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UNCP reacts to Virginia Tech tragedy

By Amanda Hickey, News Editor and
Adam Fenwick, Around the Campus Editor

Upon hearing about the shooting on the Virginia Tech campus that cost at least 33 students their lives, many students at UNCP had one common concern: could this happen here, and if it did, was there a plan to keep them safe?
           
“Our officers would respond immediately to a situation like the terrible incident that occurred at Virginia Tech. But, even those police departments at larger schools, or towns, are not equipped to handle a situation such as this without assistance from outside agencies,” Chief of Police David L. Helton said.

“First response from the UNCP police department would be to secure the scene and provide emergency medical assistance for those who are injured, and apprehend the person responsible. A number of things would be happening all at the same time, i.e. calling for assistance from outside law enforcement agencies (SBI, RCSO, and Pembroke); calling in off-duty officers to supplement shift coverage; requesting emergency medical assistance from Pembroke Rescue and Robeson EMS," continued Helton.

However, Helton is sure that the officers of the UNCP department of police and public safety are prepared.

“The men and women in this department are well trained professionals, and they would meet the immediate challenge just as those officers did at Virginia Tech. But the effects of such a tragedy would devastate a college community forever,” Helton said.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Diane Jones said that she thinks UNCP is a safe campus.

“I think we do have one of the safest campuses and we use every precaution to make sure the people who come on campus should be here… The unfortunate thing is that this could happen anywhere and we are doing everything we can to try and avoid this,” Jones said.

“Since the incident in Wilmington I think every campus has needed to talk about putting safeguards in place.  We are in the process of getting safeguards such as panic buttons installed on campus,” Jones continued.

Although there isn’t a plan for what would happen in the case of a school shooting, the counseling and testing center is well trained to deal with traumatic experiences.

The Counseling and Testing Center encourages individuals to talk to them openly, or in groups and meetings to make them available for all of UNCP, according to counselor Ellen Gooch.

“The important thing is to make the students and faculty understand the support that they have,” Ellen Gooch said.

The Counseling and Testing Center always sets up and make services available; when Travis [Stockley] died they came back to campus.

They made themselves known and available to students, according to Gooch.

Members of the UNCP family have ties to the Blacksburg, V.A. area.

Dr. Anita Guynn, assistant professor in the English department and interim director of the University Writing Center, grew up just outside Blacksburg and attended Blacksburg High School and Virginia Tech for both undergraduate and master’s degrees.

“You know in the back of your mind that violence can happen anywhere, but you’re still shocked when it does,” she said.

Dr. Guynn recognized different areas of the campus as they appeared on television after the shootings.

“I’ve been to that place,” she said. “I’ve played Frisbee on that lawn.”

Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger addressed the public at 12:10 p.m. 
“The university is shocked and horrified that this would befall our campus. I want to extend my deepest, sincerest and most profound sympathies to the families of these victims which include students,” he said.  “I cannot begin to covey my own personal sense of loss over this senselessness of such an incomprehensible and heinous act.  The university will immediately set up counseling centers.”

“At about 7:15 a.m. this morning a 911 call came to the University Police Department concerning an event in West Ambler Johnston Hall.

There were multiple shooting victims. While in the process of investigating, about two hours later the university received reports of a shooting in Norris Hall,” Steger said.

Classes were cancelled immediately for Virginia Tech students on Tuesday, though the University will open at 8 a.m. The University will be holding convocation at Cassell Coliseum at 2 p.m.

Student Response

“This is just another tragedy for our society and our generation to see and deal with.  What’s happening now, with the multiple school shootings, terrorist attacks and increase in violence worldwide, is what our children will be reading about in history books. What happened today is unforgivable.  There’s an obvious problem that needs immediate attention.  So far, all of these problems, have happened in other places, other cities, other schools.  It’s only a matter of time before a tragedy strikes at home and we’re the ones on the T.V. and people are watching us and not the other way around, which we’re so accustomed to,” Lauren Allen, a UNCP Junior from Clayton, said.

Junior Deanna Rooths is worried about friends who attend Virginia Tech.
“This news is shocking and crazy to hear.  I’m from Virginia and have several friends that attend the university.  I’m really worried and concerned that friends of mine may have been injured and killed,” she said.

David McGee has a friend whose brother was involved in cleaning up around the Virginia Tech campus.
“The fact that the individual was able to achieve such a high number of fatalities, in two locations with such a large amount of time between incidents is deplorable.  It is very unfortunate that so many were hurt and killed.  A friend of mine has a brother at Virginia Tech who has been cleaning up today and is personally involved,” said McGee.

Junior Daniel Armstrong is from Virginia and was surprised by the events of the day.
“My feelings on this are of shock and awe.  It surprises me that this could actually happen again…a school shooting.  Being from Virginia I am surprised that it could happen in such a relaxed area.  I think security will be supervised and upgraded, not just in UNCP, but around the country,” Armstrong said.

SGA President elect Dwight B. Humphrey sends his condolences to the victims and their families.
“I send my heart felt condolences to the families who had to suffer through this tragedy.  This was truly a horrific event.  I feel that this has opened student’s eyes on how we can never be too safe.  We need to preserve and keep living every day to its fullest.  Students will be able to contact me through email at dbh003@uncp.edu,” Humphrey said.

UNCP will be offering students a chance to voice their concerns.

“In light of today's tragedy at Virginia Tech, the UNCP Counseling Center would like to offer to all students, faculty and staff its support and services.  The center, along with campus police, will conduct a forum tomorrow, April 17th, 2007, at 12:00 noon in the James B. Chavis University Center, Room 213, to discuss campus safety and to provide an opportunity to share our grief for the tragic loss of life suffered by Virginia Tech’s university community,” read an e-mail sent by Director of Counseling Monica Osburn over the UNCP listserv.

Students have been asked to wear Virginia Tech's colors, maroon and orange, on Friday to show their support for those affected by this tragedy.

Editor Carol Franch, Senior Staff Writer Lesley Covington, Executive Editor Scott Ammons also contributed to this story.

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Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2007
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