April 20, 2007

Dear Tulane Community:

This has been a profoundly sad week for the higher education community, as we mourn for our colleagues at Virginia Tech. Tulane University is no stranger to tragedy given the events of 2005. Nonetheless, the death of students and others with so much promise and life ahead of them leaves us despondent and reflective beyond words. Personally, I have not stopped thinking about this tragedy, the people it has impacted, its root causes and what it means for college campuses in the future.

I want to encourage everyone, if you have not already done so, to reach out to the Virginia Tech community in any way you feel is appropriate. I refer you to their website for information and reflection:

By their nature, college campuses are open, accessible havens that encourage the expansion of the mind and heart and the free flow of people and activities. Our challenge in the wake of this tragedy is to remain faithful to this concept of a campus, while having the necessary procedures in place to protect our people in the event campus sanctity is ever violated.

Tulane University already has an emergency preparedness plan in place to secure and protect our campus and its people in the event of certain disasters. Prior to Monday's tragedy we were also in the process of establishing a system to deliver emergency information to students, faculty and staff in the form of text and voice messages.

We have also, prior to Monday, had in place a Student-at-Risk Committee, a group of university safety, health and academic officers who meet monthly to discuss and deal with any student whose behavior has raised concern among faculty, staff or fellow students. However, this tragic event has prompted us to review our policies and plans again for their appropriateness in the case of many different situations.

With this goal in mind, I have appointed a task force to examine these and other issues related to our emergency communication and security systems and to develop specific procedures to deal with events similar to the one that unfolded at Virginia Tech this week. In particular, we will focus on the efficacy of our communications procedures, security devices and response protocols.

This task force consists of members of our public safety, communications, student affairs, student health, legal counsel, environmental health and safety and technology departments, as well as student representatives. Many of the needed procedures are already in place or in the process of being established, however, further review will increase the probability that we have not overlooked any possible scenarios. This task force will begin its work immediately and put forth any suggested changes as soon as possible.

Finally, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine has declared today a statewide day of mourning for the victims of Monday's tragedy. In solidarity I have ordered that all campus flags be flown at half-mast today and for the remainder of this month. I also ask that each of you observe a moment of silence or prayer at 11 a.m. today for our Virginia Tech colleagues and friends.


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