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Tuesday, April 15, 11 a.m. ET

Virginia Tech, One Year Later

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Jay Poole
Director of the Virginia Tech Office of Recovery and Support
Tuesday, April 15, 2008; 11:00 AM

Virginia Tech will observe a day of remembrance on April 16, one year after 32 students were shot and killed. Jay Poole, director of Virginia Tech's Office of Recovery and Support, was online Tuesday, April 15 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about how students have been dealing with the tragedy and how the university will mark the anniversary.

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A transcript follows.

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Washington, D.C.: I read the article in today's Style section about one of the students at Virginia Tech. I was appalled to learn that of the millions of dollars donated to the school due to this incident that NONE of the survivors were waived tuition. It's the least the school could have done and shows bad form on behalf of the school, and that's putting it nicely.

Jay Poole: Quite to the contrary, VA Tech is waiving the tuition/fees for those students who were injured last April and who returned to class. A portion of the proceeds from the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (which was created because of the amazing generosity of hundreds of VA Tech alumni and friends) was the funding source.

We will request that the Washington Post corrrect that important fact in the story.

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Arlington, Va.: I graduated in 2004 and will always bleed Orange and Maroon. In the aftermath, and as we come up on one year, I hear comments from people saying "big deal, it's just 30 people, lots die every year." I hear it and I almost lose control, but I don't know how to respond because I'm mixed with anger, sadness, and frustration when I hear it. What do you tell people there that have the same problem of putting it to words when trying to answer a question like that?

Jay Poole: The most important thing we can all remember is that 32 families to this day are still struggling with a painful sense of loss. Each family member is coping in the best ways that he/she knows how, but it's up to all of us as Hokies to let them know that we're not going to forget their loved ones. That's why we call our event tomorrow a Day of Remembrance.

The collective sense of grief on campus is still very palatable and speaks to a sense of community that is unique to the VA Tech campus.

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Baltimore: Thank you for doing this chat. A couple of questions. Does your office offer assistance to alumni who are having a difficult time dealing with the tragedy? And are there plans for a memorial in the Baltimore or Washington areas? Thanks.

Jay Poole: The work of the Office of Recovery and Support is focused on the families of those who were killed, the injured students and their families. There are no plans to go beyond that; however, various local chapters of the VA Tech Alumni Association are planning their own activities so I would encourage you to contact the capital region chapter.

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McLean, Va.: Do you think since the shooting, students want to be able to carry guns on campus?

Jay Poole: We believe the only guns on campus should be carried by law enforcement officials.

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Arlington, Va.: Do you think most other universities are prepared to deal with the aftermath of another Virginia Tech? What should they be prepared for, and how?

Jay Poole: First of all, we hope there's nothing like this tragedy ever again. That having been said, colleges and universities all over America have revisited their own contingency plans and found that many aspects of campus health, crime, notification and response must be handled differently now than before April 16.

The world of higher education is different now.

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Washington, DC: How do you think that the overall atmosphere of the campus has changed since the tragedy?

Jay Poole: The collective passion of The Hokie Nation has never been in question. Moreover, the university's sense of community and caring for each other has sustained us through the darkest times.

As we recognize what was lost last April, we also are amazed at the resilience of 20 students who were injured in those classrooms and who returned to VA Tech to continue learning and discovery.

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Herndon, Va.: Does Virginia Tech counsel students and friends of the wounded who want to know how better to relate to what someone is going through?

Jay Poole: That's a great question. Just today, the Cook Counseling Center here at VA Tech provided to every student a guide for students, staff and faculty to better understand and cope with the complicated feelings that many are having as we approach this painful anniversary.

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DC: Just to clarify the tuition waiver issue:

The story states that tuition was waived for the survivors. However, Va Tech collected those tuition dollars from the survivors fund rather than actually donating the tuition to the students. The fund paid the tuition, not the University.

I too am somewhat appalled by this ... it seems that the least Va Tech could have done was throw in tuition for free to the survivors instead of pulling it from the survivors fund.

Jay Poole: Virginia state law is very clear and does not permit public universities to "waive" tuition. The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund was created as a mechanism to receive funds from generous donors who made those contributions to VA Tech anticipating that the university would use them appropriately. It certainly was an easy decision that a portion of those funds be used to provide tuition for returning students.

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Washington, D.C.: I am a 2006 graduate and was on campus during the shootings. I am returning later on today to be with my fellow Hokies (but as a member of the media).

My question, though, is what has been the biggest changes around campus to make students, faculty and staff not just feel safer, but BE safer?

Jay Poole: The world of higher ed is different now. The tragedy of April 16 was a wakeup call for higher education. Academic campuses are by their nature open environments, and as such are subject to the range of societal issues and constraints, e.g., mental health care networks, access to weapons and privacy laws. The VT tragedy tells campuses that many aspects of campus health, crime, notification and response must be handled differently now than before April 16.

Here on the VA Tech campus the university now has in place an elaborate alert system, has replaced crash bars on buildings, and has hired 11 new police officers. These are but 3 examples of many improvements being implemented on an ongoing basis across the VA Tech campus.

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Jay Poole: One of the things that has amazed me from the very first day and is just as amazing today is the outpouring of support for the victims, their families and the entire VA Tech community. The fact that Washington Post readers took time to participate in this chat today shows us that people still care and feel the loss.

Thank you for providing this forum and inviting us to participate.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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