Coping with Campus Tragedy

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Lance Hand>English and Theological Studies>Regent University           

Many people see college as an escape from adolescence, a time of learning, and a place of good times. Some see it as a stepping stone into the life and career they have always dreamed about. Others see it as another chore mandated by their parents and merely try to make the best of it. However, whatever it is that has led one to college, few ever imagine that they will have to face tragedy like what has been seen in the past few years.

In 2007, Virginia Tech experienced tragedy during a shooting rampage unlike anything that had ever been experienced on a college campus. More recently, UVA student athleteYeardley Love was murdered in May of this year, and in September Rutgers University experienced the unfortunate death of freshman Tyler Clementi. Tragedy is never an easy thing to deal with. Sadly, as time goes on it seems that tragedy is becoming more and more frequent on campuses across the nation. How is a college campus supposed to deal with such things?
The Office of Recovery and Support at VT, which was created in response to the shootings, states on its homepage that its goal is to “provide support…for the families of those lost, the injured and their families, and others directly affected by the tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.” In response to the death of Yeardley Love, University President John T. Casteen III stated that it was his desire “that her death inspires an anger, a sense of outrage that engenders determination here and wherever Yeardley’s name is recognized that no woman, no person in this place, this community, this state, our nation need either fear for her safety or experience violence for any reason.”
Clementi’s suicide has brought tragedy on campus into the public eye once again. Alex Lewis, a junior at Rutgers, stated “The greatest challenge for the Rutgers community since the tragedy has been finding the best way to respond as a community.” Alex also believes that “Tyler’s tragedy really did affect some positive change on campus” in that it brought awareness to some of the issues that were present in the community, such as bullying and intolerance.
Nayantara Choudray, a junior at Rutgers, stated that the university is “trying to appropriately deal with some of the –in my opinion, inappropriate– backlash that has occurred from some members of the community.” She also stated that she and several others “took part in a vigil dedicated to his memory.”
The responses to tragedy by the community can vary depending on the situation and community itself. In some cases, such as at VT, the most effective response was to create and dedicate an entire department to helping deal with the effects of tragedy. In other cases, such as at UVA, there is a call to action against violence and a charge to speak up when injustice is seen in the community. As Rutgers is in the early stages following this tragedy, coming together as a community against  inappropriate and unacceptable treatment of any member of the student body are the first steps towards recovery.
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College Magazine Staff

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