Compassion may be the best defense

Last week harbored four tragic shootings, all taking place within different educational institutions across our country. With alarming regularity these acts of violence are becoming more frequent, forcing campuses around the world to reevaluate their safety procedures and the security of their students.

Southern Oregon University prides itself on its commitment to excellence and desire to help students achieve. There is a diverse variety of clubs and resource centers, plus many devoted faculty members helping in the guidance and encouragement of our multi-national student body, in hopes to create an accepting and supportive environment for students.

our nation's standards, Ashland is one of the safest places one could reside and that feeling encompasses our university as well. Therefore it is almost inconceivable to imagine a student walking into a class, pulling out a firearm and directing it at fellow classmates. But it happens, and SOU has no more immunity than any other campus across the country.

Immediately following the tragedy at Northern Illinois University, in Dekalb, Ill, SOU President Mary Cullinan offered her condolences to those affected by the shooting on the SOU home page. She also addressed our student population with the intent of a comforting message.

"Please be assured, also, that we at SOU make every effort to ensure our campus is safe. We continually examine our campus safety measures. Campus security and the Ashland Police and Fire Departments work together regularly on our emergency response action plans. We actually carried out a mock crisis scenario on February 13th," President Cullinan wrote.

But how much can really be learned from a "mock crisis scenario" of a situation with such complexity? I have no doubt that our safety on campus is of the utmost importance to these parties, but what types of precautions could we possibly employ, to deflect a disaster that is out of our control?

When asked, the majority of students stated that they felt safe on the SOU campus but the recent shootings have made some more aware of the possibilities of an attack.

"SOU is a pretty open environment but anything can happen anywhere. You never know," said Samantha Peterson, a senior from Redding, Calif.

A number of students had not heard about the Northern Illinois shooting, when asked, and nearly no student interviewed was informed about the three other shootings earlier that week. Perhaps the media is to blame for lack of coverage, or maybe it is the lack of student interest with staying informed on social issues.

When asked if they felt prepared for such a shattering affair, most students said no, and how could they? What precautions could we possibly practice to brace ourselves for such an event?

"We never have drills here, like high school," said Nancy Reyes, a freshman from Medford.

"With so many different settings and so many places people could be, I don't really know that a single approach could be entirely effective," said Dr. Jody Waters, assistant professor of communication. "Early responses to intervene when a student is in jeopardy are entirely possible and appropriate and we do have those as an institution. I really do think it's a function of the time in which we live, but it doesn't hang in the air as a threat."

Deon Jenkins, a junior from Los Angeles, said, "Considering it's happening everywhere, the possibility is likely that it could happen anywhere. It makes me want to get a gun. If somebody did come here, I would want to be able to protect myself and others."

"I don't feel unsafe here," stated Bliss Wilson, a sophomore from Salt Lake City. "I just feel sadness for the children who couldn't live their lives. I haven't thought about what colleges could do to prevent it."

Many of us haven't, but it's not the responsibility of the schools. It's ours.

It is unclear whether the campus could formulate any plan to prevent such a tragedy. Acts of violence stem from a more personal place, and we are unable to control the actions of others. It is one's own choice to pull the trigger of a gun in order to feel heard. Perhaps the practice of compassion is the only tool we can implement in preventing these despairing situations, removing the finger from the trigger and placing it back on the pulse of life.

is a junior at SOU studying communication, video production and creative writing. You can learn more about her at

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