Monday, November 19, 2007

"ET Phone Home"

It has been seven months since the terrible shootings on the Virginia Tech campus. That horrendous event forced colleges and universities all over the country to examine their own abilities to deal with such an event should it occur on their campus. Virginia Tech has been back in the news recently because the system that they implemented to prevent the poor communication on their campus that day was less than successful when a test alert was run.

When we took Offspring No. 1 to Chicago, at the time that students received their campus ID's, they were required to register for UCalert. Each student registered with an email address, a cell phone number, and a dorm land line. Seeing the aggressiveness with which the campus administration and police department exhibited in promoting this program gave me a piece of mind that the university was doing its best to avoid a communication breakdown like happened in Blacksburg last spring. Though I felt good knowing that UCalert was in place, I also hoped that it would never have to be used other than in a test situation.

Aforementioned child usually calls me late in the afternoons after her last class of the day. I was anxious for today's call because I knew that she had a chemistry test this morning. (She and chemistry are having a power struggle and I am not sure who is winning.) I inquired as to how the test went. My questions was met with a definite, "I don't know." In our continuing conversation about what that really meant, she said that she had gotten a text message on her cell phone during the exam from UCalert that said to check her campus email for an important message.

The message was an announcement that a UC international graduate student, in chemistry, had been shot and killed a few blocks off of campus last night. Though the UC police department and the Chicago PD are working on the case, no one has been arrested. As you can imagine, such a message is unnerving to all of the students on campus as well as parents who are hundreds of miles away.

I am glad to know that the communication system works. But, I am saddened that its merits were tested by a tragic event such as this. I am thankful for this holiday weekend aand that she is coming home for a few days. I pray that the case is resolved quickly and that last night's shooting is an isolated incident.