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by Chatt G. Wright, President of Hawai‘i Pacific University


In light of the violence at Virginia Tech, the middle of April was a difficult time for all of us, even here at HPU, in spite of how far we are from where the tragedy took place. We know what a normal day on a university campus feels like, and it is hard to imagine how one person’s actions can turn a place of learning into a place full of suffering and sadness.

When a university comes under physical attack, it’s not just human lives that are at risk. The openness that defines higher education is attacked as well. The world can come together at a university, and those of us at HPU know that one of the things that makes our university special is the fact that the world really does come together here. But some in the media last week questioned the openness of universities and suggested that we might all feel safer if we stripped away some of our openness. Some even went so far as to wonder if universities should be equipped with metal detectors and walled off so they can be locked down.

Certainly every school has to think about the safety of its students, faculty, and staff. HPU has always had plans for what would happen if something disrupted life on campus. As a result of last week’s events, I have asked my administrative staff to review and, if appropriate, improve our plans. At the same time, though, we should not give in to those who have a fundamental misunderstanding of what universities are all about. If we lose our openness, we may lose what makes us a real university.

In spite of everything that might have made us afraid, last week we came together in many venues—Intercultural Week, the Global Citizenship Symposium, the Honors Brunch—and showed that we continue to be an open learning community. We did not let the actions of one troubled young man make us afraid of one another. HPU is a place where students who come from nations that are at war with each other find that they don’t have be afraid to be friends with their supposed enemies.

Hundreds of HPU students signed a giant card with well wishes for the students and families of Virginia Tech. Right: Signing here are, l., Danielle Harper, sophomore, marine biology major and Jade Smith, sophomore psychology major.

Photo by Larry LeDoux



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