Dean of Students Greg Kneser first heard of the shootings Monday morning when he came into work. I turned on the computer and the Star Tribune website said there were 12 people shot at Virginia Tech, Kneser said. Then we learned more, and the death toll rose.
Twenty-three year old Cho Seung-Hui, a senior English major at Virginia Tech, killed two people in a dormitory at 7:25 a.m. on Monday. Hours later, he walked into Norris Hall in the center of campus and killed 30 more people before turning the gun on himself.
Though Virginia Tech is a much different campus than St. Olaf, Kneser felt a sense of camaraderie with the administration at Virginia Tech. "Suddenly, the media is talking and critiquing your business field, saying inaccuracies, et cetera," Kneser said. Kneser talked with Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell Monday morning to make sure that St. Olaf students had no connections to students at Virginia Tech.
Monday afternoon, Kneser sent an e-mail to the St. Olaf student body in which he encouraged students to be safe and to pray for our brothers and sisters in Virginia.
St. Olaf does have an emergency plan in place in case of events like the shootings at Virginia Tech. The plan is three-fold. First there would be a lockdown to secure students in place and to prevent people from entering campus. Next, experts in the area of emergency (firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians) would be dispatched to the scene. Nothing is decided by a committee, Kneser said. It saves time to have experts act immediately; thats what our plan emphasizes: action. After appropriate officials had gone to the scene, President David R. Anderson '74 would meet with administrators to create an operations team. Then the team would communicate with the student body via e-mail or, to a lesser degree, voicemail. Kneser said that St. Olaf is looking to implement a text message system that could alert students of emergencies via text messages sent to personal cell phones. "We thought about this system this winter after the first big snow storm," Kneser said. "It makes sense for us."
With the text message plans, students would enter their cell phone number into a St. Olaf database. Wed only text students if it was an emergency, not to tell them to go to a band concert, Kneser said.
St. Olaf does not plan to change its policy of having an unarmed Public Safety force.
"Most schools our size, including Carleton, do not have armed security officers," Kneser said. "It's unnecessary."
In an address to new inductees to Phi Beta Kappa last Thursday, Anderson made his official remarks on the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
"An event like the shootings at Virginia Tech lays bare the limitations and shortcomings of our understanding and points us on a path to quiet reflection rather than quick conclusions or pronouncements," Anderson said. "Community sustains and heals. The shootings at Virginia Tech should impel us to come together, as we have here tonight, not to despair alone. The strength and resilience of our community distinguishes our college ... We must draw strength from our community and seek ways to impart that strength beyond Manitou Heights."
Last Wednesday, students gathered in Boe Chapel for a special prayer service commemorating the shootings.
Jen Winterfeldt '07, attended the service. "I thought the service was an appropriate way to remember the broad scope of the violence and aftermath," Winterfeldt said. "We not only prayed for the victims and the shooter but for all Asian-Americans, the victims family, the community."