Adam Brinson/ Western student
The Virginia Tech shootings were barely over when President Karen Morse issued a memo describing how prepared Western would be in a similar situation. “Western has been proactive in addressing the potential threat of a shooting on campus,” she said, citing a recent law enforcement training, during which 65 police officers learned how to respond to a gunman on campus. Morse also said that being able to respond to emergencies is integral to on-campus safety.
Unfortunately, this kind of self-serving, knee-jerk reaction does not address the root of violence on campus. Cho Seung-hui did not set out to slaughter 32 people because he thought the Virginia Tech police would be unprepared to respond. While we may never know the exact reason he did, we do know that he was mentally and emotionally disturbed; he said he felt victimized, oppressed and alone. If we want to prevent violence on campus, we need to prevent this kind of sentiment.
Four days after the initial memo, President Morse sent another one to the Western community with a list of preventive tips. It included items like programming emergency numbers into your cell phone, keeping buildings locked down, and reporting any person or activity that could be construed as suspicious—effectively telling us to spy on our own community. According to Morse, these tips are intended to keep us safe. But these tips do nothing to prevent the circumstances that turn someone like Cho into a murderer. They simply promote fear as a way to protect ourselves.
Cho was disturbed, and Virginia Tech did offer some care for his mental and emotional health. However, Morse failed to mention similar resources on Western's campus. We have a full-service counseling center where students can talk with licensed counselors, free of charge. There is a counselor on-call 24 hours a day who can be reached by calling University Police. There are additional resources for students feeling isolated, oppressed or simply stressed out. The Wellness Outreach Center serves as a place to relax and take care of yourself. The AS Resource and Outreach Programs provide a safe space to talk about personal and sensitive issues. Student Outreach Services offer underrepresented students academic and personal support. Resident advisers and directors are available for students who live on campus, and many staff and faculty members are willing to listen.
As Western's president, Morse should be aware of the preventive resources available to students, and it is her responsibility to make sure we know about them. If she doesn't, then we are left with a climate that will still breed violence on campus. Our police might be able to stop a shooter on campus, but they will not be able to prevent the shooter from wanting to hurt others in the first place. The president needs to recognize this reality and provide students with viable solutions instead of quick fixes.