Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The "Response" at UNO

I fully anticipated the response UNO gave to the Va. Tech shootings, and while it came a day later than I'd anticipated, (here I was thinking that our trauma-connection would mean we'd have an administrative response, like, yesterday...) it was just as I'd imagined it:

18 April, 2007

Dear UNO Community:

I cannot begin to express how stunned and saddened we are by the senseless tragedy that occurred at Virginia Tech University on Monday morning. I know that you all join me in extending to family and friends of the victims our deepest sympathy for the loss of their loved ones. Having just gone through a terrible disaster, though a natural one with Hurricane Katrina, we will reach out to the faculty and students at Virginia Tech University and will offer any assistance that we can provide, just as we were helped by many universities around the country during our time of need.

Our University should be a place of safety and learning for our students, our faculty and our staff. When a horrific event like this one disrupts our own sense of safety and harmony, we all want to be reassured that UNO is doing everything in its power to ensure our safety. Even though it is not humanly possible to prevent an event such as the Virginia Tech massacre, I can promise that my office along with departments like public safety, student services and communications are reviewing policies and procedures for emergency action and communications so that we can respond quickly and can relay information to the entire campus with utmost clarity and timeliness.

I have great confidence in our on-campus police department and our emergency procedures which have been revised and upgraded considerably in the past year. We will continue to ensure that our university community is as safe as possible.

Timothy P. Ryan, Chancellor, University of New Orleans


Paragraph two sounds a lot like a freshman essay: vague and empty. What bothers me about that paragraph, though, is the declaration that "it is not humanly possible to prevent an event such as the Virginia Tech massacre."

Couldn't the University have instead offered specific resources? How about a number for the campus counseling services? How about a clear statement on what faculty or students should do if they have concerns? How about a plan that informs faculty and students of how the University would notify us should we be put in a similar position.

Oh. But I guess I was supposed to read about it in the Times-Picayune (silly me!):

Local universities to 'text' students about impending danger
Posted by By John Pope, staff writer April 17, 2007 9:20PM

To alert students, teachers and staff members if something as ghastly as the Virginia Tech gun rampage should erupt on their campuses, local college administrators are moving to a method of communication generally associated with teenagers: text messaging...

"That's what students are into, and that's what they respond to," Dillard University spokeswoman Karen Celestan said Tuesday...

Xavier and the University of New Orleans already have the ability to text-message students en masse, and representatives of other colleges said they are considering which type to buy.


Gosh, I feel so safe. Especially with a salary that will barely cover our mortgages and expenses in the city, much less a cell phone plan. Oh, for f-'s sake.

Being up at the University has, in fact, been pretty strange these past couple of days. Even though I teach English, my office is located on the same hall as the foreign languages department, and right across from the ladies room. I've been hearing snippets of conversations about this Cho Seung-Hui (or was it Sueng Hui Cho? The media seems to have decided his last and first names are interchangeable: those crazy Asians!) in school, and in class it feels almost as if I SHOULD bring it up. He was an English major, after all, and his peers evidently heard some pretty menacing things in the Brit-Lit and Creative Writing classes they shared.

I just don't know how we are supposed to really, practically, be equipped to handle a situation like the one at Va. Tech.--particularly when our administration offers no specific guidelines.

Oddly, I've been feeling a little rattled by the incident. And maybe remembering my student in the green-checked shirt didn't help. So today, when one of my students left to go to the bathroom and came back to discover she was locked out, I thought, "Oh--the door locks automatically. Maybe they should do that to all doors."

In the meantime, last night I walked through one of those electronic security-thingies at John Dibert Elementary. I was there to teach the liberal arts via children's books to families attending the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities' PRIME TIME Family Reading Time literacy program. It was uplifting as all getout. Even when I heard a bunch of mothers outside making fun of me because they thought "she don't know what to do" when one responded to my question,"Parents, how do you handle it when your child acts like the rabbit did?" (we were talking about a fable about a conniving rabbit and a trickster fox), "I whoop 'em," I was still happy.

Happy, happy, happy, security checkpoint be damned.

The End.

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