Saturday, April 21, 2007

Commending the Hokies

I think one of the reasons the Virginia Tech Massacre is so terrifying is that it happened on a well-known and respected university campus, one of the last places Americans typically fear for their lives. After reading article after article about the shootings on Monday evening, I found myself looking around from my cubicle in the library and wondering how I would react if a madman with a gun barged in with an intent to kill.

It is so sad and horrifying to think that we can't even feel safe at an institution of higher learning, where diverse opinions and peoples are supposed to be respected and nurtured. In the past few days, my thoughts have of course been with the victims and their families, but I've also wondered how the university plans to continue with the semester. With final exams and commencement rapidly approaching, the work of an entire semester (or rather, an entire college career) seems irreversibly damaged to such a disgusting extreme... I don't know how my school would even think of reacting to such an event.

Which is why I was so incredibly impressed with Virginia Tech's response to the tragedy, in terms of the completion of the semester and evaluating grades in the face of such a crisis. The university's website indicates:

Students will have the option of requesting, on a course by course basis, that the semester grade be based on the faculty evaluation of:

- Materials which have already been submitted for grade prior to April 16, or

- The already submitted material plus any other assigned material which the student wishes to submit for grade, or

- The material that would have been submitted for grade upon regular completion of the course.

Implementation of this procedure will be accomplished in a manner consistent with university academic policy. Existing policies related to other academic issues remain in effect. Flexibility and attention to the needs of the students is a high priority. The deans fully support the implementation and will be supported by the Office of the Provost.

In support of their emotional well-being, it is recommended that students continue to participate in class activities as part of the Virginia Tech community. We encourage students to continue to take advantage of all learning opportunities. Students will be permitted to defer a decision on which option to exercise until the last day of classes. The Course Withdrawal Policy is also extended until the last day of classes. The options for completing course work allow for students to remove themselves from the campus for all or part of the remainder of the semester without penalty to their course completion, or academic eligibility.

The university has decided that those students whose lives were taken will be awarded posthumously the academic degree for which they were enrolled effective Spring 2007. These degrees will be awarded during the college, graduate school, or departmental commencement exercises, where such degrees are usually awarded.

I absolutely commend the administrators at Virginia Tech for responding in such a sensitive, flexible manner to a truly incomprehensible and seemingly impossible challenge. I am also incredibly touched that the university decided to award degrees to the students whose lives were taken on Monday. In the face of disaster, I think Virginia Tech is showing true excellence and poise.

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