Professor’s relative, officials offer shooting reaction

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When something of the magnitude of Monday’s shooting spree atVirginia Tech happens, it affects people all over the country.

Wesson’s Annie Ruth Welter has a brother-in-law, Clifton Bryant,who is a professor at Virginia Tech.

Bryant was just back from a trip to Atlanta, and had not gone towork yet at the time of the shooting, Welter. But his grandson,Ryan, lives in the dorm where some of the shooting spree occurred,just one floor down from the bloodshed.

“Cliff was not on campus at the time, but his grandson was inone of the dorms where the shooting was,” she said. “At the time itwas going on, they had talked to him and he was fine.”

The nightmare of a shooting on campus is a possibility thatfaces officials at schools all over the country.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Howell Garner saidit’s hard to predict when or how someone will snap, and how toprevent it.

“It’s such a tragic thing when young people lose lives becauseof someone having some kind of mental problem and feeling like theyhave to take other people’s lives,” he said. “People sometimes gooff the deep end, and you do your best to guard against thosethings.”

At Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, Dean ofStudents Dr. Steve Bishop echoed Garner’s sentiments.

“I just feel it’s truly a tragedy that has taken place,” hesaid. “And the sad part is that it could happen anywhere. We shouldall be prepared as much as we can, and hope and pray it doesn’thappen any place else.”

Both community colleges have, like most other school campuses inthe country, had to face the idea that a violent attack of thenature of Virginia Tech’s could take place at any time, and thatadequate security measures are a must.

“We take seriously anything that points to a potential threat ofany kind. We do our best to check it out to make sure there’s not athreat,” Garner said. “We’ve increased the number of securityofficers we have, and we do regular checks in dormitories and checktraffic on a regular basis.”

Bishop said Southwest is also taking steps to make sure securityis monitored even when campus police can’t be everywhere atonce.

“We have full-time security 24/7 even on holidays. We are awarethat it could happen anywhere any time any place, of course,” saidBishop. “We are also in the process of putting cameras all overcampus.”

One step both area colleges have taken is to have rules againstguns on campus, except in the case of those licensed to carry them,like the campus police officers. On top of that, the campus policehave security measures set up with other area law enforcement so asituation of any magnitude can be handled.

“We do have a plan in place with the Wesson Police Department,Copiah County Sheriff’s Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment,” said Garner, who said he couldn’t elaborate on it.”But it’s there for if we had such a situation.”

Bishop said faculty education is also important to his campus’security.

“Our faculty are instructed on what to do in case ofemergencies,” he said. “As far as preparation, we try to take allprecautions to be prepared for anything like this. This definitelywill cause us all to review our security policies.”

Garner said Co-Lin releases a security manual that faculty andstaff are supposed to make themselves familiar with.

“Hopefully today will make people more mindful of those kind ofthings,” he said Monday. “We try to pick strategic times to remindpeople to be conscious of their surroundings, and if somethinglooks wrong to report it. With 2,000 people, sometimes it’sdifficult to know your total surroundings.”

But any school official anywhere will tell you that if someonewants to set his mind to the kind of evil that took place atVirginia Tech, sometimes it’s going to be hard to predict, and hardto stop.

“In a situation like Virginia Tech, nobody can be totallyprepared for that kind of widespread disruption,” Bishop said. “Itwas devastating what took place, we pray that it never happens onour campus, because it could happen anywhere.”

And even more so than the prevention, the healing is nevereasy.

“I heard in a report at lunch, they referred to this as a’College Columbine,'” Garner said. “That’s the kind of situationthat the country takes a long time to get over.”