Monday morning, the worst campus shooting in the history of the United States occurred at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Va., leaving 33 people dead, including the gunman, and 29 wounded.
At about 7:15 a.m., 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, a native of South Korea, walked into the West Ambler Johnston dormitory and shot two students. One student is believed to be a friend, and the other was a 22-year-old resident adviser.
Nearly two hours after the shooting, an e-mail was sent out alerting members of the campus community that there had been a shooting and that everyone should be cautious, which has raised criticism that officials waited too long to notify students and employees that there was a gunman at large.
At 9:45 a.m., Seung-Hui went into Norris Hall, chained the doors shut, headed to the second floor and went on a shooting rampage, killing students and professors, raising the death toll from 2 to 33. Others were injured by gunfire and from jumping out of the second floor window to escape. Norris Hall is comprised of faculty offices, classrooms and laboratories.
The shooting has raised concern on campuses across the nation. CSUN students who live nearby said they feel safe but are in disbelief that VPI did not go into lockdown immediately and officials allowed students to walk around, even though they knew there was a gunman at large.
“What the hell?” said Harlan Allen, a 42-year-old senior history major who lives two blocks away from CSUN. “I’m a little weirded out that classes continued after the first shooting at Virginia. The police should have locked down the campus after the first shooting. If they don’t have enough information, (it’s) better safe than sorry.”
Others agreed with Allen.
“It’s crazy,” said Shelese Ruffin, a 20-year-old freshman majoring in child development.
“Everything should have gone into lockdown right away. Because it didn’t, the shooter was able to get where he wanted to be, and so many people were hurt,” she said. “The moment they knew they had a situation, they should have acted quicker.”
“I think it sucks. It’s sad,” said Dashalle Andrews, a 21-year-old senior kinesiology major. “That was poor judgment on their part to allow students not to worry and go to classes.”
Andrews said he has lived in the Northridge Campus Residence complex for four years, and he feels safe because of dorm policies and security is always visible.
“They have a policy here that you show some sort of ID if you are here to visit someone, and at a certain time all visitors have to leave,” he said.
A security guard who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the policy.
“We make sure all visitors are out of the building after visiting hours end at 10:30 p.m. and check IDs if we don’t recognize someone.”
He added that security checks of the premises are conducted “anywhere from every 15 minutes to an hour.”
Since the incident, calls made to the CSUN Public Safety Department to find out what is being done for the safety of students yielded no comments by press time.
The Public Safety Department’s Web site lists CSUN’s emergency procedures, which suggests each department develop its own emergency preparedness plan.
Allen, Andrews and Ruffin said they are unaware of what the campus emergency procedures are and think now would be a good time to inform the campus community of them.
“We should have emergency drills so we can know the procedure and what to do in case of an emergency, such as a bomb threat,” Allen said.
Kevin Mojaradi, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Associated Students, and John Chandler, director of public relations and strategic communications, both said that as of now there are no plans for an open forum.
“The Senate will probably discuss it later this week and bring it up (at) next week’s meeting,” Mojaradi said.
Chandler said he wanted those who may have concerns to know the university is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of its students.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Jolene Koester sent an e-mail to the campus community, expressing her confidence that the university will find ways to respond to the shooting at Virginia Tech.
Mark Stevens, Ph.D. and director of University Counseling Services said there has not been a lot of calls that are specific to the events in Virginia, but there has been a rise in emergency walk-ins and that could be because people are feeling anxiety over the tragedy and are not sure why they are feeling a sense of vulnerability.
Stevens wants students to know it is free and confidential to come and speak with the counselors about any problem or concern they may be having.