I really don’t know what to say about the tragic events today at Virginia Tech, but Dean Dad’s reaction tracks with mine, by and large.
College campuses are incredibly vulnerable places. They’re open, they’re highly populated, they’re lightly patrolled (if at all), and they’re full of stressed-out people. In a way, they’re almost naive, if it’s possible for institutions to be naive. As I’ve mentioned before, they really aren’t built for easy lockdown modes. Most were built before that term was even coined.
Those awful ‘what if’s’ are always in the back of my mind. One of my committees is the group that tries students accused of plagiarism or other cheating. We set up the room so that we’re closer to the door than the student is, just in case. One of my colleagues has suggested to me, gently but clearly, that it might be a good idea to hide the pictures of my kids that I keep in my office – you just never know. (I haven’t, but I haven’t been able to shake the thought, either.)
Such situations are not unheard of in higher education—the infamous sniper in the tower at UT-Austin from years ago comes immediately to mind—but given the vulnerability of campuses and their tendency to attract some really creepy people (a few people I encountered in my life as a student spring immediately to mind; I haven’t seen it so much as a faculty member), it’s almost surprising stuff like this is as infrequent as it is.