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The Daily Wildcat


ASUA Notebook 10/19/2022: UA hydrology department students discuss trauma after shooting and safety on campus

Jasmine Ma
Want an inside look at the University of Arizona’s student government? Read the Daily Wildcat’s Associated Students of the University of Arizona notebooks, which recap the ASUA Senate’s weekly meetings.

Two weeks after the fatal shooting of a University of Arizona professor, the school’s student government invited two students from the department to speak at their Oct. 19 meeting.

Sam Dahl and Stella Heflin told the Associated Students of the University of Arizona about the events leading up to the shooting of Arizona professor and head of the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department Thomas Meixner. They wanted to talk about how these events are now affecting students and safety on campus. 

The suspect, Murad Dervish, 46, was a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Arizona starting the fall semester of 2021 Dahl said. After a bad grade, Dervish became very angry at a number of faculty members.

As the semester progressed Dervish became increasingly angry and was asked to step down from his role as a TA. He came back to the university for his spring semester only as a student. 

As Dervish started to get more grades he did not agree with, he started to send threats to faculty members and some students. 

According to Dahl, Dervish increased his verbal and written assaults to death threats, before being expelled during the spring 2022 semester. After his expulsion threats continued, classes were moved out of the main department building last semester, according to Heflin. 

A colleague of Meixner’s Christopher L. Castro reached out to the Pima County Constables Office for help, trying to get an exclusionary served. No arrests were made because the suspect was not able to be found by authorities. 

The suspect had been “sending death threats to the department head and other faculty members for roughly a year,” Dahl said. 

Dahl and Heflin said students now refuse to go back to the department building where the shooting happened. The classes are being held in different buildings with empty rooms for the time being.

“Many students are so traumatized by the building alone we want to get funding to tear it down or gut it so we can have something new,” Heflin said. 

Dahl added, “80% of students polled do not want to return to our building. Ever.”

Dahl and Heflin then questioned why the threats were not taken seriously in the first place and why the suspect was allowed on campus despite his history with the hydrology department. 

Heflin also asked if ASUA could help with the cost of therapists for students who are now dealing with PTSD and trauma from the shooting. 

ASUA Senate President Amy Gaudet and Executive Vice President Nico Neiri-Lang said they understand the importance of mental health resources.

“My priority is listening to [the students], they are the ones closest to the situation,” Gaudet said. “This is the first time I’m hearing about the mental health problems that have arisen, but it makes sense that students are struggling with PTSD after. It’s a traumatic thing to have to go through.”

No ASUA members directly addressed Heflin’s request for help with the cost of therapy for students.

With Halloween and Homecoming around the corner, ASUA senators said they plan to look into ways to help students feel safer on campus and talk with the UA Police Department about how to prevent something like this from happening again.

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