/ Modified feb 17, 2023 6:15 p.m.

Slain UA professor's family call on administration to support faculty safety report

The response comes after the unanimous endorsement from the Faculty Senate regarding the committee's safety report.

Thomas Meixner Memorial Flowers, candles and letters lay in front of the Harshbarger building sign following the murder of Professor Thomas Meixner on Wed. Oct. 5, 2022 at the University of Arizona. Meixner was killed by a former student on campus.
Paola Rodriguez/Arizona Public Media

The extended family of slain Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department Head Thomas Meixner are calling for “courageous leadership” from the University of Arizona following the release of an interim faculty senate report.

“We are deeply appreciative of the U of A Faculty Senate committee’s safety report and are disgusted by the U of A administration’s response.”

The UA Faculty Senate earlier this month moved to unanimously endorse a scathing interim report that investigated the events leading up to the deadly on-campus shooting.

The faculty group commissioned the report shortly after the Oct. 5 incident. The interim version of the report condemned the university’s actions leading up saying that there is a “systemic risk oversight failure” and failure to “address a known chronic trust problem.”

The Cotter family shared that, “the conclusions of the report affirm our experiences both before and after Tom’s murder about problems that the University of Arizona needs to address moving forward.”

The interim report has also gained support from UA’s student government, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, and the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Student Association.

“This interim report makes one fact clear: the murder of Dr. Meixner was not a random act of violence, but a result of glaring institutional failures to sufficiently protect students, faculty and staff of the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences for nearly a year prior to the murder on October 5th.”

During the same month of the shooting, the university hired an external consulting firm, PAX Group, LLC, to conduct its own investigation into campus security measures. At the time, it was promised that the report would be released within 75 days. Their report has not been released, despite the deadline passing.

UA President Robert Robbins shared the hope to merge both the Faculty Senate’s report and the university’s external report during the faculty senate meeting.

However, Robbins' response differs from a statement that a UA spokesperson released following the committee’s findings. At the time, it was said that the [interim report] “​​represents the work of a subset of faculty that has reached sweeping conclusions based in large part on misleading characterizations and the selective use of facts and quotations.”

Meixner’s family shared that, “rather than acknowledging the thorough work of the committee and reserving judgment until the PAX group shares its findings, the university communicates a posture that is dismissive of dedicated faculty members who want to protect their UA family.”

The family goes on to say that there is value in having both an internal and external report.

“We don’t understand why the U of A would try to delegitimize the report. We can only imagine how this response has affected faculty, staff, and students. Personally, it has increased our anxiety about whether there will ever be any accountability and ownership by the U of A regarding the mistakes that were made leading up to Tom’s murder.”

During a faculty senate meeting, Robbins called for the need to work together to “mitigate” these issues. When asked who was accountable, he said he was the one to blame.

“I am the sole person you can hold accountable for this. I take responsibility for it. You can hold me accountable. Even though I did not know about these threats that were going on for a long time.”

However, Meixner’s family say they do not accept Robbins’ taking sole responsibility given that he did not know about the threats ahead of time. Their hope is that both reports together will create the necessary roadmap for institutional change at the university.

“The University of Arizona needs courageous leadership at this moment. We implore President Robbins and the UA administration to support the Faculty Senate in its work to ensure the safety and well-being of the Wildcat community. It would be the most meaningful way to honor Tom’s legacy.”

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