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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    College Massacre Made Possible by Negligence

    An unfortunate fact about human nature is that it relies mostly on learning from its tragic experiences and the blows that it faces from the unpleasant realities of life. We are sometimes incapable of concocting hypothetical situations against which precautionary steps could be taken, until the event has been witnessed by our unbelieving eyes. Several such instances have occurred in human history, and now yet another has been added to the chain of shooting incidents in academic institutions. On Apr. 16, the deadliest college shootings in the history of the U.S. took place at Virginia Polytechnic University. The Virginia Tech massacre consumed the lives of 33 people, including the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, who killed himself in the end.

    Acts as senseless as this have been taking place for a long time, such as the University of Texas shootings in 1966, the California State University shootings in 1976, and the San Diego University shootings in 1996. Why then do we find ourselves witnessing these atrocities over and over again? What is preventing us from protecting the aspiring youth in our academic institutions?

    Background checks carried out during the college admissions process appear to be the foremost and most effective solution for a majority of people. Yet, their efficiency is limited by privacy laws protecting individuals and minors. Parents of victims of the Columbine High School shootings that took place on Apr. 20, 1999, pressed for the release of autopsy reports of the two gunmen who had killed 13 people before killing themselves. But the appeal was partially denied since only one of the gunmen’s autopsy reports was revealed. The parents’ motive was to learn about the psychological problems faced by the shooters, which would give them insight about how to recognize and help other children showing such signs of mental illness.

    College applications nationwide ask for the criminal record of students applying for admission. Some colleges even hire certain private investigation companies to run background checks on students. However, the extensive detailed criminal record of minors is not accessible because they are sealed off by court for a number of years before being made public. Even if the criminal records of students do become known to the colleges, the question of whether these students should be allowed admission is raised. It is a student’s right to be able to carry on his or her education. However, the college should not forget to take precautions and set forth safety procedures, which would prevent enrolled students with criminal records to become a danger to their fellow students. Rejection of student applicants on the basis of their felony record is a violation of their equality rights.

    Students with a history of psychological illness and aggressive demeanor pose just as great a threat to the people around them as do the students with a criminal past. Cho, who had been evaluated by psychiatrists before as being an ‘imminent danger’ to himself, was a loner and an extremely anti-social person. University officials should have kept his psychiatric history in the forefront of their minds because he had been deemed harmful person to himself and others. Cho’s suitemates, with whom he had lived for almost a year, had never been able to strike up conversation with him. When a person becomes so vehemently against communication and interaction, he should be brought to the authorities’ attention so that he can be provided with aid to prevent him from becoming hazardous to the student community. But in Cho’s case, everyone just left him alone, which turned out to have treacherous consequences.

    Another lesson that we have failed to learn from the ongoing school and college killings concerns the issue of security. When it comes to a college campus that is sprawled over hundreds of acres of land, how much security is enough?

    Schools of grade levels K-12 have a better security system than do college campuses. It is an odd system, especially when one considers the fact that college students have higher access to guns because of their legal age compared to high school students. High schools have metal detectors, and yet suburban colleges don’t even have security guards in each, or sometimes any, campus buildings. SBU is an example of one such suburban college where a student rarely gets to see a police officer on patrol.

    A lot can be done to prevent the further massacre of students who possess the potential to become the driving force of our future. Not all policies are easy to establish, especially ones that require breaching the privacy rights of individuals to some degree. But in order to ensure the safety of our students, we have to be able to sacrifice some things. Everything comes at a price, and what remains to be seen is whether we are willing to pay that price or keep watching the innocent students blood shed, students whose lives are cut short in an instant by a nonsensical act of one deranged individual.

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