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UNC-CH Chancellor: 'We Are Not Immune'

Posted April 17, 2007
Updated April 18, 2007

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— James Moeser, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said Tuesday that it is unrealistic to think that college campuses are immune to violence such as the fatal shooting rampage that has shaken the Virginia Tech campus and the nation.

On Monday, a previously obscure Virginia Tech senior identified as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, opened fire on campus in the deadliest school shooting rampage in U.S. history, killing 32 other students and faculty before turning one of his guns on himself.

Most every campus is vulnerable, Moeser said, no matter how much precaution school administrators and security officials try to implement.

"We're not immune. No one is immune," Moeser said. "There is no safe haven in the world."

In March 2006, the UNC-Chapel Hill community was a victim of  violence on a smaller scale when a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate allegedly drove into a crowd of people in a common gathering area known as "The Pit." Several students were injured.

That showed campus police and top administrators how vulnerable the campus could be. Afterward, police put up posts around The Pit to prevent other vehicles from getting into the area.

But school officials say they cannot completely cut off the area.

"I think it would be a tragedy if the American college campus became a security compound," Moeser said.

As a public university, UNC-Chapel Hill's campus is open to anyone. On a typical week, for example, officials estimate an average of about 75,000 people visit the campus's libraries.

"And yet, we have to balance that sense of openness, transparency and freedom with the feeling of safety," Moeser said.

Throughout the 795-acre campus, which has about 300 buildings, there are emergency call boxes, 53 sworn campus police officers and key-card entries on all dormitories to try to keep the estimated 27,000 students and staff safe.

Locking down portions of the campus is possible, but it would be impossible to lock down the entire campus, interim Public Safety Director Jeff McCracken said.

The university is also focused on communication and sends students e-mail alerts as well as text messages to cell phones and PDAs.

McCracken said that since the Columbine High School massacre near Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999, his department undergoes annual training that involves how it would tactically respond to an active shooter situation and how it would get emergency personnel on campus.

Other universities have similar plans. For example, officials at North Carolina State University, which has 54 sworn officers for its 31,000 students, said they maintain a constant review of campus safety and security. It uses e-mail and faculty liaisons in all campus buildings to get out information. It is also considering a reverse 911 system.

At East Carolina University in Greenville, there is an alert system in place that will lock certain campus buildings at the push of a button. There is also a network of surveillance cameras and 50 sworn officers for the approximately 24,500 students. The school plans to hire six more sworn officers this year.

And in light of Monday's shooting at Virginia Tech, Wake Forest University, which can shut down vehicle access to its campus, plans to review its crisis plans and safety measures.

State Attorney General Roy Cooper, along with University of North Carolna System President Erskine Bowles and other UNC system officials, was expected to hold a news conference Wedneday at 2 p.m. to "discuss next steps in campus safety," a state Department of Justice spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday.


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  • Fence Straddler Apr 19, 2007

    You think? If someone pulls a firearm with 15 round magazines and reloads twice there is a chance that 45 or 46 people (if shot once in a vital place) could die. Guns don't kill people. It is the person behind the trigger that kills. Campuses can try to be safe but you are never truly safe. You can only try to minimize the damage. Ask a law enforcement official and they will tell you the same.

  • IfByWhiskey-a-go-go Apr 19, 2007

    We can only prevent this if people can not get their hands on guns.

    MsLisa- Gun laws will not prevent the Chos of the world from killing. They are extreme paranoid psychotics, they do not live in the same world as you and I. Bombs, guns, knives it does not matter. They will find a way to externalize their anger by killing. Gun laws will not do a thing to stop what they do. Indentifying and locking them up is the only protection for society against people like that.

  • Censor victim Apr 18, 2007

    How can someone diagnosed as being mentally ill and dangerous to self and others qualify for a gun permit?

  • b-man Apr 18, 2007

    Well, MsLisa, We need to get knives, ropes, rocks, cars and anything else out THEIR hands. Not mine, let us protect ourselves. They will break the law anyway. Thats what bad people do

  • Section25 Apr 18, 2007

    Steve Crisp - actually you were the first one to accuse the other of having a mental disease.

    And actually it was Ronald Reagan and the Republicans in the 80s and 90s that shut a lot of the mental institutions by decreased funding.

  • jaybabe Apr 18, 2007

    Steve, I don't know why people read more into my comments then what I mean. I just asked a question and you answered in with the screening thing. I am not saying only police men should have guns. As far as guns go I don't own one and don't really want one, but it doesn't matter to me if you own one if that is your preference. As long as you don't shoot me.

  • Steve Crisp Apr 18, 2007

    To jaybabe: Not everyone is armed in a safe society. Only those who have been screened and qualified in the operation of a weapon. To suggest otherwise is a red herring. Again, why is it acceptable to allow members of police forces and the military to carry weapons, but not others? Those folks are people as well who have simply been screened and trained. Or are you suggesting that only a government-paid elite force can be allowed to be armed? That condition is the basis for tyranny.

    And to 99, typical liberal response. We disagree and you make the claim that I am the one with mental issues. I would suggest that in this case, given overwhelming evidence for my position, that you are the one ignoring reality. And yes, I am taking my medication; I just now popped another Allegra.

  • ninenine99 Apr 18, 2007

    Steve: I hope that you're seeing a mental health professional. I'd hate to think that you're out on the streets, without any kind of medication or help.

  • jaybabe Apr 18, 2007

    I am not liberal, but if we arm everyone then don't we run the risk of arming the crazies as well and giving them the ammunition they need to take out at least one person.

  • Steve Crisp Apr 18, 2007

    99, if you recall (and perhaps you don't since you seem to be inflicted with that mental disease called liberalism) open society is crawling with the mentally ill due to your philosophical predecessors. It was the liberals who forced the wholesale emptying of mental institutions across America. Those folks who should be safely behind padded bars, now roam the streets, are forcibly mainstreamed into our schools, and generally make a nuisance of themselves by doing things like going on rampage shootings, raping small children, and panhandling.