Oberlin Mourns Virginia Tech Victims
During a three-hour period Monday morning, a lone gunman killed 32 individuals on Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s campus in Blacksburg, VA, making this America’s deadliest shooting spree to date. In the wake of these events, Oberlin students and staff have responded with condolences, memorials and questions about the school’s ability to respond to similar emergencies.
On Tuesday, Dean of Students Linda Gates posted her condolences on Oberlin’s Oncampus website: “Our thoughts are very much with the members of the Virginia Tech campus community, the town of Blacksburg and all who have been touched by the tragic events on that campus this morning,” she wrote.
Later that evening, Student Senate hosted a candlelight vigil for the Virginia Tech community in front of Wilder. In addition, Senate will be drafting a letter of condolence to send to the Student Government organization at Virginia Tech.
On Thursday, the College placed a banner in Stevenson for students to sign. The banner will be sent to Virginia Tech next week.
College junior Nancy Nguyen, a student senator who helped organize the vigil, said, “After hearing about [Monday’s] tragedy at VT, Student Senate wanted to organize an event to allow Oberlin students to give their own condolences and sympathy to the victims, families and friends at VT.
“We wanted to offer a way for students to mourn and reflect on the recent tragedies,” Nguyen continued, “especially since many who attended tonight were affected by either this event or a [similar] event.”
Alluding to the South Korean ethnicity of the Virginia Tech shooter, student senator and College junior Colin Jones warned against allowing the events to create divisions in the campus community.
“As we mourn, we have to be vigilant that the actions of this man do not lead to profiling or division since they don’t reflect the behavior of South Koreans or any other immigrant groups,” Colin Jones said. “We have to see all the chain of thoughts that led to this event and where people could have stepped in to prevent it from reaching that stage.”
Nguyen added, “The shooting is obviously a significant issue for Oberlin, as we are a college town and a great majority of the town is made up of students.”
Director of Safety and Security Robert Jones agreed that the Virginia Tech shooting raises significant issues for Oberlin. According to Jones, if a serious emergency situation were to occur on Oberlin’s campus, his office would defer to the police department.
“[Oberlin] Safety and Security does not have police powers nor do they carry weapons,” Jones said. “This type of incident is considered a felony and therefore we would immediately contact the Oberlin Police Department. They in return would respond, make an assessment of the incident and [we] would go from that point.”
“Their first goal would be to neutralize that person. If that could not be done in a short time period then we would start developing plans for securing the surrounding buildings and securing that area,” he continued.
He also added that Oberlin has been monitoring the developments in the Virginia Tech case and examining whether there are lessons to be learned: “We’re looking at all the causative factors: what happened, why did it happen, who were the players, what went right, what went wrong to see if that would have an impact on our policies here.”