Virginia shootings hit close to home

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

The Virginia Tech shootings may have happened more than 1,300 miles away, but the events’ effects were still felt at SDSU.

“I don’t know what the reaction was right away, but you could tell The Union seemed a little different in the afternoon,” said Students’ Association President Alex Brown.

In the days after the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history, SDSU joined the nation in mourning the death of 33 people killed on the VT campus in Blacksburg, Va.

“I think it’s really sad and should be a wake-up call to someone,” said Katie Cozine, a psychology junior.

On April 16, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, a senior English major at VT, is believed to have opened fire in two separate attacks, more than two hours apart – first at a dormitory, where two people were killed, then inside a classroom building, where 31 people, including Cho, died. Cho is reported to have taken his own life as authorities closed in. Two handguns – a 9 mm and a .22-caliber – were found in the classroom building.

Students were notified by e-mail of the first shooting as the second was occurring. Classes were cancelled shortly thereafter.

VT school officials and authorities have been criticized for not putting the campus on lockdown after the first incident.

“It seems irresponsible. They should have let people know,” said Camden Helder, a SDSU political science and business economics sophomore.

But Vice President Mike Reger said VT’s administration made the best decision they could with the information they had at the time.

“I think we would do something very similar,” Reger said. “They had a very difficult decision to make. You never know how those situations are going to turn out.”

Reger said SDSU currently has an intact crisis plan, which was updated a few years ago. Although the plan is thorough, it is designed to handle more weather-related emergencies, like tornadoes and blizzards.

“The policy addresses those things that are more likely to occur than a shooting like Virginia Tech has,” he said. “The disaster planning model doesn’t necessarily anticipate mass shooting. We are going to have to look at that.”

SDSU would also probably use a similar avenue to notify students in such an emergency. Reger said Jacks e-mail accounts and local media would be the primary venues to alert students, in addition to a phone tree developed for university staff. He said e-mail was an effective way to alert students of cancelled classes during March’s snowstorm.

Brown admits the Jacks e-mail may not be the most effective notification because not all students use those accounts. He hopes the VT incident will improve SDSU’s notification system as well promote the use of school e-mail accounts.

“Maybe it will awaken students that school e-mail is not junk – it is a way to communicate,” he said. “I hope it encourages (students) to stay a little more informed in a situation like this.”

The VT incident will also force SDSU, and society, to look at social problems, such as the pressure to succeed, said Meredith Redlin, a SDSU sociology professor. She said students today are more focused on finding a job than actually obtaining an education and enjoying the college experience.

“It’s stunning, kind of, to realize the pressure within a system when these pressures seem to be more extreme than at previous times,” she said. “There has been a transformation in our society so that we are more outcome-focused, that’s where pressure comes in. It doesn’t allow you to learn. It doesn’t allow you to make a mistake.”

Although Brown doesn’t know of any current efforts, he suspects student organizations and groups will want to show their support for the VT community.

One student posted a note on Facebook about a virgil April 18 at 9 p.m. behind Hansen Hall, but nothing official has been planned.

#1.883517:357783026.jpg:virginiatechposter.jn.jpg:A sign hangs inside of The Union reminding students of the recent school shooting that took 33 lives at Virginia Tech.: