DEKALB – To honor the victims and help the student body move forward, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich joined NIU President John G. Peters, legislators and students today at Northern Illinois University (NIU) to announce new plans for Cole Hall, the scene of the tragic shooting that claimed the lives of five students and injured 17 more. Gov. Blagojevich said that he will introduce emergency funding legislation and work with state Sen. J. Bradley Burzynski (R-Sycamore) and state Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) to provide the University with $40 million for the project. Cole Hall will be demolished and replaced with a state-of-the-art classroom building to be named “Memorial Hall”.
“We are committing the funds needed to build Memorial Hall, to replace Cole Hall, a building now burdened by tragedy and loss,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We will tear that building down, not to erase the memory of what happened, but to remind us that the human spirit, the will to learn, to build, to grow, to give back --that spirit lives.”
The Governor and his staff have been in discussions with NIU officials since the February 14 shooting to assist with the university’s response, assessing needs and making plans for moving forward. University officials immediately closed Cole Hall following the incident and recommended that it would be in the university community’s best interest not to resume classes and operations in the building. Instead, officials outlined a plan to construct a state-of-the art classroom facility as a memorial in its place.
“We are extremely grateful for the immediate and unequivocal support from our Governor and our state representatives to build a new learning center that will stand as a tribute and beacon of hope on our campus,” said NIU President John G. Peters. “While we can never erase the tragedy visited upon this campus on February 14, this decisive action sends a message that NIU is healing and moving on to provide the very best education possible for the citizens of this region.”
Memorial Hall will be a modern facility designed to accommodate the needs of today’s students. The new building will be approximately 40 percent larger than Cole Hall and will contain up to ten classrooms of varying sizes, three smart classroom auditoriums with capacity seating of approximately 250 each, instructional and media production computer labs, and additional office, storage and support space. The new building will be centrally located on campus in near proximity or in the same proximity as Cole Hall. Cole Hall is slated for demolition this Spring. The new building is expected to open in late 2010 or early 2011.
“On behalf of the students of Northern Illinois University, I want to express our thanks for the leadership we see in this timely response,” said Jarvis Purnell, president of the NIU Student Association. “We look forward to the day when we can study and learn in a state-of-the-art facility that also stands as a memorial to those whose education was cut short.”
Built in 1968, Cole Hall has been a staple for NIU’s academic programs and large general classes. The building houses the campus’ larges lecture halls, which are in great demand given the university’s rapid student growth. In addition to the auditoriums, Cole Hall houses Anthropology and Journalism space in the basement level.
Sen. Burzynski and Rep.
Pritchard are working with Gov. Blagojevich on providing state support for the NIU project and have agreed to sponsor legislation that will authorize and appropriate $40 million in state funds to cover the cost of building Memorial Hall.
“It is time to tear down the walls of Cole Hall. The wounds of this tragedy are still so very fresh,” said Rep. Pritchard. “The legislation that is being drafted is our enduring effort to fully pay tribute to the victims and bring about closure for the student body.”
“The State of Illinois will help the students of NIU in every way it can to move on from this senseless tragedy. Today we make that promise,” said Sen. Burzynski. “This will be our lasting dedication to the lives we lost and the family and friends who mourn them everyday.”
The Governor has committed to continue providing state assistance to help NIU and local law enforcement officials understand what happened and what measures might have prevented the shooting. The lessons learned in the aftermath of the NIU shooting will be used to improve safety at universities across Illinois.
Additional information and updates are available on the ready.illinois.gov website.