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Remembering Virginia Tech

One year later, officials cast a sharper eye on ASU safety

 by Charlsy Panzino
 published on Wednesday, April 16, 2008

<b>SHOWING SUPPORT:</b> Students gathered on Hayden Lawn last year, Apr. 19, 2007,  for a candelight vigil to honor and remember the students affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy./issues/news/704790
Bettina Hansen / THE STATE PRESS
SHOWING SUPPORT: Students gathered on Hayden Lawn last year, Apr. 19, 2007, for a candelight vigil to honor and remember the students affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy.
 
<b>IN LIGHT OF:</b> Students gathered on Hayden Lawn last year, April 19, 2007,  for a candelight vigil to honor and remember the students affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy./issues/news/704790
Bettina Hansen / THE STATE PRESS
IN LIGHT OF: Students gathered on Hayden Lawn last year, April 19, 2007, for a candelight vigil to honor and remember the students affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy.
 

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April 16 marks the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, and many ASU students are reflecting on their own campus safety.

One year ago, Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., shot and killed 32 people and himself in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Although some students questioned the effectiveness of the safety procedures ASU implemented after the Virginia Tech shooting, ASU Police Cmdr. Jim Hardina said the University is prepared to handle an emergency event of the Virginia Tech magnitude.

ASU has been reviewing its plans and policies related to overall campus safety, Hardina said in an e-mail.

"We discovered that we are well-prepared for a VT-type incident," he said.

The new ASU Police Department building has a state-of-the-art dispatch/radio system and an emergency operations center.

ASU Police also acquired eight assault-style rifles last month, but Hardina said the plan to purchase them was in the works long before the Virginia Tech shooting.

Last September, ASU also implemented a new text messaging alert system that sends text messages to students who have signed up if an emergency arises.

Sharon Keeler, a University spokeswoman, said although the system was being considered before the Virginia Tech shooting, the incident was a motivation for ASU to implement it.

The first and only use of the text messaging system was at the MU fire last November, Keeler said.

"And we did have some obvious problems with the delivery of messages during the initial tests," she said.

More than 8,000 people are currently registered for the system, but some students said they received the messages about the MU fire either late or not at all, Keeler said.

"[But] the University is constantly reviewing its safety plans and emergency response plans and making those things better because of things that happened, like at Virginia Tech," she said.

Hardina added that the ASU Police are in the process of reviewing those plans yet again as they further study the reports related to Virginia Tech.

Two weeks ago, an ASU committee released a preliminary report calling for improved communication and better security systems on campus, including forming an emergency manager position to handle Virginia Tech-like incidents.

Megan Howard, a women's studies junior, said in an e-mail that she doesn't feel much safer on campus since the Virginia Tech shooting.

"I haven't really noticed a big change [in security]," she said. "I noticed the security on the Segways, but where are they at 11 p.m. when I get out of my astronomy lab?"

Howard said she thinks it's vital to have more security on campus, especially since there are classes that last until 11 p.m., and the library is open 24 hours on weekdays.

Jeff Waddell, an international studies senior, has family members who attended Virginia Tech and has visited the campus himself numerous times.

He said that, though ASU's campus safety is improving, he still doesn't feel protected.

"I think ASU has made a start with the creation of the emergency [text message] alert system," he said. "However, I still think it would be very easy for something like what happened at Virginia Tech to occur in Tempe."

But other students, like Julia Vessey, a dance graduate student, feel like they don't have anything to worry about on campus.

Vessey said she has never felt unsafe on campus, and she thinks students are the ones who can prevent incidents like the Virginia Tech shooting from occurring.

Reach the reporter at: charlsy.panzino@asu.edu.



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