Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dodging a bullet...or many of them

My colleagues and students have been up in arms about an incident on campus, but I'm opting out of the campus hysteria. It's true that campus police discovered a cache of guns (some semi-automatic, some loaded) stashed in plain sight in a student's car on campus, but it's also true that the student was quickly removed from campus and will not be returning. There was some miscommunication at first, some tendency to treat the incident as just a minor infraction, but that mistake was quickly repaired. In the meantime, the hysteria level has gone off the charts, with some students eagerly expressing a desire to see this student drawn and quartered along with several administrators whose responses to the incident were perceived as too slow. It's a little frightening when the first response to fear of violence is to threaten more violence.

Yesterday morning several colleagues came in and asked me what I intended to do about the situation, and I was befuddled. I'm an English professor: what can I do? Tell my students not to bring guns on campus? They've already heard that message. Later I learned the student's name (it's a small campus...everyone knew the kid's name by the end of the day) and recalled my rather unpleasant encounters with him a few years ago, not to mention his more recent run-ins with several of my colleagues. If he intended a massacre, I'm sure my department would have been high on his hit list.

This brings the threat closer to home, but I don't intend to lose any sleep over it. It is the responsibility of campus police to keep us safe, and in this case they did just that without any assistance from me. I may be too trusting, but I'm happy to let them do their job while I focus on mine. So instead of getting hysterical, I'll be thankful that in this case, at least, we've dodged a bullet...or many of them.

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