Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 15, 1996

Students Find Ways to Cope With Murder

Aftermath: Students 
turn to Campus Ministries, 
peers to understand 
Rex Chao's murder.

Christine A. Rowett
Homewood News and Information

     The day after a shooting that left one student dead and
another charged with his murder, university chaplain Sharon
Kugler joined a group of students as they prayed and placed
flowers at the site of the killing.

     "It just happened," Kugler said of the informal gathering on
a path outside the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. "It was
emotional on many levels. It made it real for those who had not
yet been to the spot. For others, it just sort of reignited the

     Rex T. Chao, 19, a sophomore political science major from
Port Washington, N.Y., was killed Wednesday night after attending
a College Republicans meeting in Shaffer Hall, where he had been
elected chairman of the student group. Baltimore City Police said
Robert Harwood, 22, of Bradford, R.I., shot Chao twice after an
argument. The two men had been friends for some time before their
friendship became strained earlier this year; each had expressed
concerns to the university about their relationship, according to
dean of student affairs Larry Benedict. Harwood has been charged
with first degree murder and unlawful possession of a handgun; a
police investigation is continuing.

     "This is a sad day for the Johns Hopkins community," interim
president Daniel Nathans said at a crowded press briefing
Thursday. "We're doing all we can to help the police determine
how and why this happened."

     Extended counseling services have been offered by the
Counseling Center and the offices of Residential Life, Campus
Ministries and Student Affairs. 

     "It's just been a steady stream of students in here," Kugler
said. "I'm primarily concerned that they take care of themselves,
that they reach out to one another, that they let people take
care of them and that they talk through what they're feeling."

     Kugler said the shooting was particularly troubling to
students who normally feel safe in an environment of
"collegiality, community and friendship."

     "I've been struggling with that myself," she said. "Our
mortality hit us all right smack in the nose." 

     Rabbi Shira Lander, who serves the Jewish student community
through Campus Ministries, said she has advised students not to
isolate themselves and to take comfort in each other. Some, she
said, have expressed their fears in terms of homesickness.

     "It is a very scary and very shattering experience," Lander
said. "It raises issues of trust and friendship, and that's why
it's important for them to be together."

     Lander said friends of Harwood's have expressed shock at his
alleged actions.

     "They're saying it can't be, the Bob I know wouldn't do
something like that," she said. "But sometimes you don't know
what people will do.

     "That's a level of unpredictability that students generally
don't have to confront at this age," she said. "It reinforces
their sense of precariousness in the world."

     More than 200 students packed the Great Hall in Levering
Thursday for a meeting with Benedict, Nathans, interim provost
Steven Knapp and other university officials to ask questions and
make comments. Many said they had been bothered by the presence
of so many reporters and camera crews on the day after the

     "We cannot impede the press from doing their job, but we
certainly can assist you," security director Ron Mullen told
them, after agreeing to rope off the area where the shooting took

     Students at the meeting also brought up concerns about
keeping up with schoolwork in the wake of a tragedy. Benedict,
Knapp and other deans decided Thursday evening to postpone exams
and deadlines scheduled for Friday.

     "For many students, this is the first time they've had any
kind of death to deal with, let alone a close friend," Benedict
said. "It's going to be very difficult for many students to focus
over the next couple of weeks." Students who have special
concerns should contact his office, he said.

     "We all recognize that this is a mammoth shock," Steven
David, chairman of the Political Science Department, said of the
faculty. "Most professors would be sensitive to that. I don't
think there will be problems." 

     Benedict said his office has been taking calls from
concerned parents.

     "I try to tell them what I know about the situation: that
this was a shocking, unexpected dispute between two individuals
and that we are still proud of the safe environment we have
developed and continue to support here," he said. "Then I listen
to them."

     Lander said the lack of details about the shooting has been
stressful. On Friday, the Security Department issued a report
listing specific charges against Harwood; Benedict has said he
will organize future meetings with students.

     "I hope, over the next couple of weeks, more details will
become available so we can reassure students," he said. "I'm very
hopeful that the police investigation will be completed very

     At least three buses were scheduled to leave the Homewood
campus at 4:30 a.m. Monday for funeral services for Chao in Port
Washington, N.Y. Kugler said the Office of Campus Ministries is
working with a group of Chao's friends to plan a memorial service
for Wednesday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Glass Pavilion. A
planning meeting was to be held Sunday evening.

     "Hopefully, the service will be a way to come together to
pray, recall memories and collectively celebrate the gift that
Rex was to this university," Kugler said. 

A Letter From Interim 
President Daniel Nathans
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff: 

     I am sorry to inform you that one of our undergraduate    
students, Rex Chao, was fatally shot last night on the Homewood
campus. Campus security responded immediately, and another
undergraduate, Robert Harwood, Jr., was arrested and subsequently
charged with homicide. Apparently, he and Mr. Chao had been
friends. To the best of our knowledge, this tragedy was an
isolated incident arising from a personal dispute. 

     The entire university mourns Rex Chao's death.  A tragedy of
this magnitude can lead to widespread grief, anger and depression
within the Hopkins community.  The Counseling Center and Campus
Ministries staff have been available since the incident for
anyone who wished to talk with them, and will continue to be
available as long as needed. I ask all faculty to be sensitive
and responsive to students during this period. Letters are being
sent to all members of the university community and parents
informing them about this tragic event. 

     If you have concerns, please feel free to contact the
Counseling Center at 516-8278, Campus Ministries at 516-8188, or
Larry Benedict, Dean of Homewood Student Affairs at 516-7875. 
Meanwhile, I want to assure you that we will do everything we can
to prevent future tragedies of this kind. We place the utmost
value on providing a safe environment for our students, faculty
and staff. 

     Again, I am sorry to share this tragic news with you.  Our
hearts go out to the family and friends of Rex Chao. 

                                        Daniel Nathans

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