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MSU Union reopens for the first time since mass shooting

Michigan State University sign
Michigan State University

One of the sites of February's mass shooting at Michigan State University, the student union, is reopeningtoday nearly two months after the attack.

The MSU Union was one of two locations where a gunman opened fire on February 13. He killed three students and wounded five in the attack. The building is reopening amid new university-wide safety measures. That includes most buildings requiring a key card to enter from 6 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

From Monday through Saturday, the Union is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 11 p.m. for those with a Spartan Card. On Sundays, the public access begins two hours later at 9 a.m.

Kat Cooper is the chief communications officer for student life and engagement at MSU. She said the Union serves as "the living room for our campus" and provides a community gathering space for students, staff and faculty.

Cooper said she primarily saw staff were at the building this morning. She added the university expects it'll take some time before students are ready to come back to the Union.

"I think there's going to be different reactions as people come into the building," Cooper said. "You might think you're ready, and you walk in, and you turn around and walk right back out and say, 'Nope I'm not mentally and emotionally there yet.'"

"So it's going to be a slow return to the space. But it remains there as the heart of our campus and a place where we can honor what has happened and heal together."

One room on the third floor hosts a memorial to honor the victims of the shooting and display messages of encouragement and support to the Spartan community. Therapy dogs and staff will also be on-site to provide support to students and employees.

Cooper said the student life office is resuming some of its events at the Union. She said it was important for the school to provide resources for community members who wanted them without forcing anyone to enter the building.

"For some, they feel completely at home in the Union and want to be back in that space to sort of reclaim it as as ours and not let senseless violence from one person take it from us," Cooper said. "And others have very different feelings. And we're honoring all of those different experiences."

Computer labs and student lounges are open, but the food court remains closed until further notice.

Berkey Hall, the other building where the shooting took place, will remain closed for the rest of this year.

Arjun Thakkar is joining WKAR as a new politics and civics reporter after stints at the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Michigan. He’s also a recent graduate of the University of Michigan.