Calvin community responds to shooting at Michigan State University


Photo by Abigail Ham

Calvin and Hope fans wore MSU colors to the Calvin-Hope rivalry basketball game Feb. 15.

Three students were killed and five others critically injured when a man opened fire on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU) on the evening of Feb. 13. MSU is located in East Lansing, MI — just 60  miles east of Calvin. The Calvin community has responded with shows of support and solidarity as well as increased security measures on campus.

President Wiebe Boer wrote to students, faculty and staff on Tuesday morning, Feb. 14, that he was “acutely aware that we have students, faculty, and staff in our community here at Calvin for whom this news hits close to home. Many of us have close friends and colleagues, even family who are part of the MSU community. Both of my parents are alums of MSU. One thing that remains certain in these times is the importance of relationships and the support we need in our life together.”

Calvin’s Feb. 14 chapel service included prayer for the MSU community.

Boer partnered with Hope College President Matthew Scogin in asking fans at the Hope-Calvin men’s basketball game on Feb. 15 to wear green instead of their own school colors as a show of support for MSU. “These moments remind us that while rivals on the court, we are partners in this journey called life,” Boer wrote.

Hiemenga Hall incident

Following the shooting at MSU, Calvin faced an incident that raised some concerns. A man entered Hiemenga Hall around 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Feb. 14. He entered a religion classroom and sat down. The professor confronted the man and told him he was not allowed to be there. The individual referenced the shooting at MSU before leaving the classroom. Campus Safety was notified at about 8:15 p.m. but were not able to immediately locate the man.

Director of Campus Safety William Corner told Chimes that the individual did not make any threats and there “was no indication they were trying to harm anyone or that they had any weapons on them.” Campus Safety deals with incidents of suspicious people on a regular basis, according to Corner. The timing of this particular incident and the individual’s reference to the MSU shooting made it unique, however.

Campus Safety issued a public safety advisory statement on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 15 in response to the incident. 

“While we do not believe there is an imminent threat to the Calvin community, we are sending this notice to assure the campus community of the steps we are taking to mitigate risk and to encourage the Calvin community to stay alert and report any suspicious activity,” the statement said.

The man was seen on security footage entering and exiting Hiemenga Hall. Campus Safety officials found images of his vehicle and determined the individual left campus and did not pose a threat to the campus community at that time.

On Wednesday evening, Campus Safety sent a followup statement to inform the Calvin community that the Grand Rapids Police Department had identified and located the man, whom police had previously interacted with last year in response to his strange behavior at a local church.

“We are grateful for law enforcement’s swift attention to this matter and will continue to support their investigation in any way we can,” the statement said.


Incidents like this make us look at the need for security along with the desire to show hospitality,” Corner told Chimes

Campus Safety instituted additional lock times on all academic buildings last week; students received an email notice informing them of the times of day when they will need ID cards to enter academic buildings. The advisory statement encouraged people to walk with others, especially after dark, and noted that there would be an increased security presence at the Calvin-Hope basketball game that evening. The additional lock times will remain in place for the time being. 

According to Corner, Campus Safety is also reevaluating which doors are open on weekdays and assessing potential areas to remain locked except with card access. Ongoing efforts to increase security include sharing building information and access with local law enforcement and emergency responders and adding more surveillance cameras around campus. 

Campus Safety offered trainings on Run-Hide-Fight, an FBI tactic for responding to active shooter situations, on Feb. 15 and Feb. 17 and will also be hosting an emergency management training for key campus leaders. Campus Safety officers complete active shooter training on an annual basis. Future plans include new locksets for classroom doors and a full-scale emergency exercise to test campus readiness.