Charles University Faculty of Arts. Credit: FF UK.

Charles University Faculty Building Partially Reopens One Month After Fatal Shooting

The seat of Charles University’s Faculty of Arts in the centre of Prague, where on 21 December a student shot 14 people dead and wounded 25 before committing suicide, partially opened for students and teachers for a few hours today, one month after the tragedy.

The event, “Opening of the Faculty”, included mini-lectures, book exchanges and musical performances. Faculty and university representatives told reporters that the goal of the event was to help people return to academic life after the tragedy and to collectively come to terms with what happened there before Christmas.

“We realise that we are only opening today for part of the day, just part of the elevated ground floor, but this is a huge step towards healing,” said the faculty Dean Eva Leheckova, adding that she is looking forward to the faculty coming to life again, for a while at least, after being a “house of silence” for a month.

Charles University Rector Milena Kralickova thanked the students who participated in the organisation of the event, the management of the faculty for their openness and helpfulness, and other universities and the public for their support.

Classes in the summer semester are scheduled to start on 19 February in the main building at Jan Palach square, except for the fourth floor, which is the most damaged. In the meantime, classes from the fourth floor will be moved to other buildings. During the 21 December police intervention at the faculty, nearly 140 doors were destroyed or damaged, and will have to be repaired at the cost of several million crowns.

Part of the building was open from 11:30am to 4pm today, but photojournalists and reporters were not allowed to enter. Faculty Vice-Dean Martin Pehal told the media that all today’s events are aimed at commemorating the December tragedy. He said the partial opening of the building follows recommendations by psychologists who say returning to the scene of the shooting is an important part of healing.

A program for the public has also been prepared outside the faculty at Jan Palach Square and in the neighbouring Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (UMPRUM), where members of the public can take part in making wax from several thousand candles left at the memorial sites outside the faculty and in front of Karolinum, the nearby Charles University rectorate.

At a fire on the square, a temporary commemorative wax sculpture called Common Landscape is being created, led by UMPRUM students. Temporary mobile rooms have also been set up in the square; one of them is providing students and academics of the faculty with detailed information about current arrangements concerning their studies, the functioning of the dean’s office, and forms of teaching. In another, experts are on hand to provide psychological assistance.

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