Tragedy and Security

As most readers of this blog will know, Wesleyan has suffered an unspeakable loss. Johanna Justin-Jinich was shot to death while at work at the Red and Black Cafe on the corner of William and High Streets. Police have reasons to believe that the alleged gunman, now identified as Stephen Morgan, had known the victim in the past. They also have evidence of his hostility to the Wesleyan community, and to Jews, as expressed in his personal writings.

We are in mourning, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Johanna’s friends and family. My office and our emergency team is also focused on keeping our community safe. We are working closely with the Middletown Police Department, and I am very grateful for their assistance.

Classes are over, and we have canceled all special events. We are deploying additional security and instructing students to remain indoors. We continue to re-assess the safety context with the help of appropriate authorities.

You can find security updates at:

Below is a statement I released this morning.

A beloved member of our community has been brutally murdered. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends of Johanna Justin-Jinich. This is a tragic time for them, and for all of us in the Wesleyan community. We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this event.

We are working closely with the Middletown Police. Since the suspect in yesterday’s fatal shooting has not been apprehended, Wesleyan has instructed all students to remain inside their residences and to remain vigilant. We have also asked faculty and staff not to come to their offices unless otherwise instructed.

The police investigation continues, and we remain in contact with them about all developments. We will send information via the usual channels as it becomes available. I assure you that we are doing all we can to ensure the safety of our students and campus.

Counseling services will continue to be made available to our students, faculty and staff. All of us grieve for the loss of Johanna Justin-Jinich.

[tags] campus security, Stephen Morgan, Middletown Police, school shooting[/tags]

28 thoughts on “Tragedy and Security”

  1. Dear President Roth and the Wesleyan community,
    As parents of a second year Wesleyan student, we are grieving and praying with you. We appreciate the efforts being made to keep families informed by email as soon as new information is available and events unfold. It helps to counter-balance the overwhelming feelings of anger and helplessness that this tragedy has created. Thank you.
    Candelin Wahl & George Thabault
    Colchester, VT
    (parents of Jamie Thabault ’11)

  2. President Roth,
    With the current state of the campus as one of disarray and with students too saddened and hurt to worry about grades or final exams, I ask that you consider the cancellation or postponement of final testing for this current semester. The loss that we as students have experienced has shaken us to the core. Wesleyan is considered our sanctuary, our haven and for many of us, our home. When an act so shocking and so full of hate happens here, it is not only concerning but disheartening. At such a small University, we are all truly connected by at most two degrees of separation, and as such, the entire campus directly feels the impact and joins in the suffering of the loss of this student. Mourning has overwhelmed our campus and I do not see us fit to perform our studies with such an incessant sense of sadness.
    Therefore, I implore you to take initiative among campus faculty and establish optional or postponed exams for this semester. Numerous students have left campus or are in the process of doing so, our library has shut down and teachers are canceling review sessions and even finals in some circumstances. For the sake of the students, I ask that you encourage professors to find an alternative option for exams or to simply allow Incompletes and a makeup exam at the beginning of next semester. I hope that you empathize with our plight and will do what is best for the students.
    Thank you.

  3. My son was very close to Johanna and is distraught over the shooting to the point of becoming physically ill. These students are struggling and in no state to proceed with their final days of the academic year. Something must be done, they can not leave their rooms, the library is clossed, review sessions have been cancelled and the faculty is still expecting (as conveyed via e mail) that papers, labs will still be due as planned. How can there be such a cold response to such a tragedy. What about exams? Who is in any condition to focus? I know for sure, that given the uncertainty of the whereabouts of the shooter and that he is still at large, as well as the threats to the Wesleyan community, I will be picking up my son. He does not need to be there to await taking a final exam he’s in no condition to study for!!!!!!!!!!!!! This must be addressed

