Thursday, April 19, 2007

A shaken academia

American universities have always been seen by the public as safe havens of free speech and tolerance. At times, expression within campus is somewhat dissonant from that outside of the university to the extent that townspeople at times don't get what the fuss is all about. Universities are not immune to senseless violence. The deadly shooting of 32 students and their professors at Virginia Tech has completely shaken every campus and town across the nation, if not all over the world.

Students have been shot dead on campus such as what happened at Kent State in Ohio at the height of the Vietnam War protest. The fact that this happened on a college campus and not on a city street is what shocked America.

Now everyone needs to take a close look at what really went wrong in the mind of 23 year old English major Cho Seung-Hui. While the gun control debate is expected to flare up, I hope the debate goes beyond guns. Issues like student safety on campus is of highest importance. How will universities and colleges deal with "troubled" students before they can commit a heinous crime?

Here at LSU, students are subdued. Since examination week is just two weeks away, this is the last time that fraternities and sororities can have socials and other activities before students hit the books and live in the library warrens. Many organizations have canceled their activities out of respect. A candlelight vigil is scheduled on Thursday. Each and every US university and college from the biggest universities and ivy league colleges to the smallest community college will have one in the following days.

The Chancellor sent an all points bulletin to all university constituents about the tragedy and what the university is doing to improve safety and security. He also reminded that LSU is a no guns zone and state law considers carrying guns in a school a major felony. He also directed the student health services to provide mental health services to those affected by the tragedy

My semester as a visiting professor in the USA is nearing its end. It really saddens me that my stint here would be capped by this tragic event. I believed something died in me. I'll attend the candlelight vigil on the Parade Ground on Thursday.

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