Campus shootings raise awareness

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March 21, 2008

12:45 AM

In four weeks’ time, we will be mourning the massacre that took place on the Virginia Tech campus one year ago. And in a year’s time, we will be mourning last month’s shooting at Northern Illinois University as well as the murder of Eve Carson at University of North Carolina two weeks ago. Things haven’t changed much, have they?

p. These shootings have raised issues ranging from gun control and campus security to the U.S. system of mental health treatment. However, these concerns are raised time and again without being fully addressed. For example, counseling services on campuses should be more accessible and employ a knowledgeable and responsive staff to detect and treat mental illnesses. Faculty members should be aware of their students’ behavior and offer to listen if they notice any severe abnormalities.

p. According to The New York Times, both Seung-Hui Cho and Stephen Kazmierczak, perpetrators of the VT and NIU killings, were on prescribed medications for anxiety disorders and depression. VT’s administration was sharply criticized for inefficient and late notification of a student’s murder to students and staff. An urgent, alarming message could have saved lives.

p. Although gun control has always been a hotly contested issue, such violence reveals another dimension to the politics surrounding gun laws. According to CNN online, the VT incident immediately catalyzed the alteration of Virginia laws that previously allowed mentally unstable individuals, like Cho, to purchase handguns. It is important that more states pass legislation that prohibit the sale of guns to persons who have an unsound mental history. If this law had been passed earlier, it would have made a big difference in
the execution of Cho’s plan.

p. I know it is hard to imagine such a disastrous ordeal happening on our campus; it is small, in the middle of Williamsburg and home to colonial reenactors. But security measures cannot be taken lightly. There have been instances when residence hall entrances did not properly lock and alarm signals were ineffective when doors were propped. On some weekend nights, Campus Escort is stretched thin and cannot attend to all callers on time, making walking home cumbersome for those alone on the dimly lit paths near the Crim Dell, Yates Hall or Ludwell Apartments. It is true that the Campus Police and emergency services provide safety and security to the College; however, even the most minute possibility of danger should not be underestimated.

p. Will violence on campuses stop? It is, perhaps, like asking whether the Middle East will ever be at peace. We can only hope. There will always be those who want to start shooting inside a lecture hall or stand inside a tower and open fire upon those below, but it is our job to make sure these people are never able to do so. Improved counseling services, stricter gun laws and more vigilant campus security systems are the right motions toward creating safer learning environments.

p. The College is peaceful, welcoming and extremely beautiful; I would never want the actions of one individual to blotch the image of such an exquisite campus.
Kalyani Phansalkar is a freshman at the College.

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