It has been 18 years since I sent my oldest daughter off to college, and almost 5 years since my youngest child graduated from this same university. I used to think the money I saved on tuition, books, food and their social clubs was the best part of them being graduates. But, in recent years my personal opinion has changed. I am now thankful that my 3 children (2 daughters) survived their college experience without suffering the effects of a sexual assault, muggings or even a terrorist attack! Does that mean our college campuses are out of control? I don�t think so. But, I do believe the challenges they now face are much greater, because of the added technical advancements of the Internet, mobile phones, computers and social networking. The playground or danger zone has simply gotten bigger.
With that being said, I think there were 3 tragic events on college campuses in recent years that might have turned out differently, if just one or two actions had taken place prior to those fateful dates. As you will see, it could have been something as simple as telling a friend, calling a police hot line or even sitting through a 1 hour seminar on vigilance. Once you learn the details of these senseless tragedies, it will be obvious to the reader how these murders might have been averted!
I will start with Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Seung-hui Cho was a 23 year old student with a known severe anxiety disorder, which by law was kept from the University. However, his conviction of stalking two coeds on campus in 2005 got him identified as being mentally unstable, and fortunately Cho was suspended from classes. Several professors even testified against him because of this erratic behavior and asked that he be removed from school. Of course the tragedy of this story happens two years later, when Cho is allowed back in school, purchases 2 handguns (no restrictions) and methodically completes his terrorist attack killing 32 innocent people. How could this have happened? He was identified by administrators and law enforcement as a threat! How many people saw him leave his apartment that day with the weapons? Who witnessed Cho locking the doors of the classrooms by wrapping chains on the outside of the building? What other indicators were missed because students or faculty were not trained on how to be vigilant?
The second tragic event that should have never happened, occurred on March 5, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Eve Carson was the 22 year old Student Body President at U.N.C. Chapel Hill, and was at her parent�s home that night studying rather than going out with friends. At 0130 in the morning, with the doors unlocked, Laurence Lovett (17) and Demario Atwater (22) entered the home and began their crime spree of kidnapping, terror and eventfully the brutal slaying of Eve Carson. Once these two habitual criminals had successfully used her to withdraw money from an ATM, they systematically executed Eve by shooting her 5 times at point blank range! Besides the ease of this home invasion (no break in), Laurence Lovett and Demario Atwater should have never been allowed on the streets. Both of these individuals had lengthy criminal records and were well known within the Chapel Hill Police community. Lovette had been on probation for several years for committing an armed burglary at the age of 15! He had gone nearly two months without meeting his probation officer, and in fact, had missed his assigned court date 5 days earlier for this previous conviction. Why he was not picked up by police for this �failure to show� is one of the painful questions of this case. Eve was gunned down less than one week later! Demario Atwater�s history is actually worse. His case (a previous gun felony) had been handed off to 10 different officers, and he had not seen a Probation Officer in over a year, despite racking up an additional gun conviction during this time. How did the system lose such a notorious street thug? How many decent law abiding citizens knew these two were on the loose? Did anyone know of their intentions to break in this affluent home prior to that fateful hour? Why did Eve have to die?
The third event that got nationwide attention occurred on May 3, 2010 at the University of Virginia. Yeardley Love was a beautiful young woman (varsity Lacrosse player) who was scheduled to graduate from this prestigious school within weeks of her untimely death. She was fatally attacked by her drunken ex-boy friend as she sought safety in her apartment bedroom. In a rage, he kicked in the door and proceeded to beat her to death with his hands! In his statement to the police, he was in love with Yeardley and didn�t mean to kill her??!! This was not the first time George W. Huguely (also a U.V.A. varsity athlete) had gotten violent with his on and off again girlfriend! Only months earlier an intoxicated Huguely had to be pulled off Yeardley has he attempted to choke her while having an argument at a college party. Fortunately, male members of an opposing university athletic team rescued Yeardley from a certain death. She would not be so lucky on May 3rd. The sad part of this tragic story is George Huguely had a long history of a drunken and violent past, dating back to his early teen years. He had been arrested on numerous occasions for underage drinking and had even been convicted of fighting a female police in Charlottesville, Virginia and threatening to kill her only 14 months earlier! This incident was not reported to the University of Virginia or his varsity coaches, even though team mates and Yeardley�s friends knew of this violent encounter. Why did they stay silent? Did they not see the violent pattern and destructive course Huguely was on during his 4 years at U.V.A.? Where were Yeardley�s friends and coaches (her protective network) during this timeframe? It is obvious that Yeardley was afraid of her ex boyfriend, but what kept the others from intervening? All of these questions are now being asked by Yeardley�s mom and countless others at the University of Virginia. This was a death that should have never happened!
Although each one of these senseless murders is a little different, there is a common thread. Our college campuses are not the safe and innocent environments that most parents think when they send their children off to school. In most cases, our young teens (especially females) go away to college with an innocence that is often deadly when confronted with a danger of violence that was never expected. We do a terrible disservice as parents and school administrators when we do not warn and/or prepare our young females (lambs) for the dangers that lurk from predators (wolves) on every college campus in America! It is time to wake up. The threat will always be there��now let�s teach them how to deal with it and to survive!