Saturday, February 16, 2008

Campus Safety

During the past few weeks at work, I have been working on campus safety issues. I attended meetings with the police chief, I listened to a two hours seminar about how campuses need to report crimes and issue timely warnings during emergencies, and I wrote a memorandum analyzing American's compliance with the Clery Act. Campus safety has been on the brain.

And then Thursday came. Another campus shooting. The graduate student killed five people at Northern Illinois University. It was a chilling feeling. As a person, I was saddened for everyone involved. As a student, I thought about what it must be like to have this happen on one's campus, one's home. And for the first time, I thought about what it must be like as a campus administrator. A feeling of helplessness because there was little they could have done this time. Unlike Virginia Tech and other school shootings, there were no 'red flags,' there were no mistakes in alerting the campus.

Alex and I were also talking tonight about how there had been such a lack of coverage of this shooting. I do not think that we have simply become immune to these tragedies. But I think that the media has not picked up on this story, like they did with Columbine or Virginia Tech, because this story makes people more uncomfortable. This is not the story about 'social outcasts.' About kids who listen to Marilyn Manson or a Korean immigrant who wrote disturbing essays. Those were people who society could easily paint as troubled and mentally disturbed. People who are different than us.

This time it was a graduate student who was well liked. Yes, he wrote about "dark" subjects like self-injury in the prison system. But he won awards and tutored other students. And this act was shocking to people who knew him. The only explanation of how this could have happened was that he had stopped taking his medication lately. But really, there were really no warning signs. I think this scares people, I know this scares me.

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