No campus can be completely safe
Published 9:22 pm Friday, April 20, 2007
As the bloody details of the shootings at Virginia Tech unfold, one can’t help but ask the question: Could the same thing happen down the road at East Carolina University?
It’s a troubling question and the answer is equally so. The answer is: We don’t know.
Steve Ballard, ECU’s chancellor, helped address safety concerns in a release this week. While he promised continued efforts to make the campus as safe as possible, he could not say that such a tragedy is not possible at ECU. Nobody can.
How far should a campus go to prevent such a disaster? Should armed guards be stationed at every entrance to every building? Should we put a policeman inside every classroom? Should every student have to undergo a pat-down search before he or she is allowed on campus?
We would respond in the negative. For the 32 students who were killed Monday, there were over 7 million others who attended class that same day across this nation without incident. Nothing in life is truly safe, and we all face risks each and every day.
In 2003 the Department of Justice did a study that found college students as a whole are less likely to be victims of violence than noncollege students of the same age. Of the 536,000 people who were victims, 492,000 of the cases happened off campus.
There are things that probably can and should be done that would make ECU and other schools safer, and Ballard promised to consider those options.
Colleges should not take on the same atmosphere as prisons, and even if they did, it would not guarantee total safety. Officials should explore what additional measures can be put in place, but should not overreact.