My undergrad alma mater, University of Texas Pan American, is a decent sized commuter school in South Texas. The largely hispanic student body hails from the surrounding Rio Grande Valley and largely tends to stay there. When people would talk about violence at schools it always felt abstracted, as if that didn’t really happen in South Texas. Sure there was crime and everything, but most of what we knew of school violence came from far away-schools with names like “Columbine” or later “Virginia Tech”. These things happened in bigger cities. I graduated, worked, then eventually came here to Purdue to pursue a Masters, then a PhD.
But today that abstraction became all too real. I found myself amidst a scenario that no person, much less a young student, should ever have to be in. My officemates were quick to begin herding undergraduates into classrooms and ordering them to stay put, even as our own instructions during the incident were far from clear. We weren’t panicked, for the most part. We all called and texted our families and friends and kept up to date with information through social media and news sites. It wasn’t until hours after we’d received an “all clear” that we were notified that classes were officially cancelled, and even then I stayed behind and talked to the handful of students who hadn’t gotten word of the cancellation. I shook my head as one of my students told me the name of the victim long before news outlets had reported it.
And then I looked at my students: mostly juniors and seniors themselves, similar in age to both the victim and the shooter. They’re so YOUNG–they’re babies. Not too long ago, schools made them raise their hands when they wanted to go to the restroom. Now we’re not only asking them to decide what they want to do with their whole lives by the time they’re in their early 20’s, we’re asking them to do so in an environment where things like this happen all too frequently. I think of where I was at that age: young, very immature, unsure as to what I was going to do with my life. I would hate to have dealt with watching my instructor get gunned down in front of me at ANY age, much less in my 20’s. And then I think of the countless faculty, adjuncts, teaching assistants, and graduate students who have to live and work in this environment. I’m not here to get into the politics of the situation–there’s a time and a place for that and it is NOT here and now. All we know is that two lives were destroyed and countless others horribly affected by what happened today. As one of my good friends said today, “I told my students their homework was to call their parents.” I would suggest you do your homework too.
We are all cheapened by this.