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In observance of the Presidents Day holiday, the Daily Chronicle newspaper will not be published February 17. Breaking news and information will be updated on Daily-Chronicle.com.
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Students offer input on fate of Cole Hall

DeKALB - Some students want Cole Hall destroyed. Others want it memorialized, and some would like to see it reopened. Although a consensus about the future of the Northern Illinois University building - where a fatal shooting last month left five students and the gunman dead and 16 others injured - didn't come from an open discussion Thursday night, about 30 students showed up to voice their opinions. The forum was one of three held this week by the NIU Student Association in response to an e-mail sent Monday by NIU President John Peters, asking for input from the campus community on the fate of the lecture hall. The meeting was closed to the press. “We just want to hear students' opinions on the issue,” Rob Batey, speaker of the Student Senate, said after the meeting. “Anytime you get a group of students together and you get them talking, you will have a positive outcome.” Students quietly filed into meeting Room 100 of the Campus Life Building, where three Student Association members led the discussion Thursday night. Participants had the option of speaking from their seats, standing or addressing the crowd from behind a lectern. “I feel public speaking in itself is difficult, but especially with something this emotional,” Batey said. “But it's what needs to happen in order for these students to feel they've had their voices heard.” For Indian Student Association member Ravi Mudunuri, the answer is simple: Cole Hall cannot be reopened as a classroom building. Mudunuri attended Thursday's meeting on behalf of the ISA, which has held two of its own meetings about a plan proposed by Peters and Gov. Rod Blagojevich that would use $40 million to destroy and replace Cole Hall. “What happened was sad, but I think it should be turned into a memorial,” he said. “You cannot keep that as a classroom. The memories are still there.” The goal of the forums was to make everyone feel comfortable, Batey said, and to gather information and ideas to present to a presidential advisory task force being formed by Peters. Many attendees, like junior Rebeca Manjarres, 20, just wanted to hear what their peers had to say. “I want a feeling, when they present the information to the board, that the university is really listening and it's not just for show,” Manjarres said. “I would like the outcome to actually represent what was said.” But students must seize the opportunity to express their opinions, junior Joanne Betke said. Both for monetary reasons and out of respect, Cole Hall should be remodeled, she said before the forum. “I feel that by tearing it down we are forgetting,” Betke said. “Everyone is saying that we can't forget, so why destroy it?” Besides the emotional value attached to the building, there are space concerns. Almost half of NIU's 25,000-student population was displaced by the closure of Cole Hall this semester, Peters has said. Among the lesser-voiced opinions Thursday night was to reopen the building without renovations. “There are other buildings on campus that are in far worse shape and could really use the funds,” said student and campus custodial worker Pete Suffield, who added he understands the sensitivity surrounding the issue. “Those auditoriums are crucial, and leaving them closed for an extended period of time isn't right. We are facing a space crunch.” Other forums are in the works for NIU faculty, staff and alumni and will be announced soon.

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