The London attacks

07-11-2005

Once again, we are painfully reminded that we live in a world where acts of violence have become an all-too-familiar part of our lives, acts that can reach across international borders and around the world to touch all of us.

Thursday morning we woke up to the news of another major terrorist attack, this time in London.

Because we live in a truly interconnected world, we all are affected when something like this takes place, regardless of where it happens.

This time, because of MSU’s international presence, the tragedy unfolded literally outside the doors of our students and faculty who were participating in study abroad programs. A bomb exploded in a double-decker bus right across from Tavistock Square by Connaught Hall where some 60 MSU students were housed. Thankfully, everyone associated with the programs is safe. However, I’m sure all of them—and all of us—have been changed by the experience.

We extend our sympathies to all of the victims and families affected by this tragedy and share their anguish at the senseless loss. And we offer our support and admiration to the British people and their leaders for their determination and resolve. We really are all in this together.

I also want to publicly thank the members of Team MSU—students, parents, faculty and staff—for all of their hard work, patience and understanding in the face of the pressures of that day. In particular, Kathleen Fairfax and her folks in the Office of Study Abroad did a magnificent job of gathering information and confirming the safety of all our people on programs in London. By 1:45 that afternoon they had accounted for all 324 students and 16 faculty who were part of the study abroad programs in London.

At times like this, it’s really important to have clear communication and good information, and we did. The emergency and safety procedures we have in place worked as they were designed to work. Faculty, staff and students on site reacted quickly and calmly to the situation, and many of those in London began reporting in almost immediately after the attacks. Some called the 24/7 toll-free hotline that MSU provides for students and faculty to call in to campus from anywhere in the world. Others got more creative and even e-mailed me directly from Internet cafes when they couldn’t get their cell phones to work. So we’re proud of the way our people conducted themselves in this difficult situation.

One student put it this way: “We cannot let terrorists direct our lives. The London attacks are certainly disturbing; however, we still believe this is an opportunity of a lifetime.” Virtually everything we’ve heard from students, faculty and others is that the people there don’t want the programs canceled. They want them continued.

We all understand how fortunate we were that these attacks, because of their random nature, did not affect us directly. And we fully understand that even with all of our preparations, such an event could affect our community.

MSU has an Emergency Response Team that was put together precisely to assess situations like this, to gauge the level of risk to the safety and security for faculty and students, and ultimately to decide whether to curtail or cancel programs. The group met that afternoon and unanimously concluded that the programs in London should continue.

As our London programs go forward, we will continue to monitor local security conditions carefully, as we do with all of our study abroad locations. Individual students and their families will ultimately decide whether they remain with the London programs. At this writing, of the 324 students already there, only 5 have decided to return early. And of the 142 scheduled to leave over the weekend, only 4 withdrew.

Last Thursday was a sad day, but as Prime Minister Tony Blair said, the spirit and dignity, the quiet and true strength, and the values of the British people will prevail in the end. All of us at Michigan State University are proud to stand with them.

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