day become a game developer. Reed was a graduate of the highly regarded Central Academy of Technology and Arts, where he studied in the Information Systems academy. He was generous with his time and talents, volunteering as a computer programming tutor for middle school students. Reed’s professors describe him as independent and motivated. We will not forget Reed.
Our faculty have approved Degrees in Memoriam for both Riley and Reed, and I have reached out to each of their families. We will do everything we can to lift them up over the difficult days, weeks, and months ahead. Riley and Reed’s fellow students have organized a candlelight vigil to be held this evening at 6:00 PM in Halton Arena. For those who are unable to come to campus, we will livestream the vigil on our website.
We will use our time together at the vigil to honor the memory of Riley and Reed and to show support for their classmates who were injured in the attack. I have visited with the injured students and their families today, and many dedicated members of my staff have also spent time with them since they were admitted to the hospital. While these students have a difficult road ahead, all are expected to recover. Please keep these Niners in your hearts and minds, too, as they heal.
The days ahead will be difficult, but we will emerge from them. We will not emerge unchanged, but we will emerge united and stronger. I am grateful for you all.
Chancellor Philip L. Dubois
This is the saddest day in UNC Charlotte’s history. Earlier this evening, the unthinkable happened on our campus. At approximately 5:40 PM, an individual opened fire in a UNC Charlotte classroom, cutting short the lives of two members of our community and seriously injuring four others.
Families of the deceased victims are being notified, and university staff are with those who are injured. The entire UNC Charlotte community shares the shock and grief of this senseless, devastating act. This was an attack on all of Niner Nation.
I am proud of and grateful for the efforts of UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and other emergency officials. The suspected shooter is in custody and lives were saved thanks to their rapid response. Their work on campus will continue over the next several hours. Students and staff on campus should follow the instructions of law enforcement officials and the instructions issued in NinerAlerts. Everyone else should remain off campus until an all-clear message is issued.
The days ahead will be some of the most challenging we have ever encountered. All I can say for certain is that we will get through them together. There is still much that we don’t know, and we will share information with you as soon as it is available. Among those unknowns is how we will navigate the remainder of the semester, including the final examination schedule and graduation. Examinations will be canceled through Sunday while we formulate a plan for the following week.
Counseling and Psychological Services is currently providing counseling services to students who were on campus during the event. We intend to make counseling and spiritual support services available to the entire campus community beginning tomorrow morning. Faculty and staff who need support overnight should contact the Employee Assistance Program at 1-877-603-8259. Additional details regarding those services and other resources will follow in the coming hours.
Chancellor Philip L. Dubois