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Readers Respond: 'Virginia Tech' Is a University, Not a Massacre

Dear Ms. Grayson,

In the story by Dian Schaffhauser, one of the first points states, "At another major university, post-Virginia Tech, a public safety officer...."  I cannot tell you how much reading this line both saddens me and irritates me.

First, many of us here are still trying to cope with the loss we experienced in April. While the world shared our pain in mid-April, almost voyeuristically due to the crushing media presence on our campus, we are left to deal with feelings of emptiness for lost colleagues and students, and the questions about how we move forward in a positive manner. Now, articles such as the one in Campus Technology do not deal with the human tragedy, but the "best practices of emergency notification," making the human loss even more stark. There is an implication that technology could have prevented what happened, but to my knowledge, human depravity has always remained outside the control of machines. I understand issues related to security must be discussed, but to see continued reminders of an incident that tore our hearts open is, quite simply, very sad. It is certainly fitting for CT to raise security issues among other institutions of higher education.

Beyond sadness is irritation and anger at the phrase, "post-Virginia Tech." This appears in the story and in the picture caption on the Contents page. At the end of the article is the phrase, "After Virginia Tech...."

Is our university, which has existed since 1872 and is the home of 28,000 students, 1,500 faculty, and hundreds of thousands of alumni, suddenly a two-word name that represents a massacre?

Why did you or your editors allowed this phrase to stand? Virginia Tech is not an event! To use our university's nickname as a way to refer to a terrible crime against humanity is an insult. Why couldn't you have inserted, "following the tragedy at Virginia Tech" or some such thing? We have been injured enough - and we are heartsick over it. To see that our institution can be capriciously made into a part of speech in a prominent trade publication is incredibly disappointing. We are intensely proud of our hundred plus years of history, our strong research and academic programs, our exciting sports, our proud and brave Corps of Cadets, and so much else. We are NOT simply a word that people need to see as a synonym for tragedy, fear, and loss.

Post-Virginia Tech?? After Virginia Tech?? We are not a storm that is over (post-Katrina) or an administration that has ended (post-Hussein) or an event  of the past (post-World War II or post-9/11). We are not POST anything. We have tomorrow on our agenda. We are still here and we are still strong. We ARE Virginia Tech.

It is irresponsible of the article's author and the CT editors to allow the phrase "post-Virginia Tech." The media has as much obligation to reporting accurate news as it does to using language in a way that is truthful and accurate, not simply convenient.

I would ask that you and the article author please seriously consider issuing a formal apology in the next issue for printing this phrase, and making a pledge to be more careful in the future when dealing with the event that happened here, or any event that impacts a campus in the future.


Ross Perkins
Senior Project Associate
Instructional Technologist Office of Educational Research & Outreach School of Education, Virginia Tech

Dear Dr. Perkins,

The "shorthand" that human beings (and especially the media) use to refer to a time, place, incident, or image may be helpful in relating information in an abbreviated manner, but it can be regrettable as well, as it is in this case. While the staff and writers of Campus Technology magazine would never knowingly cause pain to a campus community that has already endured the unthinkable, we sincerely apologize for our unwitting use of the school name to denote reference to the tragedy that occurred in April of 2007. And while we cannot prevent others' use of the school name as such a reference-and may find ourselves quoting or excerpting other material containing such references (for, after all, our function is to report, not censor)-we will do our best to avoid committing the same hurtful error again, ourselves. Thank you for drawing this to our attention.

Sincerely yours,

Kathy Grayson

Comments about articles appearing in the Campus Technology print edition can be addressed to Katherine Grayson, editor-in-chief, at [email protected].
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