Danger in Higher Education

This should not be among students’ school supplies (courtesy of Jupiter Images)

When most people think of colleges and universities, the same images normally come to mind: classes, professors, athletic events, clubs, organizations, social gatherings, graduation, diplomas… the usual.

These days, however, there are some other images creeping into this picture: guns and violent behavior. And yesterday, these images were reinforced even further.

As sad as I am to report on my home, the Carolinas, I’m afraid we made national news recently because of a shooting on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

According to the latest reports, an unidentified suspect shot and killed a student in one of the residence halls on Tuesday. The victim was Anthony Darnell Liddell, a 19-year-old from Bennettsville. Following the shooting, the suspect fled and police are still searching for him now. As a result, the school remains on lock down.

Since I work on a small college campus, stories like this always attract my attention because honestly, the same thing could happen here almost any time. No matter how much security you have in place, how well you treat the people around you or how safe you think you are, the fact is that a disgruntled or unstable individual could snap at any time and start “popping caps” into everyone he sees.

I use the pronoun “he” because in most cases, school shooters are male. Heaven forbid that women start reacting violently because life in higher education could be much, much worse.

Just for the record, here are some of the most notable examples of gun violence on college campuses in recent years. They are all cause for concern and taken together, it seems as if a destructive pattern is forming that could jeopardize everything for which higher education stands.

OCTOBER 2002: Robert Flores Jr., a 41-year-old student at the University of Arizona’s nursing school, shot and killed three female professors, followed by himself.

SEPTEMBER 2006: Kimveer Gill, a 25-year-old student at Dawson College, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, killing one students and injuring a dozen others, faculty included. Obviously, Gill then turned the gun on himself, which is par-for-the-course in most of these incidents.

The Virginia Tech shooter (courtesy of Reuters)

APRIL 2007: This is the shooting that brought national attention to the issue of gun violence on college and university campuses. I am of course referring to the massacre at Virginia Tech University. 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui murdered two people in his dorm and then went on a killing spree that ended with 33 dead and 15 wounded. The final fatality was, of course, Seung-Hui himself.

SEPTEMBER 2007: Loyer Brandon, a freshman at Delaware State University, shot and wounded several of his fellow freshmen but fortunately, no one was killed. Brandon was charged with attempted murder, assault, a gun violation and reckless endangerment. And this is one of the happy endings.

FEBRUARY 2008: Nursing programs must be stressful because in this example, a nursing student at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge shot and killed two women and then herself. Perhaps anger and stress management courses should be added to nursing curriculums.

FEBRUARY 2008: This was a bad month for college shootings. After the killings in Louisiana, 5 students perished and another 17 were wounded at Northern Illinois University when Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire in a classroom. Kazmierczak was a former graduate student at the university.

FEBRUARY 2010: Amy Bishop, a biology professor in Huntsville, Alabama, was denied tenure a year earlier and responded by shooting her colleagues. Three professors were killed and another three were injured in her attack. I guess denying her tenure was the right decision, huh?

MARCH 2010: An employee at Ohio State University received an unsatisfactory job evaluation and reacted by killing two fellow employees and wounding another. And yes, his weapon of choice was a handgun.

Amy Bishop from Alabama University (courtesy of ABC News)

MAY 2011: Three people were killed in a parking garage at San Jose State University, including two former students and the gunman, who died at the hospital later that day.

DECEMBER 2011: Poor Virginia Tech. During this incident, a 22-year-old student from Radford University shot and killed a police office on the VTU campus. Like the San Jose killing, this also occurred in a parking area on campus.

APRIL 2012: A 43-year-old former student at Oikos University in California, a Christian institution populated primarily by Koreans and Korean-Americans, opened fire on campus and killed seven people, wounding a handful of others.

When you consider these shootings in higher education and then include all the gun violence in elementary schools and such, one thing becomes very clear: even educational institutions are not safe from violent people and violent behavior.

In fact, I would argue that no one is ever safe in this country. Even innocent people trying to enjoy a new Batman film have been massacred by an unstable and violent individual.

You just never know.

I think what bothers me the most about all these shootings on college campuses is that I view institutions of higher learning the same way others view churches: as sacred places that provide opportunities for self-exploration, personal growth and development. People like me may be among the minority now, I’m sad to say. And we’re a dying breed.

Literally.

It’s time to stop the violence, people. And instead of picking up a gun every time you have a problem, I suggest taking a more mature and responsible approach: deal with it. We all have problems. The difference is that most of us tackle them without resorting to murder and suicide.

Feel free to join us.

Posted on February 27, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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