Memorial University President Axel Meisen is expressing his sympathy and condolences to the faculty, staff and students of Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. On April 16, 33 people were killed in an early morning rampage at the Virginia Tech campus.
“There will be difficult healing process ahead for the families of the victims of that terrible tragedy,” Dr. Meisen said. “I think also of the individuals, the wounded and the witnesses and the university community, the community at Virginia Tech, and the larger, world-wide university community that shudders at the image of such senseless violence. We stand together with Virginia Tech in mourning and in the commitment to learn from the tragedy so that university campuses remain safe places.”
On Friday, April 20, Memorial’s flags will be lowered to half-mast to mark the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. The commemoration, typically reserved for those who have had a significant association with the university, was made as a sign of the university community’s respect for the numerous victims in the tragedy at Virginia Tech and in sympathy with the families, faculty, staff and students at a sister university.
Glenn Blackwood, executive director of Memorial University’s Marine Institute, joined the president in expressing his condolences.
The Marine Institute has been a partner with Virginia Tech since 2004 in the North America Mobility in High Education program. This program fosters student mobility, faculty exchange and joint curriculum development with a focus on sustainable rural development.
“This institute is particularly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Jocelyn Couture-Nowak, Virginia Tech professor and wife of Dr. Jerzey Nowak,” Mr. Blackwood said. “Four of MI’s faculty and staff have had the honour to work with Dr. Nowak in the mobility project. They have been particularly touched by the warm hospitality with which Dr. Nowak and Mrs. Couture-Nowak welcomed them onto the Virginia Tech campus. These exchanges have helped forge a close bond between the institutions and our hearts go out to Virginia Tech and Dr. Novak’s family. The Marine Institute is preparing to receive its first student from Virginia Tech this fall and is making plans for a MI student to travel to Blacksburg this summer.”
The events at Virginia Tech have also heightened interest about the crisis plan Memorial has in place. “We’ve had a detailed crisis management plan in place for some time,” said Victoria Collins, director of Marketing and Communications. “It’s activated in major crises, including events like severe power outages, floods, outbreaks of communicable diseases, explosions and other severe dangers. The plan has been reviewed, tested and revised periodically, particularly in the wake of events such the arrival on the St. John’s campus of hundreds of passengers after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina in the southern US and the Dawson College shootings in Montreal. This week’s events in Blacksburg, Virginia underline the importance of the planning we have under way to respond specifically to this kind of horrific scenario."
She noted that university personnel who play key roles in responding to a crisis receive special training and the plan is periodically practiced with members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and other emergency agencies.
“Memorial is committed to the safety and security of everyone within the university community, including students, faculty and staff and visitors to our campus,” she said.
“The aim of our crisis management plan is both to provide a prompt and coordinated response to a crisis, and to do whatever possible to prevent and mitigate harm.”
For further information about Memorial’s crisis plan and other emergency preparedness measures, please visit www.mun.ca/erm/emerg/
For more information on memorial services and to submit written condolences and messages of sympathy, please visit www.vt.edu/