DARTMOUTH — Gazing out at the college quad, the new chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth wonders whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had watched his classmates as they gathered to mourn the three people he allegedly had helped murder the day before. A hastily organized vigil was attended by 300 faculty and students on April 16, after Tsarnaev had returned to campus.
“Of all the things that shock me, one of the things that really blows my mind is that he came back here,” Chancellor Divina Grossman said Friday. “He came back to our dorm. He came back to use the gym. He was among us. That is incomprehensible to me.”
Grossman, who is completing her first year at the helm of the school, suddenly finds herself presiding over an institution in crisis. Only slowly did she become aware that “suspect number 2” was a student at the college, with all that would mean.
On the Friday that Boston and the surrounding area were locked down during the search for Tsarnaev, UMass Dartmouth was being evacuated. A carpool was organized to take 70 to 80 students with nowhere else to go to an improvised shelter at Dartmouth High School. With the cafeteria closed, meals were put together. Law enforcement helicopters began landing on the ground. Amid concerns that explosive devices could be hidden on campus, a college became a potential crime scene.
Yet the school rallied. “I saw innumerable acts of kindness,” Grossman said. “I think the silver lining here is that we saw our fundamental humanity emerge.”
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