Virginia Tech Officials Learned from Tragedy (Updated)

Deadly violence has once again visited the campus of Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg.  Unlike events that took place 21 months ago, only one person — not 33 — died in the violence yesterday.  The murder weapon was a knife, not a gun.  And, if it’s possible to find one in such a tragedy, the “silver lining” can be found in the fact that university officials appear to have learned a lot from the mistakes they made the last time tragedy visited their campus.

Unlike the less-than-stellar manner in which university officials responded to events April 16, 2007, the day 18-year-old Cho Seung-Hui shot and killed 32 people before killing himself, the response to the Wednesday evening stabbing death of 22-year-old Xin Yang, a female graduate student from Beijing, at the school’s Graduate Life Center appears to have been handled much more professionally.

That professionalism came through in a same-day news release by Larry Hincker at the school’s media relations office as well as in a next-day (shortly after midnight, to be precise) letter from the Va Tech President Charles W. Steger that was posted on the school’s web site, sent to about 40,000 faculty, staff and students — all vt.edu account holders — and e-mailed to all faculty and staff and about 2,000 other subscribers, according to an e-mail I received moments ago from Hincker. [UPDATED PARAGRAPH]

As a former crisis public relations manager, I say, “Hat’s off to the Hokies!” for learning from their mistakes.”  Now, we can only hope that tragedy does not visit the campus again.

[Editor's Note: More details about the tragedy are available in a report published this morning in the Charleston (W. Va.) Daily Progress and in this update from the university.]

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