By now you've probably heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech today – 21 dead at this point. Incredibly, the shootings apparently took place over two hours. It's still early, though, and sometimes the facts take some time to establish.
Stories like this rip my heart out, both as a dean and as a parent. My condolences to the students, parents, staff, and community.
College campuses are incredibly vulnerable places. They're open, they're highly populated, they're lightly patrolled (if at all), and they're full of stressed-out people. In a way, they're almost naive, if it's possible for institutions to be naive. As I've mentioned before, they really aren't built for easy lockdown modes. Most were built before that term was even coined.
Those awful 'what if's' are always in the back of my mind. One of my committees is the group that tries students accused of plagiarism or other cheating. We set up the room so that we're closer to the door than the student is, just in case. One of my colleagues has suggested to me, gently but clearly, that it might be a good idea to hide the pictures of my kids that I keep in my office – you just never know. (I haven't, but I haven't been able to shake the thought, either.)
I don't have a neat conclusion to this one. Sometimes, there are no words.