I’ve never worried about the SJSU parking garages. All these many years of night classes, of colleagues and students getting police escorts back to their cars at night — I’ve never once seen the necessity. And I don’t see it now, either.
And yet, last night, while I was heading for my own car in the 7th Street Garage, there it was — one of those terrible incidents. Not across the country, somewhere far far away. But right across campus in the 10th Street Garage. My phone buzzed not long afterwards. The new campus police alert system was awake and working — if not instantaneous. These days folks want their news at Twitter speeds. This morning’s Spartan Daily article about the shooting seemed to focus more on the ‘slow’ alert system than it did on the event itself.
But here, more to the point, is another personal tragedy enacted in a public place. Another reminder not only of the fragility of human life, but also of its capacity for rash impulsiveness. A reminder that while some events are random, others are volitional. That while most ‘news’ takes place far far away in places most Americans have never been and never thought about — from Tunisia to Bahrain to Sendai, Japan — ‘things’ both large and small happen here at home as well.
Universities are places where we try to put an emphasis on rationality. Analysis. Assessing costs and benefits. Probable outcomes. And yes, uncertainty principles. And maybe this last one is the most relevant regarding incidents like this. But surely if the university teaches us nothing much at all, it stands at least for critical thinking. The idea that our behavior matters. That it has consequences. That we need to apply due diligence to the hard decisions — the life and death decisions — that we make.
Rumors fly regarding motives. Names have not yet been released. But this, like so many other events that end in bloodshed serves to remind us what we all were supposed to learn at our mother’s knee. Use your words. Collect more data. Question assumptions. Consider the evidence. And maybe, for good measure, turn the other cheek and walk away.
A kaddish for those as yet unnamed “Three dead in campus shooting.”