The Academic Blogosphere Responds to Virginia Tech

BlogHer Original Post

Needless to say, our fearless faculty and grad students have been profoundly shaken by today's events at Virginia Tech. We're angry and sad and anxious and talking, talking, talking about how we feel in the end there's not much we can do. What follows is but a small sample of the indignation, grief, and confusion.

Lisa of The Paper Chase, who teaches at Virginia Teach, speaks up:

And now it all begins. The demagogues. The shootings were all so preventable. Yah, sure.

I'm sick of reading it, and I'm sick of hearing it.Before I can even find out if my friends are ok, my eyes are assaulted with scapegoating and fingerpointing.

These people don't know what they are talking about. We have very little information, and I wish to hell all the damn know-alls would shut it until we have some information. There will be plenty of time for deconstruction and "learning lessons about security"...when the funerals are over. The press is acting like nobody did anything, and that's just not true.

I had enough information to cancel my class prior to the second shooting and I did. The message from the university was clear: stay off campus, and if you are on it, stay away from doors and windows.

This is a trajedy. This is not an opportunity to try to demonstrate you are smarter than the people who made decisions here. If this was so easy to prevent, and if this was all so obvious, and if you have all the answers, then where the fuck were you this morning?

Geeky Mom is pissed, as are many of us, at the media's errant hypothesizing and their beating the same old horses:

the media pundits are blaming video games and horror movies. I'm watching MSNBC right now and Scarborough has been trying to cut off the one guy who is pro gun control. I'm not sure that we can ascribe any one "cause" to such tragedies. Okay, now Dr. Phil on Larry King is blaming video games and the movies. Gah.

Peripatetic Polar Bear speaks from her experience as an administrator and a chaplain:

They did all that they could do with all the information they had, which wasn't enough. Thirty people weren't killed because the administration was inept or slow. They were killed because someone killed them.

PPB also reflects on the difficulty administrators face in ensuring the safety of students who, on the cusp of adulthood, still exhibit adolescent tendencies:

As events unfolded today at Virginia Tech, I--probably along with every other college administrator in the country--held my breath, and wondered--what if it had been here? What if it had been my college when I was Dean of Students? What on earth are they thinking? How on earth are they finding the emotional resolve to get through this? I was Dean of Students when a student was shot on my campus. I have been chaplain when students have suddenly, inexplicably died on the basketball court, and when they have collided with a tractor-trailor, while biking home from class. I was a res hall director when a student barricaded himself and his girlfriend in her dorm room, threatening to kill both of them if she wouldn't agree to marry him. I certainly have not had anything on the scale of what happened today, but really, it could happen at any time. Any time. And we know it. Someone else's kids---old enough to vote and fight but not old enough to drink or pay their own way---are on our property and under our imperfect watch. They're adults to the outside world, and we can't tell them what to do. But try telling their parents that they are adults. Try telling the grieving mother that her 18.5 year old, cheeks still fuzzy with baby fat, is an adult, and that's why you couldn't call her when he became so drunk he ran his bike into a tree mere hours before finding a butcher knife and his girlfriend. I dare say that in the eyes of many parents they are still kids when they are in college. Bigger kids, but kids.

In a post titled "because it's mine," phd me writes,

That's the best way I know to explain my heartache over today's news. I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of loss when the high school shootings were making the news, too. I can't help but take these awful events to heart - because they're happening in my home, as it were.

I take it personally when schools and universities find themselves in this maelstrom of violence. I can't help but feel that someone has invaded my classroom, threatened my students, destroyed my sense of security. I wonder what this means for me - as a teacher in the past, as a professor now: will it change the way we operate? will it alter the way we think? will it have no affect at all?

And thus it goes. Let's remember that compared to many people, as faculty we do have some little bit of power, however transient, over young people's lives, some little bit of persuasion we can work on their minds. And we need to use it, to recover from our grief and shock and go forward in the light of everything we know and everything our students need to know.

Leslie Madsen-Brooks, a recovering academic and an fledgling academic technologist, blogs at The Clutter Museum and Museum Blogging. She comments here on today's events at Virginia Tech.

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