The Virginia Tech shootings were a huge tragedy.
Like many tragedies, afterwards, many tried to put together cause and effect in a way that 1) makes the extraordinary understandable (justifying blame) and 2) can prescribe the necessary preventative so that it doesn’t happen again.
The fear of blame leads to focus, focus leads to plans, and plans lead to money.
The process is normal and irrational. This type of tragedy is overwhelming and emotionally powerful precisely because it is rare.
It doesn’t make sense to prioritize our spending on the rare and sensational over the commonplace and more statistically dangerous, but we do it any way. We waste tremendous amounts of time and money worrying about terrorism when we should worry about driving and heart disease.
With the help of the news, and “security consultants”, schools are under “pressure” to do something to prevent another Virginia Tech.
The “low hanging fruit” in the conversation seems to have gelled into “emergency text messaging.” The thinking, mostly by the media, goes – if only Virginia Tech could have warned everyone, lives would have been saved.
I’m starting here in a post about text messaging because it seems like schools are right in the middle of the reaction phase. “We have to get something . . . ”
And the companies in the space are doing everything they can to attach their solutions to the irrational fear to close the sale. This is one of the more egregious examples from the home page of e2campus:
Just pay one dollar per student and “prevent another tragedy”. If only it were that simple. Of course it is not.
This may or may not be a conversation that you as a student affairs professional are involved in. Perhaps it’s conversation in IT and security.
Communication, emergency or otherwise, should be a conversation that student affairs professionals get involved in – because communication and engagement go hand in hand. For every day of emergency, thousands and thousands of regular days with programming, learning, and community building will take place.
If student affairs can get in on the conversation, perhaps the money can go to a solution that actually works for the thousands of days, instead of trying to cover for the highly unlikely. Maybe the money can go towards a little more proactive instead of just reactive.
I’ll post a part 2 with a roundup of some of the available solutions to help with the conversation.