As reality sets in after the shock of Monday’s terrible shooting at Virginia Tech, another issue has already come up, which we all would do good to address immediately.
The issue, of course, is campus security. One can debate for hours whether or not Va. Tech’s administration did enough to protect the students that fateful morning, but there is no question students should be protected.
College campuses are like their own little world-they are microcosms that, quite simply, operate on their own plane. University students and faculty operate on their own schedules, through their own methods, based on their own values and with their own sets of characters, players, movers and shakers. Considering this, it is easy to forget that college campuses are not actually physically removed from the world and, as such, are at least as vulnerable to the dangers, sorrow and violence that go with it (perhraps even more so, due to their open and accessible nature).
Thus, a dilemma: Adding too much security, or restricting movement, would eliminate the openness and warmth of campus grounds, severely detracting from the atmosphere and choking the general freedoms the university environment is supposed to facilitate. At the same time, it was this very openness that helped enable Cho Seung-Hui to not only kill 32 students, and eventually himself, but also to have the time to mail one final message to NBC in between the two shootings.
Unfortunately, as much as is done to bolster security, one must come to the realization that there will always be people driven over the edge and this type of crime is, realistically, unpreventable. As long as firearms exist, so will disturbed people who will want to and be able to use them in terrible ways. However, it is possible to minimize the damage caused by these types of shootings in many ways.
Thankfully, the university has taken all the necessary steps at this time to reevaluate and update their security plans. One area in particular is commmunications. The importance of communicating with students and others was made starkly clear in Blacksburg Monday and UM should be applauded for looking into every means available to notify students in a crisis situation.
Overshadowing most of the other methods is the hope that all students will register their cell phone number on MyUM in order to receive instantaneous alerts, via a recording and hopefully soon by text messaging. But this plan is wholly dependent on the students’ participation. The Hurricane would even go so far as to say the university should require students to submit a number, with special exceptions for those without cell phones. A campus-wide PA system would be highly effective, as well, similar to those in the dorms.
As the affected and the nation start to heal, it is time to also look forward and do what we can to avert another tragedy of such proportions. It is not an easy task, but the above suggestions are a good start at making our campuses safer, while not compromising