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ERIC Number: EJ788947
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb-29
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Fueling a Contagion of Campus Bloodshed
Fox, James Alan
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n25 pA36 Feb 2008
The gun smoke had barely cleared from the lecture hall at Northern Illinois University where last week a former graduate student had executed five students before killing himself when local and national scribes began speculating about a new trend in mass murder American-style. The "Chicago Tribune" Web site, quick with coverage of the tragedy some 75 miles away in DeKalb, noted that the shooting spree was the largest on a college campus since the Virginia Tech massacre. Meanwhile, the Associated Press disseminated a list of more than a dozen campus shootings occurring since 2000. Are college students indeed the latest mark for heavily armed avengers? The 1980s witnessed a string of shootings by disgruntled postal workers, inspiring the term "going postal." The '90s featured a flurry of multiple murders at middle and high schools nationwide, as "Doing a Columbine" became shorthand for a schoolyard threat. Will this decade be remembered as the time when the ever-popular "College Survival Guides" shifted focus from tips on how to study for a midterm to advice on where safely to sit while taking the midterm? Epidemic thinking can tragically become a self-fulfilling prophecy by fueling a contagion of bloodshed. The overpublicized acts of two alienated students at Columbine High in part inspired the Virginia Tech shooter to outperform his younger heroes. As the death toll rose that fateful Monday morning last spring in Blacksburg, on-air news anchors tracked the unfolding drama as ignominious records began to tumble. Shortly after announcing that the shooting had become the largest campus massacre ever, eclipsing the 1966 Texas Tower sniping, television commentators declared, with nearly gleeful enthusiasm, that it had surpassed in carnage all other mass shootings in the United States at any venue. For the remainder of the day, viewers were told repeatedly that the Virginia Tech massacre had been the biggest, the bloodiest, the absolute worst, the most devastating, or whatever other superlatives came to mind. Notwithstanding the cruel absurdity of treating human suffering as any sort of achievement worthy of measuring in such terms, little positive can be derived by highlighting such records. There is, however, one significant negative: Records exist but to be broken. In the wake of these high-profile tragedies, campus safety and security becomes a priority, compelling the diversion of scarce resources away from important academic needs over to security technology. Although reasonable for colleges to develop contingency plans and seek sensible ways to ensure a safe campus, it should be considered that extreme responses to extreme and aberrational behavior are not always prudent.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia