Tonderai Mushipe oral history interview, 2020 August 21
Tonderai Mushipe, PhD student in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at UNC Charlotte, discusses his experiences in relation to April 30 2019 when a gunman opened fire on a classroom of students on campus. Mr. Mushipe describes how he had already left campus when the incident occurred and that he became aware of the tragedy as it unfolded on the media and especially through social media. He relates how his role as the incoming President of UNC Charlotte's Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) put him in a position of responding to and coordinating graduate student requests for action following the event. These requests ranged from the desire to take a stand on gun violence to gathering and disseminating information about support services on campus. Since his official role precluded what might be interpreted as political action, Mr. Mushipe focused attention on communication about available psychological and other support services on campus. He comments on the remarkable overnight organization of a vigil held in the Halton Arena on May 1, seeing the outpouring of compassion and solidarity as an indication of resilience in the student body. He relates that he felt Chancellor Dubois acted promptly to establish a Remembrance Commission and describes how he was selected to serve, and the honor he felt in taking on this responsibility. Mr. Mushipe became a member of the Commission's Engagement Committee, which was tasked with collecting information from various stakeholders, starting with the families of Reed Parlier and Riley Howell and other student victims of the shooting, and broadening out to the wider campus and local community. He describes the various ways that the committee reached out for input, including a tabling presence on campus which drew many student responses, an online survey which garnered 4,500 responses, and listening sessions held on the main campus and at the Center City building. He also describes the process by which the various committees shared their findings and came to a consensus in their final report outlining next steps on how to memorialize victims and commemorate the event in a way that would best reflect the desires and ideas expressed by stakeholders. In concluding Mr. Mushipe reflects on the broader effects of the tragedy for the campus community.