Open Letter by a graduate student to Chancellor Katehi about Virginia Tech shooting reference
An Open Letter Addressed to Chancellor Katehi:
I am afraid that I have been forced to write to you after watching the Town Hall forums over this last week. First of all, I would like to thank you and the members of the panels for taking the time to speak to the community.
I was a witness to the now infamous pepper-spraying incident on the Quad and have participated in numerous protests condemning such actions since then. However I have never written to you personally, trusting the words of those more eloquent than myself to express the general dissatisfaction with the actions of the police and administration.
Nonetheless I knew I had to communicate in person when I heard you invoke the Virginia Tech massacre on multiple occasions to defend a need for weaponized police forces on college campuses. When students and faculty are professing concerns and fears of the campus police, I ask you if such a reference is relevant or appropriate.
As a native Virginian, I hold a deep conviction that the events of April 16, 2007 should never become a catchphrase to conjure up fear for a broad variety of campus safety issues. Clearly, the fears I felt in the crowd on the UC Davis Quad last week were entirely different to those of a school shooting and should be respected as such.
Perhaps if I explained my personal connection to the amazing VT community, my aversion to such rhetoric would be more obvious. As a freshman at another public university in Virginia, the day of the massacre itself was marked by a deep fear for my friends on the Virginia Tech campus. Every anniversary, commemorated by current Tech students like my brother, is a somber opportunity to reflect on the sorrow that accompanies mental illness.
Not once on any of those occasions have I been comforted by the thought of more weapons on college campuses regardless of the hands that hold them. In fact, the 32 deaths of students and faculty in 2007 have prompted legislation that limited the use of guns, not broadened their application.
I realize that “Virginia Tech” is now a phrase that is used to describe the realities and challenges of administrating higher education; such notoriety has led to useful reforms such as the WarnMe system that alerts UC Davis students of safety hazards. Nevertheless, I would ask you and the UCD administration not to refer to the tragic events of another community in such an offhand manner. Just as language referencing the terrorist attacks of September 11th should not be used to support the Patriot Act, I urge all of us to avoid utilizing the massacre at Virginia Tech to explain the unfortunate events on our own campus.
Perhaps the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University could instead serve as an economic model for UC Davis; Virginia public schools facing budget cuts have managed to keep tuition within a reasonable price range, which to me, is a far higher priority than weaponizing the police.
A Graduate Student
University of California, Davis