On April 16, 2007 the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S history was brought to the attention of the nation. It also brought attention to the effects of violence on college campuses.
After the shooting of 49 people and the killing of 32 by Seung-Hui Cho in the Virginia Tech Massacre, the U.S Secret Service, the U.S Department of Education and the FBI researched the effects of violence on higher education.
The Virginia Tech shooting was the worst act of mass murder of college students since the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in which 35 Syracuse University students were killed. The shooting also was the second-deadliest act of mass murder at a school campus in the United States, behind the Bath School bombing of 1927.
Subsequent shootings at Delaware State University, Northern Illinois University and Louisiana Technical College increased the need to investigate the prevention of future incidents.
Further questions were raised on whether colleges and universities are sufficiently prepared to respond to incidents of violence and other emergency situations, and more importantly the emotional effects violence has on students.
While four fatal shootings have occurred at community colleges since the Virginia Tech shooting, it’s the presence of other violence and illegal activity that produces a level of insecurity and vulnerability on campus.
According to the campus safety homepage, the number of incidents reported from 2010 to 2011 at the Fort Steilacoom and Puyallup campuses increased.
The crime report cited five liquor law arrests, one forcible sex offense, four drug law arrests, one burglary and four motor vehicle thefts. These 15 incidents of illegal activity surpassed the eight recorded incidents in 2010.
Despite the number of incidents reported, it’s the effect that violence or fear will have on a campus that is the largest concern to educators. With the constant flow of students entering and leaving institutes of higher education, there are set expectations of the environment they are entering.
According to a study conducted by the Department of Education, a large majority of freshmen enter college with particular expectations. They are naturally in a new environment with many new faces and opportunities; however, they are in a more enclosed environment that people assume is safe.
The study explains that experiencing violence in an environment where it’s not expected increases the possibility of emotionally damaging outcomes.
Living in constant fear causes both mental and physical effects, the extent depending on the person. Fear can cause headaches, diarrhea, sweating, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. Students may experience one or more of these symptoms, as the experience is different for each person.
Mentally, the effects of violence are much more vivid. Victims can become deeply depressed, even suicidal after being violated in any way. In many cases, especially after sexual violations, victims can become disconnected from society, and in extreme cases lose their sense of self.
The effects of being a victim of any form of violence may produce a feeling of control loss and learned hopelessness, as indicated in the research composed by the FBI, Department of Education and the Secret Service.
The education of many students who experience violence suffers greatly. Those who experienced any form of assault of violation of their person are more likely to leave higher education.
At the same time being a victim of any form of violence is likely to stunt brain growth, one of the main contributing reasons to the poor academic advancements made by many college students after assault.
While Pierce College is considered a largely crime-free institute, the possibility of the effects of violence or fear may still be present.
College officials follow the federal law requiring that public crime reports be publically and accurately presented. They also offer personal counseling and crisis response programs to ensure that the college upholds its reputation of being widely crime free.
Pierce also strives to inform students of the possibility of personal injury to prevent violence on its campuses.
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