Duke's response to VaTech tragedy lacking

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Duke's response to VaTech tragedy lacking

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Editorial
Posted: 4/19/07

When news of the Virginia Tech massacre broke Monday, to say that students across the country were on edge is an understatement. The horror and randomness of the event forced students to take a step back and examine their own campuses and ask, "Are we safe?"

And members of the Duke community began to question what the safety and notification protocol would be if something of this magnitude occurred here. Many wondered what, if any, steps Duke was taking to tighten security Monday. Those with friends and family at Virginia Tech asked what resources were available for them here on campus. But answers to these queries were virtually impossible to discern.

President Richard Brodhead released a statement to The Chronicle late Monday night, which was also published on the Duke News website. In the statement, Brodhead expressed his condolences to the Virginia Tech community and announced an interfaith vigil that would be held Tuesday at the Duke Chapel.

But nowhere in the statement was there mention of Duke's own security status. Moreover, while Brodhead said Student Affairs was trying to contact "every student with Virginia Tech connections," there is no way they could identify every student with a "connection." As such, those students with friends or acquaintances at Virginia Tech who the administration did not know about-as well as those simply overwhelmed by the tragedy-were told only that Religious Life staff and the Chapel were available for support. There was no mention of other, non-religious resources, such as augmented, emergency Counseling and Psychological Services, that could benefit all concerned students regardless of religious orientation.

Most troubling, however, was the fact that Brodhead's statement was not sent to the Duke community. It was published in The Chronicle, but no one could read it until Tuesday morning, nearly 24 hours after the massacre occurred. And while technically online, the statement was buried on the Duke News site, which is not a major source of information for most students.

Many schools posted statements on their main websites. Still others, like The George Washington University, sent mass e-mails to students and their families discussing safety protocol.

The Duke administration erred in its response. On a day when colleges and universities across the country stood still, shocked by how suddenly and violently an academic haven much like their own had been violated, Duke was silent. On a day when students and parents, faculty and staff wanted reassurance of their own safety and an assertion that the University stood in support of its ACC counterpart, Duke was largely absent.

This is not to say there was no campus response. Religious organizations did an excellent job coordinating Tuesday's interfaith vigil and several religious groups sent out e-mails to their members offering support. Such organizations, however, only touch a certain percentage of students; the Duke community as a whole was still left mostly in the dark about the University's security and support responses.

As Duke students, we wanted a prompter, more informative, more widely disseminated statement from the administration. In such situations, when our community is questioning its own well-being and mourning the damage done to another school's sense of security and self, we want to hear Duke's leadership loud and clear.

We urge the administration to consider new and better ways to inform the community if it is threatened. And we appreciate Tuesday's interfaith vigil and its visible community power. But we still missed and were puzzled by the lack of a simple, widely available statement of assurance and support.

While we hope that such a statement will not be needed in the future, if it is needed, we look to the administration to stand as a stronger pillar of information, of comfort, and of guidance.

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Original Source: <a href=http://media.www.dukechronicle.com/media/storage/paper884/news/2007/04/19/Editorial/Dukes.Response.To.Vatech.Tragedy.Lacking-2853092.shtml> Duke Chronicle - April 19, 2007</a>

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Editorial Staff

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2007-06-24

Contributor

Sara Hood

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David Graham <david.graham@duke.edu>

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eng

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Editorial Staff, "Duke&#39;s response to VaTech tragedy lacking," in The April 16 Archive, Item #597, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/597 (accessed July 23, 2014).