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Shedding light on a tragedy
More than 200 Quinnipiac students huddled together on the quad last Tuesday to remember the 33 Virginia Tech students and teachers who were killed in shootings on their campus the day before. Amid rainfall, Quinnipiac students lit candles and wore maroon and orange ribbons to remember the deceased and to show solidarity with the Virginia Tech community.
The vigil was coordinated solely by students.
Students struggled to come to terms with the incident.
“Initially, my reaction was shock. I couldn’t think something like that could happen on a college campus,” said Olivia Thayer, a sophomore physical therapy major. “This is our home.”
Christa Barr, one of the organizers of the vigil, echoed a similar sentiment.
“It was disbelief at first. I didn’t want to believe it. It hit so close to home; it could happen anywhere,” said Barr, a sophomore physical therapy major.
The deadliest school shooting in American history was committed by a lone gunman on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. on April 16. The day will now be associated with horror, shock and sadness. Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old English major from Centreville, Va., shot and killed 27 students and five professors before taking his own life, federal authorities have said.
The shootings are having an impact throughout American society, said Eric Bronson, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at Quinnipiac.
“The aftermath of Monday’s events will affect college campuses throughout the United States and all of society. Administrative policies, campus security/police procedures, student life and gun control policies will be scrutinized,” Bronson said. One question among Quinnipiac students is how the shootings will impact the openness of American society.
“As an overall society, I don’t think what happened will impact it as much . but I think you are going to see an impact on college campuses,” Thayer said. “But it is hard to gauge what Quinnipiac is going to do about it. We are a tighter campus than Virginia Tech.”
Students stressed the importance of fostering a more inclusive environment. “I don’t think there’s anything that could’ve been done to prevent it. It’s not like airport security. It’s a difficult situation. People just need to be compassionate if you see someone that needs help,” Barr said.
Students initially heard of the shooting by watching the news, finding articles online, or by word of mouth.
“My mom actually called me. You just sit there with your mouth hanging open. It’s an overwhelming sadness,” sophomore biology major Lindsey Maglio said.
The American flag was lowered to half staff on the quad of campus in recognition of a national mourning. The vigil brought the Quinnipiac community together to grieve and offered some comfort in a time of sorrow.
“I don’t know if there is anyone or anything to place the blame on,” Barr said. “I’m sure a lot of students feel isolated. On our campus it is a really big issue academically and socially. I think we need to try to be friends with people who aren’t socially active.”
She continued: “It might teach us to keep our eyes open. If you see someone is hurting or alone. talk to them. I think we need to take a more proactive step. We need to raise awareness by coming up with ways to prevent it. People need to become more compassionate. it could change the world.”
The media coverage of the Blacksburg campus is a point of debate among students and professors at Quinnipiac.
“I think they are doing a good job. It has helped a lot of families get information. The one complaint I have is the pictures they showed yesterday of the bloody bodies being carried out of the building. They were too graphic,” Thayer said.
“I was kind of unhappy that they showed cell phone videos. People were dying,” Barr said. “But I thought the convocation was a good thing to show on TV. It was a positive thing.”
The United States has more murders involving guns than any other industrialized nation. About 50 teenagers are killed by guns each week in the United States. In Scotland, there were eight murders involving guns last year.
“I think it has to do with people. We are distancing ourselves from people emotionally,” said Thayer. “That leads to the build-up of hate. That is what I think other countries don’t have.”
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution grants the right of the people to keep and bear arms. “I think people definitely should have the right to bear arms. I do not think it should be abused. I don’t think you should be allowed to have a gun on a college campus,” Thayer said.
Some students advocate for tougher gun laws.
“They need to throw red flags up about people that have key signs that something is wrong. Like if you’re on depression pills. I think you should have to go through an extensive check to buy a gun,” Maglio said. “Nothing is going to stop something like that from happening, though. I think we need to start caring about each other and about the world altogether.”
Another relevant issue in the wake of the shootings pertains to universities’ interactions to students with emotional and psychological needs.
“I definitely feel that counseling here on campus could be improved,” Thayer said. “I have a friend who was greatly disturbed by this event and had no one to talk to. Much of the administration does not realize that this is our ‘home’. They view it as our ‘school’ and they don’t truly understand the need for such things.”
Barr wishes the university would increase the scope of its counseling services. “I know the counseling center is only open during normal business hours and there is a limited number of times one may speak to a counselor on campus before they are referred off campus, which I think is ridiculous,” Barr said. She continued: “Our school is not so warm and fuzzy, even though this is a successful academic institution. I feel like more attention needs to be paid to the students who live on campus and are in need of help, not just academically, but emotionally and spiritually.”
Students set up a table in the hallway of the student center where they sold the maroon and orange ribbons to raise money in support of Virginia Tech.
“I think right now students are doing a great job,” Thayer said. “. I think the administration needs to recognize the students’ response.”
Maglio hopes that people will make a concerted effort to connect with each other in a more fundamental way in order to prevent such a tragedy.
“The major thing is people being aware of others. You don’t want a campus with metal detectors. . Security couldn’t have done anything more,” Maglio said. “I think the biggest thing that students need to learn is how to reach out to people. [The whole tragedy] makes you take a step back and evaluate your own life and your own decisions.”