Monday morning, our campus awoke to the news of a tragedy unfolding at one of our peer institutions. The news didn't just hit home because Virginia Tech so strongly resembles Hopkins academically and in the composition of its student body. It didn't evoke feelings of disbelief simply because of Virginia Tech's proximity to Maryland and Homewood. It shocked and saddened us because it affected friends, family and our extended academic community. Virginia Tech's loss was our own.
National news coverage of the massacre has focused its attention on Monday's timeline of events, and whether a swifter response from campus security and police could have saved lives. Other reports probed the identity of the killer, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, who ended the rampage by taking his own life. It is difficult to find answers that explain the final death toll — 33 killed, including Cho — by faulting the response of security and ambulance teams. It is also nearly impossible to find solace by attributing the killer's motivations to a mental illness.
The lack of answers forces us to think about our own safety, the welfare of our peers and the ability of campus security to respond to an emergency. Hopkins students know all too well the reality of tragedy, particularly after the murders of Linda Trinh '05 and Chris Elser '05. The administration has since dramatically improved campus security. Some disasters are simply not preventable, but we are confident that security policies implemented in a prudent and measured fashion are the most effective means of protecting the Hopkins community. This tragedy, though severe, does not warrant draconian attempts to increase campus security.
Cho's emotional troubles also draw attention to the fact that mental illnesses afflict many college-aged students. The shootings demand increased vigilance about the welfare of our peers, but they do not merit stricter mental health policies from the University. Ultimately we need new laws that address the widespread availability of guns in our society. This is not an issue that any academic institution can address on its own.
Virginia Tech's loss, above all, should underscore the importance of community as it encompasses this campus and Hopkins' relationships with its peer institutions. As we extend our condolences to Virginia Tech, we also seek ways to address feelings of loss at home. Hopefully, this process of reflection will make Hopkins a better community, more conscious of its members and more aware of the strength that camaraderieprovides us.
Today, our hearts are with the students, faculty and families of Virginia Tech. In the future, we hope that our grief will also strengthen the ties that Hopkins students forge with one another and with the institution we call home.