Wesleyan President Tearfully Speaks With Campus

Beneath the overcast sky, the two men spoke, the eyes of hundreds of young people on them.

"In time, the healing will come," the spiritual leader, Rabbi David Leipziger, told them.

But it wasn't yet that time because, as the university's leader, President Michael Roth, spoke, he wept. Later, he spoke of Wesleyan's future:

"Athletic contests will take place this weekend in various places, including Wesleyan. And singers will sing their songs if they choose to do so. But when they engage in this activity, it will be with remembrance, it will be with respect and it will be with the affectionate solidarity that Wesleyan has long been known for."

He acknowledged the enduring grief that Johanna Justin-Jinich's killing will cause those who knew her. But Roth, after Friday's vigil, urged the school community to return to its "normal rhythms of life."

"This is a community that is grieving, and it'll grieve for some time, but it is also a university community that takes comfort and direction from the regular rhythms of learning, of co-curricular activities, of being together as students and teachers," Roth said later at a news conference.He said that exams would begin as previously planned on Monday, with an extra testing day and added dose of flexibility for students who are still reeling from Justin-Jinich's slaying.

About 20 minutes earlier, Roth stood in front of at least 500 people who had streamed in from across the campus, forming a semicircle behind the Usdan University Center. Others lined the center's terrace and exterior staircase.

At the urging of Leipziger, director of the school's Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, members of the Wesleyan community held hands. The rabbi urged them to seek fellowship in each other, saying that Justin-Jinich would not be forgotten.

Roth, the only other person who spoke, cried when he recalled Justin-Jinich's last paper, on the dignity of man. Like Leipziger, he encouraged the students to seek each other out, not for answers, but for support.

The crowd stood in silence, then dispersed minutes later.

The usually bustling campus, where flags had been lowered to half-staff, was quiet Friday. Students declined to talk to outsiders, communicating only with each other.

After the vigil, Roth thanked the Middletown Police Department and national and local law enforcement agencies, who had launched a nationwide manhunt for Stephen Morgan, the man charged with killing Justin-Jinich. Morgan turned himself in Thursday night.

"Communication with the Middletown Police Department could not have been better and I am very grateful for their hard work, their intelligence and their openness throughout this very difficult process," he said.

He praised Wesleyan's emergency preparedness plan, saying that administrators had succeeded in their challenge to comfort the community, but also be "responsible and efficient" in ensuring its safety. Roth said that the school's notification system, which included mass e-mails, voicemail messages and cellphone texts, worked well.

He highlighted the efforts of school administrators, on-campus security members, physical plant workers and food distribution employees, who he said worked together to make sure that students were safe.

"I was struck by how this whole community had to pull together in ways that none of us expected to have to do," he said.

"I am proud to be a member of this community, not only because we kept our students safe, but because we keep our students learning in an environment of care and thoughtfulness."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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