MOSCOW, Idaho — As the University of Idaho prepares to honor the four students who were killed in a vigil Wednesday night, the university's associate dean of students, Blaine Eckles, is sharing how the school is responding.
Eckles says that he has never dealt with something this horrific in his 25-plus years of working in higher education. He is hopeful that the police will be able to find a killer and find that person soon.
In the meantime, Eckles says the school focuses on the students and ensuring they feel supported and safe.
KREM 2's Mark Hanrahan sat down with Eckles in a one-on-one interview to discuss the university's response to the tragic incident.
MH: "How have the last two weeks been for you here?"
BE: "For me, personally, this is one of the most challenging times I've ever had in my professional life. This has been a very difficult time. Incredibly sad. It's been hard to see the students struggle like this. It's even harder to, one, just imagine, but two, just interact with the families that are absolutely impacted and devastated as a result of what happened."
MH: "Do you anticipate extending the remote option longer than you had previously planned on in light of this?"
BE: "We're keeping the remote option available through the remainder of the semester. So, it's not just this week. Students aren't expected to come back. If they want to finish remotely, they can. Our academic leadership will be meeting in the future, our provost, our college deans, to talk about what the spring semester looks like. We're really basing a lot of that on the status of the investigation, what we know and what's in the best interest of our students."
MH: "Moscow PD and you guys too faced some criticism early on in that there was little information that was released in the days after the homicides. Do you think you could have handled that differently or should have handled that differently?"
BE: "Well, this is a police investigation first and foremost. We communicated out to our community immediately. We sent out communications to students, to our employees, to our parents. When it comes to the investigation of the crime itself, we're following the lead of law enforcement."
MH: "When you talk to students or maybe parents who are apprehensive about having their kids here on campus, in light of the fact that a killer has not been found yet or arrested, what do you say to them to try to reassure them?"
BE: "The Moscow community is a wonderful, beautiful, small little community. But, it's just another stark reminder that violence can reach out and grab us here too. So, we try to empower parents and students to make and form decisions, and if their choice is to transfer to another school, I can't fault that call. But, what I do communicate is we're doing everything we can to establish as safe of an experience as possible."
In terms of what's next outside of the investigation, this Wednesday, a vigil will be held inside the ASUI Kibbie Activity Center on the University of Idaho's campus. That vigil starts at 5 p.m. You can live stream the vigil on KREM.com, KREM 2+ and KREM's YouTube page.
Eckles says he will be speaking at the vigil along with University President C. Scott Green. In addition, family members of the victims will have an opportunity to speak if they choose to do so.
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