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My Response to Jack Dunphy

John on April 18, 2007 at 12:13 am

Over at NRO, Jack Dunphy has a piece up titled Misplaced Anger: Blame the killer, not the school’s administrator and police. I noticed it earlier but didn’t have time to respond. Now I have. Here’s the e-mail I sent Mr. Dunphy:

Mr. Dunphy,

I’m a VT alumnus, class of ’90. I disagree completely with you on this issue for several reasons:

  1. The campus had been shut down the previous fall when an escaped convict was on the loose. It could be done.
  2. The last e-mail sent out by Tech told students to remain in their rooms and stay away from windows. In essence, they did shut down the campus only two hours too late.
  3. Cho called a bomb threat in shortly after the first shooting which specifically targeted Norris Hall. Yet the hall was not cleared and neither teachers nor students were notified.
  4. Had an e-mail locking down campus been sent by 7:45 the majority of on-campus students would have stayed in their dorms. Dorm rooms have heavy fire doors which can be locked from the inside, unlike classroom doors which usually have glass. Students locked in rooms would have been far safer from a gunman’s rampage.
  5. Blacksburg is a very small town. Most off campus housing is within 10 minutes drive of campus. Had an e-mail been sent out by 7:30, the majority of off campus students would have had an opportunity to stay home.
  6. Most of the parking for off-campus students is one giant lot on the far side of the academic buildings. A dozen cops could have closed the lot and directed the bulk of arriving students to return home.
  7. Finally, many of the students who survived the attack did so because someone braced the door while they escaped. Even if classes hadn’t been canceled, having awareness of the previous shooting would have made students more wary and alert. As it is, one eyewitness reported that Cho peeked into their room twice before opening fire. Had they been alerted to danger, their reaction would surely have been different.

Parents and students are right to blame President Steger for this failure. He admitted making the decision not to lock down campus. He blew it and he deserves to be fired.

For the record, I’m a fan of NRO in general and Jack Dunphy in particular. There’s nothing personal or political going on here, I just disagree with him in this instance.

I understand the local police were chasing a solid lead in Radford some 20 minutes away. I don’t blame them for not being mind readers. But as I’ve said before, I think President Steger had ample reason to cancel classes and tell students to stay home. In lieu of that, he should have at least informed students of the shooting and told them to be wary. Also, I can’t think of any justification for not at least evacuating Norris hall in the wake of a bomb threat.

I’m angry, but I’m not convinced it’s misplaced.

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