“When a tragedy like this happens, it doesn’t just happen to a campus, it happens to higher education,” said Theresa Powell, vice president of Student Affairs.
After the Valentine’s Day shooting at Northern Illinois University, a call went out across the country asking for counselors. Powell said Temple was delighted to help.
“During a time like this you want to reach out,” Powell said. “I kept saying, ‘Is there anything I can do?”
Dr. John DiMino, director of Tuttleman Counseling Center, said that Temple sent two counselors to the NIU campus.
“There were a couple of others who wanted to go, and we’re balancing it with other commitments people have,” DiMino said.
Dr. Denise Walton, one of the Temple counselors who went to NIU, declined to be interviewed because of a waiver she signed through NIU.
“I signed a waiver saying that I would not talk about my experience outside of NIU, and I want to respect the grieving community of students, faculty and administration there,” Walton said in an e-mail.
The counselors arrived in Chicago last Saturday afternoon and returned to Philadelphia Tuesday night. DiMino said more than 100 colleges and universities sent counselors.
All of the counselors were given training at an orientation, and then were present at a memorial service, Powell said. The service was attended by students, administrators, faculty and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
NIU had a goal of having a counselor in every single classroom when students returned to classes last Monday, said Ainsley Carry, the dean of students.
“The counselors sit in a classroom, and the instructor will open up conversation, try to say, ‘This is what happened and let’s talk about it,’” Carry said. “Some of these students lost best friends, roommates and girlfriends or boyfriends.”
Carry said that many of the counselors came from the state of Illinois and the surrounding states.
“Schools usually average about eight to 10 counselors. If something like that happened here, we would have to send out a call to the local area,” Carry said.
Student Affairs is a “very helping profession. When it comes to students, that’s all of our priorities,” Carry said.
DiMino said that Temple has been doing trauma response for about 10 years and that counselors are trained in critical incidence stress management and psychological first aid survival.
At least once a semester Campus Safety Services and administrators meet to talk through various scenarios, such as car accidents, student injuries and active shooters.
“We find out all of what needs to happen. We play out the scenarios and realize our strengths and weaknesses,” Carry said.
“Students need to sign up for TU alert,” he added. “The key in emergency response is that everybody finds out information as soon as possible.”
At the end of the fall semester, 20 percent of the student body registered for TU-Alert, Carry said.
“It is critical that more students sign up,” Carry said.
“Temple as a university has done everything as humanly possible to do everything we can,” Powell said.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.