I have just finished reading Vincent Bove’s book, Listen to Their Cries, and I am impressed. The author comes through as a decent man, deeply worried about the flaws in American society—especially the flaws evident in the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech.
Some of the words regarding the Tech tragedy are well worth repeating in this blog:
“How is it conceivable that two people are killed on a college campus during the week of the anniversary of Columbine and the killer is at large and (a) lockdown is not immediately called for? Even if it were determined that the first two killings could not have been prevented because of the complexities and confusion surrounding mental health and privacy issues, it is inexcusable that nothing was done to prevent the 30 killings and multiple injuries that occurred two hours later.” (page 80)
“The (Virginia Tech) policy group owes the public a full accounting of their discussions regarding the delay in sending notification and their decision not to immediately lockdown the campus.” (page 81)
“It is unfortunate that at a time when the focus and priority should have been on meeting the needs of the families of those who have died and on the injured victims and their families, university leadership went on a damage control mode and displayed a lack of empathy toward the victims and their families.” (page 81)
“A website in support of President Charles Steger and Police Chief Wendell Flinchum (www.wesupportvt.com) was created within THREE DAYS of the tragedy while the Office of Recovery and Support website (www.recovery.vt.com) for the victims and their families took FOUR MONTHS to get online.” (page 83)
“It is also interesting to note that the university felt it necessary to hire Burson-Marsteller, by some accounts the fifth largest public relations firm IN THE WORLD, to handle communications related to (the) April 16th tragedy. … The engagement of this public relations behemoth must be at a significant cost to the university, since they would not release the details of the contract. Wouldn’t this money be better spent on enhancing safety, security, and recovery activities on campus?” (page 83)
The sections I have quoted are just the highlights of Vincent Bove’s references to Virginia Tech. His book contains broader pointers for campus safety. Indeed, every parent considering sending a son or daughter to an institution of higher learning in Virginia should read Bove’s suggestions on campus security. Parents should grill campus officials and demand to know what security measures are in place.
The sad truth is that while progress has been made in Virginia, our schools are still woefully lacking in the security training, systems, and leadership to make them safe.
All three of our sons attended college and university in Virginia. They got excellent educations. However, if I had known then, what I know now about the poor state of campus security in Virginia I would have sent them elsewhere. I would gladly pay the out-of-state fees to send my children to a school that ranks campus security as a number one priority.
If you are reading this and your son or daughter is considering a Virginia school, think twice. Check the school’s security and safety policy and if not satisfied, tell the school’s administration and admissions departments why you will not allow your child to enroll at that particular college or university; that you will look for another school. If every parent would do that, it will eventually force university and college officials to give campus safety the highest of priorities.
Listen to Vincent Bove. I was particularly struck by his section on Citizens of Character (page 163). I could not help but think that his words apply to many of the people who were in positions of authority at Virginia Tech University on April 16, 2007; especially the quote from President Theodore Roosevelt: “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”