On Monday April 16, 32 Virginia Tech students were killed in a tragic shooting incident. The Miami Student editorial board is shocked and deeply saddened by this abhorrent act, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family members of those affected. While law enforcement and rescue personnel responded quickly to the scene, the random, senseless nature of this act can leave students with a sense of helplessness. Nonetheless, while it is virtually impossible to prevent all random acts of violence, universities must continue to work with local police departments in order to ensure that contingency plans are in place and that there are effective lines of communication between the administration and students during times of emergency.
Universities face a difficult challenge between maintaining safety and fostering a relaxed and open academic environment for students. This tension between security and freedom will likely be reevaluated in the months ahead as schools consider ways they can prevent catastrophes like this from happening in the future. It is important that Miami University’s campus remains one that feels open, even as any potential security updates are made.
Based upon preliminary reports, there have been criticisms, warranted or not, leveled at the Virginia Tech administration for failing to adequately communicate with students as events were unfolding. On a campus the size of Miami’s, such communication is a difficult task, but a rapid e-mail response and the use of a special warning siren or PA system might be feasible options for signaling a campus-wide lockdown. Even so, while contingency plans can and should be implemented, no amount of preparedness can avert all disasters. Local law enforcement must be familiar with their operating procedures and able to coordinate their efforts with surrounding forces. Moreover, they must be adequately equipped to stabilize a situation until larger, more specialized law enforcement units arrive.
The events at Virginia Tech were especially painful because of the vulnerability of the victims and the similarities between their lives and the lives of Miami students. A measure of trust in life’s daily routine was lost Monday, and this tragedy should serve to remind each of us to consciously embrace and cherish the time we have and too often overlook.