Today: Jun 16, 2024

Fighting College Violence

Katelyn Peterson, Staff Writer: 

At any point during the time of a given day, a college student could walk through a crowded hallway filled professors and other students and for whatever reason suddenly open firearm or violently attack a number of targeted or random individuals. Incidents like this have occurred on various occasions in the past: Such incidents include the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, the Dawson College shootings in 2006, and the Virginia Appalachian of Law shootings in 2002. 

Chief Joseph M. Dooley of the Southern campus police station, said he believes it is essential that college campuses form what are known as “threat assessment teams.” 

These teams, Dooley explained, consist of security or police personnel who stay on alert for students who appear violent or pose as a threat to the safety of the college campus.

“In the aftermath of Virginia Tech”, said Dooley, “I think most schools literally went to school on that concept.”

The statistics from the book “Understanding and Preventing Campus Violence,” by Michele A. Paludi, said each year, approximately 479,000 college students have become a victim of a violent crime, specifically of robbery, simple assault, aggravated assault and sexual assault.

Kevin Colwell, an associate forensic psychology professor at Southern, said physical confrontation of any kind is most commonly seen in young men between their adolescent years through their mid to late 20s. 

Colwell said he believes the media plays a large part in the existing levels of physical violence. A lot of what we see in movies or television said Colwell, leads viewers to believe that solving problems with barbaric tactics is socially accepted.

In a study conducted by Ohio State University, researchers found that high school students, who were more exposed to the violence shown in video games, were less forgiving, exhibited more signs of hostility, and thought of violence as a normal method of solution.

According to information found on the Constitutional Rights Foundation website, another cause for violent behavior is the accessibility to weapons. It said a total of 85 students died violently in two recent academic years and 75 percent of those cases involved the use of firearms.

Research from the Journal of American College Health said that college students are more likely to have a gun or to be threatened with one if they are male. It also gave a variety of risk factors which include, living off campus, binge drinking and living in regions of the U.S. where household gun ownership is common.

Colwell said it is common for people who engage in a shooting, to have high feelings of inadequacy or resentment against someone who had bullied or rejected them in some way. They believe that resorting to a gun, said Colwell, is one way of gaining feelings of “immediate power and ethicacy.”

There are a number of ways to identify violent and possible life-threatening behavior, which are given on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Some of the warning signs include antisocial attitudes, high emotional distress, and a history of violent victimization.

The site also provided a list of family risk factors. For instance, the parents may have a history of substance abuse or criminal activity; they may have problems controlling or supervising the actions of their son or daughter, or they may be emotionally detached or uninvolved in their son or daughter’s life.

In the book “No Right to Remain Silent,” by Lucinda Roy, a professor at Virginia Tech, who was present on the day of the shootings in 2007, Roy mentioned that the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, displayed a number of disturbing warning signs long before he decided to take action. 

Roy wrote that she had been alerted in 2005 by one of her colleagues, who expressed concern over Cho’s disruptive behavior and disturbing writings and when Roy tried to work with him in private tutoring sessions, she noticed that he wore dark, reflective sunglasses and was almost always unresponsive. 

After someone has experienced some sort of trauma, like that of a school shooting, there is a possibility that they will undergo a stage of shock known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Statistics from the website of the St. Louis Psychologist and Counseling Referral Network showed that in the U.S., approximately 3.6 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 54 experience symptoms of PTSD, during the course of a given year.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is common for people who have PTSD to experience a variety of different symptoms, which can be categorized into three groups, known as re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyper arousal. The symptoms include but are not limited to, frightening thoughts or flashbacks of the event, strong feelings of guilt or depression, and loss of sleep.

There are different ways that violent crimes on college campuses can be prevented. Lt. Richard Randall of the Southern campus police station, said it is important that parents recognize and learn to pinpoint the cause for any sudden or alarming behavioral changes in their son or daughter, before it escalates to the measures of a school shooting or a violent attack.

“The earlier that you begin to intervene,” said Randall, “than the quicker you can get to the root of the problem and you can get that person on the road to help.”

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