Friday Five: Virginia Tech

Note: This is not the typical Friday Five. That is, this post is not formatted in typical fashion. There are not five interesting links in a bulleted list below. After what happened at Virginia Tech on Thursday, I don’t even want to think about bullets. Not even on a blog. – AC

Thursday’s shooting incident at Virginia Tech, in which a campus police officer was killed by a gunman, brought thoughts of “not again” to the minds of many in the higher ed community. Comparisons to the April 2007 massacre on that campus were unavoidable for many of us as we watched the situation unfold from afar on our Twitter streams and other social networks.

“That campus just can’t catch a break,” was one statement I read from a higher ed colleague on another campus. As though shooting incidents at Virginia Tech were commonplace, or that the two incidents, separated by more than 4 1/2 years, were somehow related.

I guess that’s how our minds work. We tend to look for patterns or trends, even in the absence of no patterns or trends. One Washington Post columnist this morning even called Thursday’s incident evidence of an “unshakeable curse” for the campus.

A little perspective, please?

Yes, the murder of Virginia Tech police officer Deriek W. Crouse is sickening and heartbreaking. There is no doubt. He was only 39, and he left behind a wife, five children and stepchildren, and many, many friends and loved ones. But to connect Thursday’s incident to the 2007 massacre of 32 people is more than unfair. It is unfair to Virginia Tech, to Officer Crouse and to the families of those 32 who died in 2007.

* * *

Today, many of us began our mornings by scanning media reports and analyses to see what lessons we can draw from Thursday’s incident. The big question on our minds — Did Virginia Tech’s mass notification warning system work? — seems to have been answered. It did. Thank goodness, it did.

The incident was “a test like no other” of the campus’s new emergency alert system, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported this morning. (Thanks to Karine Joly for pointing this out to me this morning.)

And yet, I worry about our campuses and the false sense of security many of us have, post-Virginia Tech massacre, that a mass notification system and “secure in place” measures will protect us from someone who is intent on doing harm.

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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.

4 thoughts on “Friday Five: Virginia Tech”

  1. What I also found scary is the fact that despite switching to the crisis homepage, Virginia Tech website did went down for some time yesterday afternoon.

    They are probably the best prepared institution for this kind of situation and yet the spike in web traffic took down the website.

  2. The fact that their website went down is a warning to all of us that our communication channels better be multi-faceted in preparation for communicating with the invested publics, including media, in case the unthinkable happens. I really believe this is where social media can be a player. Thanks, Andy, for the reality check. As Jane Jordan Meier pointed out in “Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management”, comparing a present crisis with any similar ones in the past is an unfortunate characteristic of the early stages of any crisis event. My heart goes out to all those at VT.

  3. The fact that the Virginia Tech emergency crisis page went down after this emergency is unfortunate, but not surprising. News travel at light speed and pretty everyone on the planet who was online when the news broke decided to hit up that Virginia Tech page at the same time. Maybe the site admins should consider limiting access to the emergency homepage to IP addresses within the US until the crisis is over – this would probably go a long way to reduce the load on their servers.

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