One of the saddest legacies emerging from the Virginia Tech tragedy is that, in a frantic struggle for answers to the problem, administrators and law enforcement across the country - to whom the care of American students are entrusted - are beginning to discuss the kind of changes that will only heighten a culture of distrust and alienation. This is a culture in which people fall through the cracks, break from their community and learn to feel persecuted by it.
Our generation is at the center of a struggle to gain control, to be secure in a time of nebulous rage and self-inflicted violence. One year before Geneseo's senior class entered high school, the then most devastating public school shooting in American history occurred. One month before they are to graduate from college, the most devastating school shooting in American history occurs at the university level. I don't think it's appropriate to place any of the blame for these unquestionably demented individuals on student culture. It seems this kind of tragedy is following us. Surely there must have been psychotic people and accessible firearms in our public schools and universities since their inception; there were school shootings before we were born. Yet, our generation has seen unprecedented atrocity at every level of education we pass through.
After Columbine I watched our school administrators bring in architects to erect walls where students congregate between classes. I watched them install cameras and make lists of potentially threatening students. I watched their concern for us turn into fear. The effort to prevent another Columbine turned into an effort to desperately control the students. It became a frantic, albeit well intentioned, struggle to establish authoritarian control, complete with metal detectors and trips through the legal system for any deviation from protocol.
The administration became little more than another force to avoid. Understandably, administrations naturally lose sight of who they're trying to control and who they're trying to protect. I remember finding myself squashed between the criminal element in our school and terrified administrators, both hell bent on intimidating us. It is this kind of circumstance in which students, on a mass level, come to believe the system they are in has no compassion for them.
I'm not saying this causes school shootings. Obviously Seung-Hui Cho and Klebold and Harris before him had personal psychological issues. I'm simply saying that this culture of isolation raises the danger of occurrences like these in the future. At the high school level, this administrative approach is much more understandable. They are dealing with minors. They are agents of the state. They have to amend the situation in any way possible. But now, I hear the same kind of blame as I did back then. Pundits claim the school police knew he was troubled and could have avoided this.
This is the kind of tragedy that makes everyone search for answers. Ideas like clear backpacks on college campuses won't make us any safer, however
I'm all for oversight by involved, concerned administration and faculty. But everyone, including the students, need to work towards a solution. We are older now, and only we can keep our interests primarily in trying gain some semblance of control. We need student-elected RA's whose popularity demonstrates their connection to their peers, that the students, not the administration, believe understand the vagaries of youth culture. We need to require upperclassmen to choose incoming freshman as little brothers/sisters to assist their integration and, if necessary, refer them for an evaluation by health services.
Blaming administrations for not having prevented this is not going to fix it. No solution is a perfect one. But we see each other from a vantage point that no administration can. This isn't our generation's fault, but it's our responsibility and we must as least play a hand in the remedy.