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Colleagues, students and friends:

Yesterday, what began as an ordinary day turned into hours of tragedy and mourning when more than 30 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech were gunned down either in a dormitory or several classrooms. The calm, cocooned environment that colleges and universities provide for students, employees and surrounding communities was shattered, leaving many to grieve and deal with chaos and uncertainty.

The Dallas County Community College District is part of a higher education family that begins here but extends across the country to everyone who is dedicated to providing higher education for students who wish to better their lives. Part of that higher education family is overcome with grief today, and we want to send our thoughts and prayers to the Virginia Tech community. We can only imagine the sadness, fear and anger that such a horrific event brings to a college campus; we can, however, pray for recovery and consolation.

We also must deal with questions closer to home. Are we as a district and as individual colleges prepared for such invasive events? How can we deal with random violence? What can be done to prevent such a tragedy from happening here? How can we help others in their time of need?

In today’s often-violent world, college campuses are a refuge for many, and a safe place to learn; however, our colleges are a microcosm of the larger world, and we must be prepared to handle the effects of that world on those who either learn or work within our institution. Would we trade the freedom that an open campus provides for learning and growth and replace it with security measures that hamper access and education? Such a closed environment is contradictory to the open exchange of ideas and the world of higher education.

With emergency plans in place and proper training for law enforcement personnel, we hope to meet challenges from the outside world when, and if, they occur. In the meantime, we must be vigilant, observant and aware of our surroundings.

With that said, I believe we must move forward, support our colleagues at Virginia Tech and also look positively at the safe and caring learning environment we provide. Please pray for that community and for its recovery. And reach out to each other, talk, listen and share as we deal with this tragedy ourselves.

Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr.
Dallas County Community College District