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Campus (In)Security

Posted on Thursday, November 27th, 2008 at 11:31 am    

Yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech demonstrate just how unprepared most college campuses are for rampaging lunatics. Perhaps more troubling is that despite other “red flag” incidents, Virginia Tech appears to have been unprepared to deal with an emergent situation.

Campus violence is nothing new. In 1987, Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room on the campus of Lehigh University. This is but one of any number of sad stories that play out all too regularly on college campuses, but this time, somebody took action. Jeanne Clery’s parents formed Security on Campus, Inc. in response to their daughter’s death. That organization has devised an in-depth campus safety audit questionnaire, which should minimally be a starting point in achieving proper campus security.

The Virginia Tech shootings uncovered a wound at the University of Iowa, which had endured a multi-fatality campus shooting in November 1991. At the time, campus police said they were “totally unprepared” for such an emergency. Unfortunately, not much appears to have changed despite this and lessons such as Columbine.

No doubt there are measures that could have and should have been taken at Virginia Tech that could have helped avert this disaster. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for American colleges, for if a sole gunman can wreak this measure of havoc, what might an organized terrorist group be able to accomplish?

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