UConn students, administrators react to Paris Attacks

Students are seen at a prayer vigil sponsored by Cru at UConn, an interdenominational Christian organization, on Fairfield Way in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Around 20 students attended the vigil. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut is in mourning following the terrorist attacks in Paris that left over 120 people dead and 350 more wounded on Friday night.

On Saturday morning, University President Susan Herbst sent out to an e-mail to all students and faculty announcing that the 17 UConn students and one UConn faculty member who were in Paris at the time of attacks have been accounted for and are safe.

“The Office of Global Affairs was up all night contacting students and their families as soon as we knew,” Vice Provost Yuhang Rong said.

A new university policy implemented at the beginning of the academic year by the Department of Global Affairs calls for immediate communication during an emergency with all students studying abroad, according to Rong.

In accordance with the new policy, UConn professor Roger Celestin, the resident faculty director for the Paris Study Abroad program, was in immediate contact with the 17 students.

“The system is functioning exactly as it is supposed to be,” Rong said about the new precautionary policies.

Rong added that it is unknown whether similar study abroad programs will be held in France in future years as planned.

“It is too early to tell,” Rong said. “We will evaluate the situation over the next few days.”

In addition to those closest to the attacks, the ensuing terror affected many students in Storrs with loved ones in danger.

Abbey Gant, a seventh-semester French studies and German studies double-major who studied abroad in Paris in 2013, learned that one of her friends was shot and later hospitalized as a result of the the attack. Her friend is currently in stable condition.

I think the best words of support I’ve received so far have been that terrorism wins when you live in terror. The triumph of evil only requires that good folks do nothing.
— Margaux Ancel, a seventh-semester art history and journalism major and French citizen

“She [Gant’s friend] went to the concert at the Bataclan and was injured in that attack,” Gant said. “She’s from Australia, but living in Paris teaching English. Her mother has been posting updates on Facebook. I have another French friend whose best friend passed away at the concert as well.”

Other UConn students were distressed Friday while trying to confirm that family and friends close to the site of the attacks were safe from similar harm.

“My father’s side of the family lives in France and many of my cousins live, go to university, and work in Paris and tears came to my eyes when I realized I was so far away from them in this moment,” said fifth-semester animal science major, and French resident, Julia Baddos. “All I was able to do was pray this morning, thankful that my family was safe, but also peace and love for family and friends of the victims.”

Social media played a large part in locating missing people, and distributing news of the attacks, some students said.

Margaux Ancel, a seventh-semester art history and journalism major and French citizen, said she found out about the terror through her news feeds on social media.

“I couldn’t process anything for a while. I was just trying to reach out to my friend and family to make sure they were okay,” said Ancel, who also works as a copy editor for The Daily Campus. “The Place de la Republique [one of the six areas attacked] is one of the spots where my friends like to hang out."

Herbst has offered any assistance needed to students from France and surrounding nations. Though this assistance has not been specified, students such as Gant, Baddos and Ancel said they appreciate the support.

“I’m sure they’d provide them if I needed them,” Gant said.

A vigil was held on Saturday afternoon to honor those affected by the attacks in Paris, as well as UConn students affected by the recent earthquakes in Japan.

The vigil, which took place on Fairfield Way, was intended to “give all students the opportunity to come together in prayer in support of those affected by the disasters and conflicts occurring last week,” said Emily Roller, a member of Cru, a Christian organization on campus that helped organize the vigil.

Despite her lingering distress, Ancel said she is finding positivity and encouragement from all the support she has received and seen displayed in Storrs and beyond.

“The amount of support that has been flooding in from around the world is overwhelming and powerful, but it really goes to show how united humanity can be when faced with such ruthless and irrational violence,” Ancel said. “I think the best words of support I’ve received so far have been that terrorism wins when you live in terror. The triumph of evil only requires that good folks do nothing.”


Sarah McNeal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at sarah.mcneal@uconn.edu.