Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 5, 2018 – Norris Hall was the location of the tragedy of April 16, 2007 took place. 30 people lost their lives in the building on that day. Today, the Virginia Tech community works with the Virginia Tech Police Department to keep the campus safe. Photo – Josh Henry
by Josh Henry —
In Blacksburg, Virginia everyone recognizes the pain and horror that so many communities have felt in recent years following shootings on college campuses. It has been almost 11 years since the tragedy of April 16, 2007, and in that time shootings have risen exponentially across the U.S. on college campuses.
From 2011 to 2016, 101 shootings on or near college campuses took place, which was a 153 percent increase from the prior 5 years, according to a study by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. There is no definable reason for the rise in shootings, but no matter the location the effect on the community is the same.
“It felt like there was a shadow over everything after [April 16] happened,” VT graduate Henry Chang said. “There was no way to properly recover. I just remember constantly being sad. It ended up bringing us all together, but it was all incredibly hard to handle.”
Chang, the brother of current VT student Stanley Chang, was a freshman in 2007. Before April 16 he never had a reason to worry about his own security. But afterward, that changed in a hurry.
“It was hard to feel safe going to class,” Chang said. “Of course we all had to keep our normal routine to get away from it all, but like I said there was just this shadow. We all had our guard up.”
After the April 16 tragedy, multiple security changes were made on Virginia Tech’s campus and across the U.S. in an effort to prevent more shootings in the future. According to Virginia Tech Police Chief and Director of Security Kevin Foust, Virginia Tech has doubled up on most security measures.
“We [increased] the number of officers from 24 to 50 [since 2007],” Foust said. “We’ve added more Blue Light emergency phones [both indoors and outdoors]. There are more security cameras, the LiveSafe app, and the Personal Emergency Preparedness joint presentation with [Virginia Tech’s] Office of Emergency Management.”
Changes like this became more common on campuses around the country after the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Some have even been adjustments to things that have already been around for years, like the siren on the University of Texas A&M’s campus.
Nationally, there hasn’t been one discernible solution to the issue of preventing Campus shootings in the United States. Even Foust suggests there is no “correct” way to handle everything, but overall safety starts at the community level.
“Security is a personal responsibility,” Foust said. “I cannot guarantee your safety here on this campus, as I cannot guarantee my own. What we do is educate our community as best we can so that when a crisis occurs, each person can make the best decision based upon the facts and circumstances in front of them at that time. [This] community has embraced personal responsibility and remains very vigilant.”