Campuses across the US are reeling — because of violence. Some of those are in Boston, some in Virginia, and some in Texas. Stabbings, shootings and explosions have affected our entire society, and in many ways our campuses. Chicago, for example, is in the headlines all too often for our level of violence — last weekend, for example, was a particularly bad example of what leads our city to be seen in a very negative light by many.

How does this affect higher education?

Most pragmatically, perhaps, in our admissions. While the Cleary Act requires us to report on crimes and safety issues on our campus and in our environs, what does our city’s image do to us as we seek to bring students to join us in our leanring together?

This, though, is not the main impact. The impact is human — it is in the toll of tension that we all feel as we watch Boston or we read newspapers (or the internet headlines) about murder, suicide, and more.

Higher education has responded and will respond.

Campuses in Boston are working to identify those they may have lost or those injured. (for details, click here where the third explositon is described and campus reactions for some Boston area colleges noted and certainly some who lost their lives or were injured were students).

Virginia and Texas still work to prosecute and recover (if that is possible) from the violence on community college campuses in recent weeks.

College presidents have signed gun control petitions and commitments — including those here after the Newton shootings. Debates concerning this topic continue to affect campuses nation-wise. (See this article, for example.)

And today, higher education leaders — like political leaders and others — are lifting our eyes and commenting on violence to our students, staffs and faculty. I wrote a letter posted elsewhere. The president of  Boston University and others have responded. Harvard students are already critiquing the response of their University. And, of course, we are already celebrating the amazing efforts of first responders (when did that phrase enter our vocabularies?) and regular (whatever that means) people in rapid and kind hearted responses to shock. Marathoners in Chicago and elsewhere have begun to express their worries about security. More police? More of the same?

Others — in recent months and across decades — have taken steps as well:

Roosevelt students have advocated for counselors not police in CPS schools.

Today, as we mourn and worry — let us also ask ourselves: what must we change in our views of one another, in our structures of society, and in our lives to work toward prevention – not merely stopping the violent individual or organization but helping to create a world where there are not only more barriers to violence but more support for nonviolence. Active, intentional, ongoing support for ending violence is what is called for from each of us and from across higher education. (And, let it not only a shift in metaphor from the “explosion” of MOOCs on the scene.) This is what liberal education is all about.

Saturday Night Live did a painfully accurate piece recently on our government’s responses on gun violence. What if they were satirizing our campus leaders as well? What if they satirized each of us as we advocate for a more peaceful world and act in contradiction to that? What if they satirized our ongoing debate about student outcomes — reminding us that those outcomes are not merely individual capacities to obtain jobs (or even to think critically) but to shape a society that we believe is a one that is better for each and every one of us, runners and coach potatoes.

Once again, the world is watching and responding to a tragedy in this country.

What if?

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    Shimerprez is the 14th president of Shimer College at 35th and State. She also blogs at the Huffington Post and at a Shimer Blog called Evocations which can be found on line at She is a University of Chicago Ph.D. who works on religion, the social sciences, gender and sexuality. She reads murder mysteries, is fascinated by the world of food, and also loves the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York.

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