  4. Dear President Roth,
    As just a PreFrosh, I am sure that I cannot even begin to imagine the grieving, horror and shock that is reverberating through Wesleyan right now. However, it is barbaric that something like this could happen and is frightening for us all. As a prefrosh, I can honestly ssay I am so impressed with Wesleyan’s emergency response system and the efforts of the administration to protect its students. I feel as if I am already a student and although I didn’t know Johanna Justin-Jinich, I would like to extend my condolences to the Wesleyan community. These shocking turn of events have not deterred my decision to go to Wesleyan, they have only served to convince me of the fact that Wesleyan is an institution of immense strength and conviction whose foundation will not be shook even in the face of such mind-shattering tragedy.
    Wesleyan was a second home the minute I received my acceptance letter and I hope that the Middletown police are able to protect it and catch this criminal as soon as possible. Again, I extend my admiration of the bravery of everyone at Wesleyan, my condolences to the grieving community adn the family of Ms. Justin-Jinich and hope earnestly that the perpetrator of this heinous crime is caught. It is a dark day when something this senseless and heartbreaking occurs, and on behalf of all prefrosh, I would like to commend the administration and extend our hope that everythingwill be in paradigm again soon. Our prayers and hope and with you.

  5. My deepest condolences to everyone at Wesleyan. President Roth, this has to be the most unimagineable way to conclude another school year. As a Wes parent of a graduating senior I am sick to think such a wonderful time in the lives of those moving on from Wesleyan will be forever tinged by senseless loss.

    I know the administration, public safety, and the local authorities are doing all they can to protect the Wes and Middletown community and I thank you for your efforts. I ask, however if possible, if you haven’t already, please consider sending personnel door to door to each of the many student houses around campus and verify the welfare of the students within.

    Wes Kids: hopefully by now you have reached out to let your loved one’s know you are okay. If you haven’t do it now.

    Good luck, God bless, See you at commencement…

  6. Dear Dr. Roth,
    As parents of a second year student so far from home, we are comforted by your intelligent and thoughtful leadership in this emergency. Your compassionate voice helps us to collectively reach out to Johanna’s family, the Wesleyan community, as well as parents everywhere who courageously allow their children to grow independently and with autonomy.
    San Francisco, California

  7. Dear president Roth,

    My heart is heavily burdened with the brutal murder of one of our own students, a bright spark of our community, and loyal friend to many. In spite of the assurance of the implementation of safety measures, I concur with others that this tragedy cannot continue to torment an already distraught state of affairs at Wesleyan. Beyond the immediate sympathy and sadness I feel for Johanna’s close friends, I feel pressing worry about the health and mental well-being of the wider Wesleyan community currently under lockdown, and would strongly request that these students be sent home to find solace in family and familiar company. It breaks my heart, indeed, when grief, though usurped by needs of security, finds no room to address itself. My thoughts and prayers are with you and the student body.

  8. Mr. Roth:

    I find the above request by “Concerned Student” eminently reasonable. Obviously, you know more about the logistics of the situation than I do, but a state of potential siege is not conducive to study. My prayers are with the victim’s family.
    Peter Shakman, ’96

  9. To everyone on campus,
    To say I was saddened by yesterday’s news, it an absolute understatement. Please know that those of us who have graduated from Wes, whether recently or many years ago, are thinking of you. Wes is a strong community. Reach out to each other for support. Wes friends/family are always there for each other.

  10. I don’t know what to say, but I’ll do my best: I love the place, the home, the spirit that is Wesleyan; I feel connected to everyone who’s there now and trust that all of my fellow alums feel the same; I wish there were something I could do, though I know there isn’t; if it helps at all, please know that I and my friends and their friends and all of us Wes kids are thinking of you.


  11. President Roth,
    It is not safe for our child to return to Wesleyan with a killer at large. We are forced to decide between his safety and his academic failure. The emotional turmoil of all students can only impair their preparation for final exams. The school year should be immediately terminate. Alternative measures should replace final exams on the Wesleyan campus.

    Fred and Penny Rosenblum

  12. I was on this campus for a prom in the early 60s, it was so beautiful, and even now after all these years , seeing this tragedy on the news from Florida hits me, God Bless her family, I pray they catch this guy soon before anyone else is hurt and so everyone still there can live without fear. Anyone in Delta Tau Delta please contact me at, thank you, Dawn Nichols God Bless.

  13. Dear President Roth,
    As a parent of a Pre Frosh I felt a personal kin ship to all of you and deeply saddened as the events of today unfolded. I had just visited the campus including the bookstore during Westfest and imagined my child spending time there over the next four years. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Johanna’s family and my family’s prayers are with all of the Wesleyan family this evening.
    As you know there are rumors concerning this gunman and his motives, I appreciate your candor and honesty on this situation and making sure we know truth about the situation. Please continue to keep us informed on the truth surrounding this tragedy and your efforts to keep the students and faculty as safe as possible.
    God be with you and all the Wesleyan family and we will still see you this fall!
    Parent of member of the Class of 2013.

