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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, December 11, 2023

: April 16 marks the one-year anniversary since 33 students and faculty were killed on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.


Although responding to an emergency is important, a year after the Virginia Tech tragedy UW-Madison officials said prevention is a crucial part of preparation. 


Honestly, I don't know if anybody can be prepared for that. [Virginia Tech] was horrific, awful - that's the worst of the worst,"" Dean of Students Lori Berquam said. ""What I would say we should focus on is prevention."" 


Deb Hettrick, a retired UW-Madison police captain who was asked to help develop awareness programs, said police are prepared to respond to a campus emergency but would rather stop any danger before it occurs. 


""The issue with Virginia Tech was the fact that there were lots of people that felt [Seung-Hui] Cho was a serious threat, but those people did not communicate with each other,"" Hettrick said. ""What we're trying to do is make sure that something like that can't happen,"" 


Berquam said students should communicate concerns with fellow students, advisors and deans.  


""College is stressful,"" she said. ""At this particular institution, we're in the Big Ten, we have really strong academic standards for our students. There's a lot of competition and stress, so of course our students are going to feel all of these burdens and then try to sort them out on their own - it's just not even reasonable."" 


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Don Mash, executive senior vice president for UW System administration, said UW campuses reviewed mass-casualty readiness immediately after Virginia Tech. 


""Northern Illinois University of course sparked additional concern '¦ the Virginia Tech tragedy sparked changes at NIU and their level of readiness, just like they did on our campuses,"" he said. 


Many university crisis plan changes came from a July 2007 UW System-wide report chaired by UW-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling, which reviewed security and suggested improvements for the 26 UW campuses. Mash said UW System administration plans to expand recommendations in its own report in June. 


UW-Madison officials developed ""WiscAlerts,"" a crisis communication plan, which have been sent out in three seperate incidents since September 2007, most recently to inform students of UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann's death on April 2. WiscAlert-Text messages will be implemented by the end of the year, according to program coordinators. 


As part of Riseling's report, Hettrick said UW-Madison set up a multidisciplinary threat assessment team to discuss students, faculty, staff and individuals unrelated to UW-Madison who may be a threat. 


""[The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] is not a barrier to campus safety - that's one of the biggest things that we have to tackle with faculty and staff,"" Hettrick said.  


""If you observe a student or another person doing some kind of behavior that leads you to believe that there's going to be an issue with them, there is nothing to stop you from telling somebody. But that was an issue at Virginia Tech.""  


UWPD also launched a training program in January to help community members recognize these behaviors.  


""I think we've addressed the big issues that came out of Virginia Tech,"" Hettrick said. ""We feel like we have done a lot of training and created a lot of awareness, but we need to do more.""

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