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MSU plans to honor victims of shooting with memorial tree, posthumous degrees

Crowds of people surround the Spartan Statue, there are hundreds of bouquets around the statue.
Sophia Saliby
Students and other members of the Michigan State University community gather at the Spartan Statue on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023. The statue on campus had become a makeshift memorial and a site of community mourning since an on-campus shooting the prior week.

Michigan State University is planning to honor the victims of February’s on-campus shooting by planting a memorial tree and awarding them with posthumous degrees.

Last month, a gunman entered campus and shot and killed three students and injured five others.

In the days following, community members flocked to MSU’s Rock and Spartan Statue to mourn, leaving behind scores of flowers to honor the victim's memories.

Now, university officials have collected those flowers for compost. MSU spokesperson Dan Olsen says the compost will be used to plant a memorial tree in front of Berkey Hall.

“Students collected 30 bins of flowers and we expect that will generate more than five cubic yards of compost,” he said. “That's enough for several trees or a fairly sized garden. But that is something that we intend to use for this tree planting ceremony.”

The university is still working out a date for the tree planting ceremony. Other items like teddy bears, candles, and signs that had been left behind by the community have been collected by the MSU Museum for archival purposes.

Olsen also said they are planning to award posthumous degrees to students Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner at commencement this spring.

“Arielle, Brian, and Alexandria chose to be Spartans and this is our way of honoring their legacies and recognizing their commitment to Spartan values,” he added. “And that's what we'll continue to do going forward.”

The university will grant the students bachelor’s degrees in their chosen fields of study. Olsen says the families plan to be present for the ceremonies.

Since the shooting, MSU has committed to covering the healthcare costs of the five students who were hospitalized as well as the funeral costs of the three students who were killed.

Olsen said the university has also set aside the Spartan Strong Fund to support those impacted by the shooting. So far, the fund has raised more than $300,000 dollars by 3,300 individual donors.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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