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 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.]

Students Want Concealed Carry on Campus

On April 7, less than a year after it was formed, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus passed the 25,000-members mark and made note of the fact that approximately one out of every 755 college students in the United States is now a member of the organization.

SCCC reached this milestone only days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the tragic day on which a 23-year-old gunman Cho Heung-Sui killed 33 people, including himself, on the campus of Virginia Tech University.

Undoubtedly, some in the liberal news media and in the anti-Second Amendment lobby will try to find fault with those behind SCCC, a nonprofit group fighting to legalize concealed carry on college campuses. But they’ll encounter some blowback if the figures on the SCCC web site are accurate (i.e., approximately one out of every 755 college students in the United States is now a member of the organization).

Anyone who thinks SCCC is trying — or will try — to capitalize on the tragedy at Blacksburg in order to boost membership rolls needs to read the “Announcement to SCCC Members and the Press” below which I found on the group’s web site today:

“Students for Concealed Carry on Campus we will neither host nor endorse any protests during the week of April 13-19. April 16 is to be a day of remembrance for the students, faculty, and families affected by the Virginia Tech shooting. SCCC wishes to avoid any action that might distract or detract from the memory of the individuals lost on April 16, 2007.”

Northern Illinois University Holds News Conference

Northern Illinois University Logo

Less than 24 hours after gunman Stephen Kazmierczak unleashed a fury of bullets that killed six — including himself — and injured 15 others inside Northern Illinois University’s Cole Hall, officials at the school in Dekalb, Ill., held a mid-morning news conference.

Spokespersons for the university echoed the fact that NIU had a plan in place and had practiced that plan with hopes of avoiding a tragedy like the one experienced at Virginia Tech University almost six months ago.

“We were dealing with a disturbed individual who intended to do harm on this campus,” said NIU President John Peters, speaking to a crowd of news media who had descended upon the campus during the previous 12 hours.

“This is a national tragedy that happened on the Dekalb campus of Northern Illinois University,” added Cherilyn G. Murer, chair of the NIU Board of Trustees.

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Authorities Identify Former Student Who Killed 5 in Attack at Northern Illinois University

Students Cling to Memories of Lost Friends as Campus Begins Healing Process

Report: Campus Shooter Had Been Honored by School

Blogger Reflects on Coverage of Top 2007 Stories

Associated Press published it’s Top 10 stories of 2007 today, so I decided to highlight Bob McCarty Writes posts related to those topics:











PR Vet Unsatisfied with Report on Virginia Tech Tragedy

As a public relations practitioner during most of the past 20 years, I’ve been “knee deep” in my share of crises, many of which involved losses of life and property. Upon learning of Virginia Tech University’s release yesterday of a report about the April 16 tragedy, I was eager to compare their findings to my initial observations. After reading the report, however, I walked away unsatisfied.

On the day after the tragedy, I wrote a piece, PR Vet Traces Poor Handling of Crisis to Lawyers, and posted it at Bob McCarty Writes. The crux of my commentary was this:

Had (Virginia Tech officials) followed the communications plan that should have been in place following a deadly 2006 incident involving an escaped prisoner who found his way onto the campus of Virginia Tech, they might have avoided not only a public relations nightmare but, quite possibly, the 31 deaths that followed the initial two.

In reviewing yesterday’s Virginia Tech University report, now on the school’s web site, I found many positive recommendations worthy of praise — among them, the use of text messaging and other technologies to notify faculty, staff and students in the event of another such crisis.

At the same time, however, I found the report seemed to give very little attention to the issue of having a crisis response plan — containing terms and conditions agreed upon in advance by all of the “players” — that can be followed without delay and is independent of the personalities and human frailties of those in position to carry out such planning.

Only when you have such a plan can you expect your organization to be able to respond to crises in a reasonable and appropriate manner.

See if you agree. Click here to read the entire Virginia Tech report.

Former Classmates Say Cho Was ‘Victim’ of Ridicule

Moments ago, Associated Press published an article about Cho Heung-Sui, citing individuals who say their former classmate-turned shooter was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness and the strange way he walked.

Note to People of the World: The fact that you’ve been ridiculed by someone does not justify any act(s) of heinous crimes against humanity. If it did, every human being on the planet would be justified in committing such crimes.

It’s possible that the AP article referenced above is merely an attempt to garner a more-thorough understanding as to why Cho turned on those living and/or working on the Virginia Tech campus. If, however, the writer’s intent — and the intent of similar media coverage — was to prompt readers into determining Cho is “less guilty” for his crimes as a result of being “picked on”, then the story is bunk and sets a pretty low standard for mankind.

Audio Link of Guest Radio Appearance Now Posted

I mentioned in a post here yesterday that I would be a guest on the morning drive show, Allman in the Morning, on 97.1 FM Talk, the Fox News Radio outlet in St. Louis. The topic of the 7:10 a.m. interview was the handling of the crisis at Virginia Tech Monday, April 17. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the audio of the interview between host Jamie Allman and the blogger in chief at Bob McCarty Writes — me!