Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Dean Dad has said it best. Given the nature of college campuses, it is impossible to lock down in any real capacity not to mention timeliness. The first year I arrived at the University of West Florida, there was a student murdered in the dorms over the Christmas break. Apparently the alleged assailant had been unsuccessful in Panama City and then moved on to Pensacola and his victim fought back so he killed her. UWF is a huge campus with multiple wooded areas. They did a sweep of campus the next week and found over 10 people with absolutely no reason to be hanging out there and with criminal records of various types.

We had two students murdered at my current campus the first few years I was here. Like many campuses, they put up emergency towers with phones and lights everywhere but I'm not sure that any potential perpetrator would attack anyone close to these.

My biggest concern - especially for the young women on campus even during the day - is that they always on their cell phones and have very little if any awareness of their immediate surroundings. My guess is that they think they are safer with someone on the phone but it's not like that person can get there. They just seem like easy targets since it's clear they wouldn't notice you coming up to them or even hear a strange sound. It's also important to remember that the typical college age student thinks they are invincible no matter what you try to warn them about. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Confessions of a Community College Dean: "Virginia Tech

By now you've probably heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech today – 21 dead at this point. Incredibly, the shootings apparently took place over two hours. It's still early, though, and sometimes the facts take some time to establish.

Stories like this rip my heart out, both as a dean and as a parent. My condolences to the students, parents, staff, and community.

College campuses are incredibly vulnerable places. They're open, they're highly populated, they're lightly patrolled (if at all), and they're full of stressed-out people. In a way, they're almost naive, if it's possible for institutions to be naive. As I've mentioned before, they really aren't built for easy lockdown modes. Most were built before that term was even coined.

Those awful 'what if's' are always in the back of my mind. One of my committees is the group that tries students accused of plagiarism or other cheating. We set up the room so that we're closer to the door than the student is, just in case. One of my colleagues has suggested to me, gently but clearly, that it might be a good idea to hide the pictures of my kids that I keep in my office – you just never know. (I haven't, but I haven't been able to shake the thought, either.)

I don't have a neat conclusion to this one. Sometimes, there are no words."

I worry about the iPods, myself. I see tons of people, men and women, out running with them on. LDW wears his for his daily and lengthy walks into the office, and sometimes comes home rather late, but claims he lives in a fairly safe city. He does, but I still worry.
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