HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Students returned to classes at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Monday for the first time since a campus shooting claimed the lives of three professors.
A fourth professor, 45-year-old Amy Bishop, is in jail, charged with killing the three and wounding three others during a biology department faculty meeting Feb. 12. Police have not offered a motive for the shooting, but colleagues say she had complained for months about being denied tenure.
Band members from nearby Oakwood University greeted students as they came back to campus, playing music and offering hugs.
Meagan Warner, a UAH student walking into the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, where the shootings happened, said she appreciated the support.
"I have four classes in this building today, and it helps me feel at ease and that it's safe to be back on campus again," she said.
Another student, Jonna Greer, was excited to be back. She and other students had huddled in a locked dormitory room to watch live television coverage of developments following the afternoon shooting.
"I feel the campus has been pulled together, and I've seen more blue on campus than I've ever seen before," said Greer, referring to the school color.
Killed in the shootings were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences; and two professors, Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Three people were wounded, and two remained hospitalized Monday. Professor Joseph Leahy was in critical condition and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo in serious condition.
President David B. Williams said the main priority was for students to get back and remain current in their studies.
Retired teachers and faculty members from the University of Alabama and the Hudson-Alpha Institute of Biotechnology will help fill in for teachers lost in the shooting.
Counselors will be in every biology classroom as well as other classes in the Shelby Center and every classroom building on campus.
Dan Sherman, a business professor, said he and colleagues decided during a staff meeting last week to begin the first day of class by offering students a chance to share their feelings about the shootings rather than diving right into academic lectures.
A few campus police were on hand, but officials decided against a big show of force.