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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



    Notes from a catastrophe

    A panel appointed by Virginia’s state government to investigate the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy released a long-awaited report this week, and it found that inadequate mental-health care, confusing privacy laws and a delayed response time were major factors in the disaster.

    The Virginia Tech report describes “”major gaps”” in the state’s system for treating the mentally ill, and gives 13 recommendations for overhauling the system after learning that Seung-Hui Cho did not receive proper treatment, citing this as a missed opportunity to prevent the killings.

    Although a reasonable reaction to a tragedy, the logic of the panel parallels that of the Transportation Security Administration’s recently revised decision to ban breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces after a terrorist plot involving liquid explosives garnered national attention.

    At what point does reform become less about fixing what is broken and more about atoning for personal guilt over an unforeseen tragedy? Preventive measures that are simply reactive to individual cases rather than an examination of a system at large appear effective, but the state of Virginia should be wary of reductive logic leading to reforms that appear curative but have all the healing powers of a Band-Aid.

    -Sarah Devlin is a sophomore majoring in English and political science.

    The real tragedy here is that the killings at Virginia Tech could have been easily prevented – if only administrators and authorities weren’t so confused about federal privacy laws.

    Plenty of pundits have taken the report’s finding that there was “”widespread confusion”” about privacy and suggested that federal and educational privacy laws are ineffective and need a complete overhaul, with fewer restrictions on sensitive information and more sharing between state agencies and the federal government. An earlier report commissioned by President Bush even suggested that the Department of Homeland Security get involved – a sure prescription for an even bigger disaster.

    The truth is that the law already makes exceptions for sharing important information about student safety. But liability concerns and legal confusion lead many to misunderstand these provisions. Federal privacy laws should be clarified to prevent future inaction, but it’s possible – and important – to strike a balance between personal privacy and public welfare.

    -Connor Mendenhall is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies.

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