I am writing to express my deepest thanks for the tremendous outpouring of support and compassion that I have witnessed across campus in the week since we learned the tragic news that one of our students, Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, was fatally injured in an assault on October 30 in downtown Menomonie.
While we continue to work with the Menomonie Police Department to find the person responsible for Hussain’s death, I am constantly reminded what a caring and loving campus we have at UW-Stout. The nearly 1,000 people who turned out for Hussain’s touching memorial service last Thursday evening was a great example of that. Speaking at that memorial service was one of the hardest things I have ever done. During my remarks, I noted what a bright and passionate young man Hussain was, one with a very promising future. I also noted the overwhelming amount of sympathy, support, encouragement and offers of assistance that have poured in across the state, nation and world in the wake of Hussain’s death. But most of all, I thanked the students who organized the memorial, roommates and friends of Hussain, who came together in the midst of their grief to put together a tremendous event that left not a dry eye in the MSC amphitheater. These students, I noted in my address, were a source of inspiration, hope and strength for Hussain’s grieving family, friends and community.
I am aware that emotions, including mine, continue to run high over this incident. I want to encourage students who feel the need for assistance to contact our counseling center and for our faculty and staff to avail themselves of our employee-assistance program.
Questions have been raised about what happened to the memorial that sprung up last week in front of Topper’s Pizza, the site of the assault. The memorial was removed with the support of those who knew Hussain best. With their support and consultation, memorial items are being treated with the utmost reverence and care. Those items that are culturally appropriate will be sent to the family, and most of the other items are being carefully preserved by the university archivist to allow for future reflection. Also, an event has been scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to start a conversation on campus about the impact of this event on our diversity efforts. The event is titled “Cultural Competence in Times of Crisis” and will be held in Ballroom A of the Memorial Student Center. The speakers include Carol Vang, diversity representative of the Stout Student Association, and Kate Thomas, chair of the Diversity Leadership Team. The stated purpose of the meeting is to “improve awareness of our own cultural foundations and intercultural engagement at UW-Stout.”
One of my main goals this week is to keep the public aware that we need to do everything we can to help the Menomonie Police Department find the person responsible for Hussain’s assault. The city and the Stout University Foundation have teamed up to offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the assault. Another $5,000 reward is being offered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Anyone with information about the assault is asked to call Menomonie police investigator Kelly Pollock at 715-231-8511. Anonymous information can be submitted at 855-847-3866 or at http://dunncocrimestoppers.com. You may also text “TIPDUNN” followed by your message to 274637 (CRIMES).
A memorial fund also has been established by the Stout University Foundation in Hussain’s name, to remember the joy and happiness that Hussain brought to this community and to establish a permanent memorial to honor Hussain. Those who want to give can do so at https://foundation.uwstout.edu/pages/givings/hussain-saeed-alnahdi-memorial-fund.
Many people have signed memorial books that we had out at the memorial service Thursday. It still is possible to submit something for the books, which will be sent to Hussain’s family in Saudi Arabia. Michael Lee of our Office of International Education is accepting submissions at his office, 70L in Harvey Hall, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please have your submissions in by Friday.
Finally, the assault on Hussain has raised questions about just how safe our students or anyone else is in Menomonie. This is what the New York Times reported on November 3: “Statistics show that in 2014 Menomonie had a violent crime rate that was below the national average.” In fact, statistics the newspaper used showed that in 2014, there were just 32 assaults in all of Menomonie. The city had a violent crime rate of 121.5 per 100,000 population, compared to a national average of 202.6. A number of previous years had even lower ratios, including 28.3 per 100,000 population in 2010. On campus, there was one reported aggravated assault in each of 2015, 2014 and 2013. I think these statistics are a good indication that we live, study and work in a relatively safe community. Our future efforts should focus on making our community an even safer place to live, learn and grow!