May 25, 2010

Spring 2007: Virginia Tech Massacre Shocks America

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On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior English major at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., opened fire in two separate on-campus attacks, killing 32 people before turning the gun on himself. The shootings garnered nat­io­nal atten­tion, both for the scope of the violence and the venue in which it took place. In response to the events at Virginia Tech, Cornell officials established several new procedures to enhance on-campus safety and guard against a similar attack. Cornell also organized discussion panels and vigils across campus, where all members of the community could gather to remember the victims of Virginia Tech and talk about their reactions to the tragedy. Less than two weeks after the shootings, Cornellians gathered in Goldwin Smith to share their thoughts on on-campus violence, and on the kind of depression that led Cho to murder his classmates.  “Every time something happens [response and prevention] plans are reevaluated,” said George Sutfin, head of crime prevention for the Cornell Police.Sutfin told the audience that Cornell is now in the process of making a contract with a company that alerts everyone on campus of emergencies by text message.“If something happens at an elementary school, it’s easy to shut down, but Cornell is a small city, and it’s very hard to shut down the entire campus. Studies show that 90 percent of students have cell phones, so [the new plan will] send texts to everyone in a circumference,” Sutfin said.In a discussion on depression, Ray Kim, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there is added pressure in a university setting, which often drives people to need help. He said University policy forbids the administration from telling parents when their students show signs of problems unless the student provides consent, and Gannett and Cayuga Medical cannot tell the administration when students need help. This means that a lot of responsibility for reaching out to those in trouble rests in the hands of students.

Original Author: Sun Staff