  14. Dear President Roth,
    Almost 30 years after graduating from Wesleyan, I find myself at one with the college community as I follow the tragic events of the past few days, the devastating loss of Johanna Justin-Jinich, and the clear and compassionate response of the school administration. I am not alone; alums everywhere have been reconnecting today to express our shock, grief, and solidarity. To the faculty, staff, administration, and above all the students of Wesleyan: Please know that, across distances of time and space, those of us who preceded you on the Middletown campus are holding you close in our hearts and in our thoughts. We stand ready to support you in every way we can.
    R.A.B., Class of ’80

  15. First and foremost I offer my deep and sincere condolences to Johanna’s family and friends during these tough times. Secondly, I encourage well-wishers to contribute to a fund for funeral service or memorial. Has such a fund been set up? If so, who should we contact to give? If not, can we set something up asap? Lastly, I proffer a lighthearted, solution-oriented message to lighten the mood on campus.

    As a graduate during the Bennett years, I believe President Roth’s message is strong and his actions at the helm significantly help Wes continue to stay the course.
    In response to parents and students who feel the need to pack up and leave, I urge that they consider that this was a unique and targeted incident. I believe that any student should be able to take a leave of absence, especially given this tragic incident, and return to school when ready to cope without any academic blemishes. However, I urge all to think about what Johanna would have wanted you to do. If you take leave/postpone exam it will still be there whenever you return along with another load of classes.

    In closing, I recommend powering through the finals so that you don’t have that weight on your shoulders over the summer and provide a general moral learned. The lesson to take from this incident is the need for greater communication. Not just between Campus Safety, aka Two.Five-0, and Middletown, aka Mayberry, Police Department, as both are to be commended for prompt and coordinated response. Rather, I suggest looking to profs, formal academic advisors and student leaders. Profs and/or advisors need to be active in supporting students to create a comfortable relationship. This can grow organically, but thrives best when upperclassmen partner with freshman and sophomores as comfort level allows for sharing of issues such as abusive relationships. While Campus Safety and Middletown police must remain distinct, and a small joint task force for debriefing and coordinating should still exist, the real solution lies in greater mentorship from upperclassmen, professors, coaches and art directors.

  16. President Roth:

    My daughter is a sophmore at Wesleyan and we have grown to love this university. Your leadership from the day of our arrival has been inspirational. We thank you for all the communication, concern and safety measures you and the University have taken to make this horrible time just a little less stressful.

    Lauretta and Joe DaCruz P’ 11

  17. Dear Sir,
    As the parent of a an incoming student who is female, Jewish and from Colorado, we read with horror about the events unfolding at Wesleyan. Our daughter grew up in the shadow of Columbine, and our 13 year-old son had, on the anniversary of that event, spent time under a desk in a closet at his school due to lockdown procedures following a Columbine-style threat. Sadly, we are all too familiar with the random nature of brutal and senseless acts of violence, and our hearts go out to the Justin-Jinich family and the community of Wesleyan.

    One lesson learned from these tragic events is that frequent, honest and clear communication is essential. Without this, rumors and fear can take over. We appreciated viewing the frequent security updates available on the website. However, we still have many questions. Any opportunity you have to explain to students and families about: 1) the events that led to the tragedy, 2) the successes and failures about how the investigation and apprehension proceeded, including whether security measures taken were adequate, and 3) what changes in security and communication may be implemented in the future, would be greatly appreciated.
    Stephanie Wasserman
    Parent of a Member of the 2013 Class

  18. Dear President Roth:

    Under such harsh circumstances, and everything in perspective, job well done. I cannot begin to imagine the stress between franctic students and parents, faculty, staff, not to mention undoubtedly conflicting advice from various police agencies.

    I am sure the thought of another Virginia Tech was not far from your mind. I am equally sure that very few, if any students, had thoughts in that direction, which must have made their demands inappropriate. At the same time, I am sure you were loathe to increase their anxiety level. Such a difficult position.

    I am glad you were in command.

    Many thanks,

    Steve Goldberg P’11

  19. Dear President Roth-
    I want you to know how impressed I am at your sensitive leadership during this siege. No college president was having an easy year 2009-2010; I’m sure you were looking for a bit of respite from financial crises and enjoying the harvest of the class of 2009 and all the excitement about this year’s yield.

    I have lived through and witnessed other communal crises – sometimes the leadership conveys defensiveness, clearly trying to make sure no one thinks their responses to the crisis are inadequate (as if they’re fending off potential law suits?) and often missing the emotional point, addressing the shock and terror that students, faculty and staff at Wesleyan are experiencing, along with their extended families off-scene.

    Your messages have been clear and truthful, both from a human and procedural standpoint. Your team has been 150% responsible, creative, and proactive, working round the clock with police, students, staff, and the media. That can’t have been easy.
    Hats off to you all. My daughter Nomi ’11 lives in Buddhist House. They collectively decided to stay in place together, and reached out to friends on campus who were feeling isolated, maybe even somewhat abandoned when friends took off and they stayed. I thought it was a demonstration of communal living at its best, a true expression of Wesleyan.
    Get some rest!
    Betsy Teutsch

  20. Thank you, President Roth, for keeping our young adults safe. We appreciate the university’s rapid response and your emails to the parents, and we are also grateful to the Middletown Police. I have shed tears for Johanna all along, but now that the gunman has been apprehended, the mix of sadness and worry has been replaced by the grim realization that her family and friends must find a way to transcend the depths of their grief. They will be in my thoughts as they move from mourning the loss of Johanna towards celebrating her life. I am so, so sorry that this has happened to them and to the Wesleyan community at large. Ultimately, unconquerable gladness will dwell in all of our hearts again.

  21. Dear President Roth and the Wesleyan Community: We would like to add to the praise expressed by many above for Dr. Roth’s leadership and the Wesleyan community’s courage during the last few days. We believe the right balance was struck in your response to the crisis, maintaining the safety of the members of the Wesleyan community without causing panic. Our hearts go out to all of you.

  22. I have spoken to many Wesleyan alumni in the last two days about Johanna’s tragic death. All of us would like to do something, anything, to help her family and the Wesleyan community to commemorate this amazing young woman and her wonderful contributions to Wesleyan and everything she wanted to do for the world.
    President Roth — Please let us all know what, if anything, her family would like us to do in Johanna’s memory. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

  23. President Roth,
    My son is a member to the freshman class. I am writing to both thank and commend you for the outstanding leadership you have shown during these most tragic and difficult last two days. Your admirable ability to keep us informed, promote calm, ensure that our children remained safe, reassure that we would all get through this, and remain sensitive to Johanna’s memory and her family and friends is enormously appreciated.

    My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Johanna’s friends and family.

    Shelley Payne P’ 12

  24. President Roth:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, the Wesleyan community, and with Johanna’s family. Is there any coordinated way that community members are expressing their condolences to Johanna’s family, a memorial fund that we can contribute to?

    Tony Saudek, ’03

  25. I am heartsick that the life of this promising young woman was cut short by such senseless violence. And it grieves me deeply to think that the peace and security of the Wesleyan I knew as an undergraduate has been shattered and corrupted by this heinous crime. My own family would not exist if it were not for Wesleyan, where my husband and I met, and I have eagerly encouraged many young people to apply there. I know of three who will enter as freshman next fall.

    But through the depths of this darkness, I can see some glimmers of light: First, is the sensitive and resolute leadership demonstrated by you, President Roth. You have shown courage and hope to a community reeling in shock that extends far beyond the borders of the campus. Second is the emergence of Johanna’s qualities of grace, intelligence and compassion. Sadly, though the gunman may have deprived the world of her life, we have been left with the broader knowledge of her exceptional character, and that is her lasting gift to all of us.

    Nancy Katz Colman `79

  26. Dear President Roth, Wesleyan Administration and Public Safety Officials, We would like to echo all of the gratitude for your excellent handling of this most difficult situation. We were in constant contact with our son and received all of your communications in a timely fashion. As a result, we felt as secure as possible that the students were in a safe environment. We were on campus today and saw the rhythm of the campus returning but paused at the flag flying low in remembrance of Johanna. May all of the Wesleyan community find peace in the days and months ahead. Sincerely, Sherrie and Jeff Bitterman P’10

Comments are closed.