Area Colleges Respond to Shooting

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Monday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech continues to resonate at Massachusetts colleges. The Boston Police Department plans to educate campus police on how to respond to such emergencies, while students have been holding vigils on campuses to show support for their peers at Virginia Tech.

WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports.


STUDENT VOICES: Yeh though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: About a hundred Boston University students gathered in a cold drizzle to remember their fellow college students in Blacksberg, Virginia. Reverend Dr. Robert Allan Hill is Dean of Marsh Chapel.

ROBERT ALLAN HILL: So our hearts are full and they extend across the miles to our sisters and brothers in Virginia. We are with them in spirit.


BRADY-MYEROV: Most area colleges have emergency plans following the September 11th attacks, and many colleges said they are reviewing those plans in light of the mass shooting. Most college police don't carry firearms. Yesterday representatives from 19 area schools met with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and agreed there needs to be better cooperation. Drew O'Brien is the Vice Chancellor of UMass Boston.

DREW O'BRIEN: I think an incident like Blacksburg will help us all crystallize our efforts going forward. I think what Mayor Menino and Commissioner Davis have done today is show us we are not alone. They've brought together to discuss best practices and established a framework where we can all work together going forward.

BRADY-MYEROV: Representatives from Harvard, MIT, BC, Wellesley and other schools identified two areas of weakness that campus police and city police need to address — training and communications. Davis said campus police will be offered training in how city police respond to an incident.

ED DAVIS: There was universal acceptance of the idea of joint training and that's where we want to start. Each college will have a different process that they'll follow depending on whether their officers are armed or not. But clearly everyone wants to be involved in the training part of it.

BRADY-MYEROV: Davis said the training will be in place for the new academic year and will include SWAT tactics used to deal with an active shooting.

Most importantly, Commissioner Davis said campus police need to be able to communicate with city police to avoid confusion. Currently most campus police radios can't access the emergency channel used by first responders. Davis said college police will be added to the emergency channel.

Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But
Governor Deval Patrick, who did not attend the meeting, said more needs to be done.

DEVAL PATRICK: I think there's one more hold to plug which is to limit to one purchase per month the gun sales so we're not having straw purchasers who are buying guns in bulk just to be resold into criminal activity and people who shouldn't have them.

BRADY-MYEROV: On college campuses in the Boston area, many students said they feel safe. Angela Yen is a freshman at MIT.

ANGELA YEN: I think the shooting was definitely a very scary thing so it makes everyone more aware of their surroundings. On the whole campus is very safe, we very rarely have problems there's campus police all the time we have all the phones if you ever need help or need to call anyone.

BRADY-MYEROV: Bentley College junior Christopher Campbell wore a Virginia Tech sweatshirt he bought when he visited his brother, who is a graduate.

CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL: I wanted to make sure I showed my pride and show there are college students very concerned and want to make sure Vtech students know we're here for them and will support them.

BRADY-MYEROV: In an email campaign Campbell is encouraging college students nationwide to wear maroon and orange, Virginia Tech's colors.

One student from Saugus died in the shooting. Ross Alamedeen attended Austin Preparatory school in Reading, where the headmaster called him a bright student and a fine young man.

For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov

This program aired on April 18, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.