Virginia Tech tragedy, two years later

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since the Virginia Tech massacre of April 16, 2007.’s Karine Joly, who reported on Virginia Tech’s online response to the tragedy so thoroughly two years ago, posts some somber reflections today and ponders whether microblogging, had it been so widespread then as it is now, would have changed the outcome. That’s pure speculation, of course, but it is something to think about.

Karine also asks her readers:

And, to honor the memory of the victims, why not tell us now what you’ve learned or have changed on your campus in terms of emergency notifications or security by posting a comment.

So. What has changed?

On our campus, as on practically every other campus in the nation, we have signed up for a mass notification system that relies on text, phone and email alerts in an attempt to more quickly notify students in the event of a crisis. We’ve tested the system a few times, with decent results, but these notification systems simply cannot speed the messages to a broad community via text in a fast enough time. The bandwidth simply isn’t there. It’s an improvement, but is it enough?

What else has changed? The sense that our campuses must be more open and accountable to the public, especially the families of our students, about our safety measures.

Our universities are also more involved in “profiling” students who might be at risk of committing the same sort of massacre as the disturbed gunman, Seung-Hui Cho.

This more active, early-intervention approach coincides with a change in the public mindset about just how safe our college campuses can be. Most campuses are designed as open, inviting places, so security on a broad scale — in terms of geographic coverage — is a huge challenge. But the public seems to expect us to make our grounds and our facilities as safe as possible. Which raises the question: How safe is “safe”? How much risk can we eliminate? Time magazine talks about this in a sidebar to its feature, Virginia Tech, Remembered.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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