Virginia Tech finger pointing

I started hearing the grumblings yesterday, but today the Monday morning quarterbacking is in full force, and covered here in this WaPo article. Putting aside the question of how we can expect to thoroughly examine a response this close to it, I’m not sure how I see I would have done anything differently if I’d made decisions for the U. Two people in a building are shot and there’s no indication of who did it or why. Lock down the building? Cancel classes? Evacuate the campus? Or just go on with life and assume it was an isolated violent incident – what I think I’d have opted for.

VT’s 26,000 students and a sizable number of employees makes them about 5% of the total population of Washington DC, spread out over 2,300 acres – about 6% of the District’s 39,040, meaning about the same overall density. We don’t typically make announcements and empty apartment buildings – much less several city blocks – when there’s a shooting like the initial one. I’m not sure why most people think it being a campus makes such a difference.

Perhaps my friend Jason is right. When I mentioned this reaction to him he said it seems too soon to know what the right action would have been, and added “I think too much of the reaction is ‘oh crap, this could’ve happened to me.'” Sudden random violence is scary stuff, and nobody wants to think they might face “death at any minute of the day.” If it could have been averted if someone else had just done something differently then that possible nutbag at the next table is a little less scary.

11 Comments so far

  1. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

    The co-optation of the event for political pointscoring is pissing me off, too. Both the pro-gun and anti-gun are already using this horrific atrocity in their political speech while the dead remain unburied. Asshats like Jack Thompson and Dr. Phil are already blaming videogames.

    We can’t protect ourselves from Lunatics with laws or lawyers, with lobbyists or doctors. Guns don’t help either. A Dedicated Lunatic is a force that we can’t ever plan for. All we can do is react and mourn the dead, shake the dust from our feet and remember their death while we live our lives to the fullest.

  2. Don (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

    The old saying is that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I think there’s a corollary – when you have an axe to grind, every event looks like a whetstone.

  3. Joseph J. Finn (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

    I had the same reaction when the TV news here in Chicago was interviewing students at DePaul University; um, hello? DePaul is basically the same as a bunch of office buildings in the city, not a separate campus. It bothered me that the news folks would make that goofy of a comparison (the same could be said for most of the Chicago schools, almost all of which are surrounded by office buildings and aren’t really a separate campus – Loyola being the exception). They’re buildings that have the same safety concerns as any other.

  4. Mik (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

    The gun Nazis are pissing me off, how about we deal with the situation at hand and grieve first, eh?

  5. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

    Amen, Mik, we had nothing but gun advocates and gun opponents on the radio duking it out. Now’s not the time.

  6. Breaux (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

    I think this is a nice sentiment. This Hokie appreciates it. Wonderful analysis of Tech v DC density.

  7. Lisa Hunter (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

    I used to work in the public relations department of a university, and part of my job was disaster planning, in conjunction with the security department.

    We’d do this on a routine basis. We’d create plans of action in the event of a dorm fire, campus shooting, terrorist attack, escape of a biological weapon from a laboratory, and more. Almost every scenario involved closing the university and getting the word out to students, faculty and staff ASAP (a plan we used on 9/11 by the way). I went to conferences with administrators from dozens of other universities to talk about exactly the type of thing that happened yesterday.

    The idea that the Virginia Tech administrators made up a plan on the fly is staggering to me. Absolutely staggering.

  8. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 11:18 pm

    Good point, Lisa. A responsible organization would have some sort of plan in place and be aware of how to implement it.

    But I agree with Don. To understand the initial reaction by the police, you have to understand the nature of most murders. When I say most, I mean well over 99% of them.

    Most murders are committed against specific people for specific reasons. Once the person is dead, that’s the end of the issue. So for the police to assume that any murder is really just the first step in a chain of senseless killings about to ensue any moment is nonsense.

  9. sa-ra (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 12:31 am


  10. Lisa Hunter (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 11:53 am

    I’m not suggesting the VT administrators could have forseen the killing rampage, but my former university would have closed even for the “domestic” killing they initially suspected. An armed suspect was one the loose. Even if the killing was specific and personal, innocent bystanders could have been hurt or killed in a confrontation with police. My university would have closed for the day until we had more information from the police about their “person of interest.”

    In any other context, a double murder is a pretty big deal for any school.

  11. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm


    They were actively questioning a suspect when the second shooting hit. They went after the wrong lead, but it seems that the first shootings were literally unrelated to anything, and it’s curious why they happened at all, but the ballistics match… it’s strange. Now’s not the time for second guessing.

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