Virginia Tech Shootings

Even though I am no longer a college counseling center director, I maintain relationships with my colleagues in that field via a discussion list for college counselors. As you might imagine, there is much chatter on the list about this horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech today. As of 1:37pm, the Virginia Tech counseling staff was locked in their offices through the morning but have plans to remain open late tonight. A campus alert has been issued and the school will be closed tomorrow. Details are emerging about the circumstances.

Colleagues have been quite generous with offers to travel to Virginia Tech to assist as needed. My prayers are with the families and staff there…

As the news of this tragedy was coming in, I was teaching about video game violence in social psychology class. We had just seen a video featuring a speech by Jack Thompson, attorney who specializes in suing violent video game makers. Thompson, in a sense, prophesied Columbine by warning about the impact of video game violence on kids on the Today Show days before the event.

Some papers have predicted that this shooting might revive a debate on gun regulation, however, I hope with Dr. Phil on last night’s Larry King Show, that the debate will include discussion of the culture of violence, which includes violent video games.

UPDATE: 4/17/07 – More details are being reported about the mental status of Cho Seung-Hui. Grove City College Alumna, Professor Carolyn Rude (’67), chairwoman of the university’s English department, has been widely quoted saying Cho’s papers were so disturbing that she referred him to the university’s counseling service.

UPDATE: 4/18/07 – Clearly demonstrating premeditation and severe mental illness, NBC News received a packet of information mailed by Cho Seung-Hui between killings on Monday.

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  • Ivan

    So tragic… I wish them all well.


  • David Blakeslee

    I am not sure we should conclude that this is due to a culture of violence, since it appears the perpetrator is only a recent immigrant to the US…perhaps his culture is just as violent.

    A loner, narcissistically defended, narcissistically wounded, empathically impaired, instantly gratified by the suffering of others (the only connection he sought to express his suffering is indescriminate revenge)….possibly….

  • David – Very true – at this point who knows?

  • Lynn David

    Last I heard he had been in the USA since his high school years, which would likely make the 23 year old Cho a product of our culture. One may have the personality defect, but the culture may still be a control or catalyst for your behavior.

  • David Blakeslee

    deep breath…

    in country since middle childhood.

    It will be an interesting conversation when more of the facts are in.

    I was a resident assistant in the dorms in college and found myself on the front line of a number of problems, including severe mental illness, for which I had no training and very little support.

    My heart goes out to the responsible, but likely poorly trained Resident Assistant who first attempted to intervene with this man.

  • David Blakeslee

    Adding more:

    I now have two kids in college…the openness and sense of safety they feel everyday makes the educational experience so powerful…safety breeds trust and allows learning to expand quickly…

    My son and daughter called and we talked last night.

    I still don’t feel better, because I know such good people died yestarday (students, faculty; people who love trust and learning and exploring) and nearly all the talk in the past tends to be about the perpetrator and his motives…

    What if we focused on the loss and the depth of it, rather than on the psyche and motives of the perp?

  • David Blakeslee

    Maybe facing the depth and the weight of the loss would be too much for us all.

  • You heard it here first: Floride in toothpaste and our drinking water causes violence. The next time you hear of a violent event, remember I predicted it. It’s floride, I tell ya.

    Yes, I’m being snarky. But my point is that this event was predictable, and not because of guns or video games or immigration. But because there will always be some tiny percentage of the population that lacks the ability (or will) to empathize or to see beyond their own instant emotional condition.

    Every people in every time have produced individuals like this. But as our culture has become more urban and as transportation and access has become more available the ability of these people to do greater damage has become eased. And our immediate media makes such events appear closer and more dramatic.

    It is a natural desire to control that which we cannot control by looking for fault and blame. Some are already gearing up to blame the school for inadequate warning. Others will blame cultural laxity. Others will blame godlessness. Others will blame gun availability or video games or even “a society that did not step in to recognize and help this poor isolated and unhappy young man”.

    Ultimately, though, I doubt there is anything that can be blamed. And I doubt there is anything that can be done to stop it from happening again.

    Unless, of course, we do away with the evil flouride.

  • Michael Bussee

    My heart aches for the families who have lost so much no senselessly. It seems like this is the time for prayer not speculation.

  • David Blakeslee

    “The Rumanian Jewish professor, a survivor of the Holocaust, who placed his body and himself in front of the gunman in order to enable his students to escape, gave his life for others. Let his name and example be what we remember from this terrible week.”

    A start…

    Overcome evil with good.

  • David Blakeslee

    See Maggie Gallagher’s column here:

    “Why do they kill? Who cares? The explanation varies in the details, but the basic script is the same: They are men who choose murder to combat humiliation, to reign for a few ghastly moments in hell, rather than to serve in heaven.

    How do some facing hell find the courage to act to stop it? That’s what I want to know.”

  • David Blakeslee

    Autism is being cited by extended family as an early diagnosis.


    Written in English “rag” paper.

    Seems inadequate. Childhood schizophrenia is very difficult to diagnose…and called many other things until the symptoms clarify in adulthood.

    I am reminded of the numerous times people reached out to him with little or no reply…a form of Aspergers with paranoid and narcissistic components?

    It appears that mother may have had some difficulty interpersonally as well.