VA Tech Tragedy
HR36 57 Posts
I am stunned and saddened by the tragedy yesterday at Virginia Tech. And it has reminded me that we, as HR professionals, have such a serious responsibility to the employees at our organizations to protect them and to act quickly if a crisis occurs. Much has been said about safety and crisis plans, but it seems impossible to prevent a tragedy like what happened in Virginia.
I too am stunned and saddened by the events at Virginia Tech yesterday. You can't help but wonder if everything that could have been done after the first incident was done--could they second series of shootings have been prevented if the school had been placed in lockdown immediately following the first shooting. I imagine we will learn more about the events, but perhaps that is the lesson for HR.
I think that this tragedy highlights security issues in all workplaces. How much security is enough? Too little? And how does a university that has 26,000 students really protect its campus?
On another note, I read an article online today about the reaction other countries are having to the tragedy...and most of them seem to be focusing on the US's "gun culture" and why we don't have stricter gun laws.
I am reading an article about the shooter now from NBC 4 from DC/Virginia (www.nbc4.com) and here's one very noteworthy piece of information:
The English major's creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service, officials said.
Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."
"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."
I don't know the first thing about providing security for a campus of 26,000, but I think that what happened there can serve as a reminder to us to look for the warning signs of an employee who may be prone to violence. We should take this opportunity to review our policy on workplace violence and train employees to look for the signs--and REPORT them to HR (or whomever else we designate). I don't want to start heaping blame on anyone until all the facts come in....but unfortunately, if this is true, it appears that some potential warning signs may have been ignored in this case.
I'm betting that it's likely a lot easier for an employer of a few hundred people to pick up on signs of trouble with an employee than it is for college faculty to keep track of the signs that a student among a population of 26,000 had some mental problems and/or was "troubled" . His behavior may not have been indicative of any propensity towards violence.
Going back to the original question regarding actual "security", I wonder how much a college can ever really be expected to do. Should colleges be installing metal detectors? Do most colleges really have the resources to beef up campus security enough to dissuade someone from trying to do something like this? What obligation do colleges have to keep students safe? And if this happened at a shopping mall, we could ask all these same questions about malls.
I'm not surprised that many of the articles out there speculating on this tragedy are going back to the issue of gun control because therein lies the answer...Unless we can keep guns out of the hands of people like this guy, ultimately, I don't think tragedies like this can be prevented.
You can't have a 'police state' on college campuses with a security guard in every doorway frisking everyone who reports to a class or comes back to their dorm for the night--even if you could somehow attain it, most faculty and students alike would probably despise it. Knee jerk reactions on campuses to beef up security isn't the answer, but a review of their policies regarding campus emergencies and communications should be conducted--if the reports are true that the college waited 2 hours to notify faculty and staff via e-mail after the first incident of violence, and that delay caused greater loss of life--then something needs to be done on that front. Proper communications (providing notice/warnings to everyone on campus) is an area all colleges should take action.
Yes, this is a tragedy but perhaps it could not have been avoided without a metal detector and armed guard at every building entrance. There was an armed guard at Columbine, and that didn't stop the massacre.
My kids were in high school when Columbine occured. For a few weeks afterward, the school administration locked all doors except the main lobby door, which was the only entrance. Students were not allowed to have opaque back packs or purses, but only clear plastic bags (pretty embarassing for the teenage girls). A policeman looked over the bags as the students entered.
I don't think this lasted 3 weeks. It was just too time consuming and caused too much inconvenience for the risk.
Also, the 29,000 college students are all adults, and as just said, it would be harder to reign in their freedom and mobility.
Sometimes we can't protect against every possibility, in schools, colleges, and in the workplace.