About three days after McCormick sophomore Harsha Maddula was first reported missing, the university held a gathering at Allison Dining Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Community members were invited to show their support for Maddula's family andto receive updates about the investigation from university officials and police. The gathering was announced earlier in the day in an email from Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin.
“Whenever something like this happens, it’s important for the community to give each other support,” Telles-Irvin said. “More importantly, Harsha’s family is here, and it’s good for them to see that people care about their son.”
The gathering began with announcements from university officials, who explained how community members can help in the search for Maddula. The headquarters for student volunteers is located at 600 Haven St. Telles-Irvin said approximately 59 students picked up flyers on Tuesday with Harsha’s picture to post around Evanston, and 40 people contributed to a search party.
“It’s an engaged community,” said Bruce Lewis, Northwestern's Chief of Police. “It allows us to focus on police resources for the investigation.”
Lewis announced at the gathering that university police are now working with local and state authorities and the FBI. Since Maddula is a diabetic, hospitals throughout Chicagoland have also been informed.
The story has been picked up by both local and national media. Pictures and stories have been shared on Facebook, and a #FindHarsha hashtag has developed on Twitter. Telles-Irvin said another purpose of the gathering was to make sure people were correctly informed of developments in the case.
“I wanted to be more informed of what was going on,” said SESP junior Kendra Hertz.
There weren’t many new developments to be announced.
“After I got the email, I showed up to see if there would be a progress report,” said Medill professor Roger Boye. “Sadly, there was none.”
Others simply showed up to offer their support.
“I felt empathy for the family,” said McCormick junior Molly Baker. “I don’t know him personally, but I know people who did.”
Further support was available in the form of representatives from various campus religious organizations. Mary Deeley, a Pastoral Associate at Sheil, said that when community-wide events like this happen, the Chaplain’s Office coordinates with CAPS and the Office of Student Affairs to provide support for the community. At this particular gathering, Deeley and others were on hand in case students needed someone to talk to.
“We basically form a perimeter and scan faces, looking for students who seem uncomfortable or upset,” Deeley said. “We’re there for them. Sometimes we don’t talk at all, only if they need or want us to.”
Anyone with knowledge of Harsha or his whereabouts is encouraged to contact University Police at 847-491-3254.