Since first hearing about the incident at Virginia Tech, I have been ruminating over what has been said and discussed in the media and with those around me. I have been very hesitant to make any comments on this issue, for sake of causing arguments about things that cannot be changed, but with everything being said on campus and in the news, I feel the need to put an alternate view out there.While I understand the pain and loss that everyone is feeling right now and my thoughts are with the entire VT community, I feel that during these kinds of events people tend to forget many of the real issues at hand and want to one, blame, blame, blame and two, find out every deep dark secret and nuisance of the person who caused it. In my opinion, both of these are not beneficial to anyone involved or the community at large and tend to make things worse.
Blaming the University is ridiculous. There is no way any school, no matter how prepared, could respond to an incident like this in a perfect way. The VT community did the best they could. Securing a campus this large, informing so many students and locking down the number of buildings they have is not an easy task. The media has been very quick to harshly question the University and place the majority of the blame on the University and the president and police, in particular. It is my belief that if someone is set on doing something to this extent, they will find a way to do it, no matter how prepared or secure we think we are.
What the time right now should be used for is remembering those who have been lost and comforting those who are injured or suffering. The blame game is doing no good in helping anyone heal. Sufficient healing time is necessary before trying to make changes and discuss areas that could have had more preparation. Give the students and families some time to grieve. Give the president and school administration time to grieve. I guarantee this is overwhelming enough for them without being blamed for it or being questioned about every single decision made throughout the incident. They did the best they could for what they were prepared for. I know I would never have been able to handle this type of incident. Yes, schools need to look at this incident and try to improve, but pointing fingers will not accomplish anything. Careful assessment and planning will.
My second concern is the way in which Cho is being picked apart and presented as a “psycho” in the media. People want answers; and there probably were many psychological and developmental issues in his life that predisposed him to commit this crime. However, painting a picture of the “school shooter type” will only serve to encourage stereotyping and discrimination like we saw with “goth”/trenchcoat-wearing students after Columbine and Middle Eastern people after 9-11. People believe there is a “type” that can be spotted before something like this happens, but in reality, there is no type and there are huge numbers of students exhibiting these “warning signs” and such a small number are resorting to violence. Heck, I exhibited a number of the supposed warning signs in high school and during my first years of college. I’m sure all of us know of at least one “weird” kid who could fall into this category. In fact, a study by the FBI looked at all the school shooters. They were not able to come up with a ‘type’ or any sort of comprehensive profile for those involved in school shootings over the years. I am really concerned by the fact that this student is being placed into a box as the “Korean student”, psycho, deviant, etc. Yes, he definitely had some issues, but just having issues does not make you a psycho (in fact I abhor that word unless referring to horror films). I am really concerned for Asian students all over the country, especially those who are quiet or may be picked apart to exhibit warning signs. The majority of school shooters have been white, yet Columbine headlines did not read “white students identified as school shooters.” So, why is his race so important in this case. If the student had been African American, I highly doubt headlines would have read, “Black student kills 30 in school shooting.” People would be outraged. The media and most Americans are speculating about his family and upbringing when biology and medications could be responsible for setting him off (as a counseling major, I initially thought about some of the adverse affects of certain anti-depressants in the adolescent population).
I also feel this situation brings up a lot of issues that have to be looked at, such as residence hall security, student awareness of their surroundings (we are not in a bubble) and the mental health issues many college students are coming to campuses with. These are all huge issues that need to be discussed at some point. Nothing can be done to change what happened. We all realize that. We need to use this mourning time to come together as a nation, as the VT community has. Support needs to be offered to the VT administration, not questioning and speculation. Support needs to be offered to Cho’s family, and our main concern should be for all students and their mental well being.
We probably lose 30+ military personnel and civilians each week in the Middle East. Iraq and other countries are losing that many innocent people daily in the conflict. I do not want to argue about the war and whether it is right or wrong, just think about it. We mourn the loss of these students, and we should, yet, because those killed in the Middle East are not in a school setting, Americans or believe what we do, they are not mourned. Who decides which lives are more important than others? Should we also not be mourning the loss of Cho in addition to the other students and faculty who were lost? I’m sure his family and friends are. A life lost prematurely, whether by cancer, a car accident, suicide, or being shot is still a life lost and should be thought of as such.
-Natalie Shaak (Staff Writer)