Inhabitants of the Ivory Tower

A conversation about issues in higher education

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Virginia Tech and Students of Iraq

The tragedy last week on the campus of Virginia Tech was unmatched by any episode of craziness in the history of American schools and colleges. The madman murdered 32 students and professors and then himself with an estimated 175-225 rounds from a pistol, more than 100 hitting people. The grief experienced by members of the campus community and town folk is overwhelming, and it has touched us all. But I, for one, am deeply moved by the cohesiveness of the students, the need the Hokies feel to be together, as they were before, so rare on college campuses, I think.

But they have not gone unnoticed around the world as others around the world have observed and shared the sorrow and been inspired by them. And in one particularly significant group of students there is a feeling of solidarity. At Baghdad Technology University, the students have erected a banner that reads, "We, the students of Technology University, denounce the attack at Virginia Tech. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims who faced a situation as bad as Iraqi universities do. The sanctity of campuses must be protected around the world."

One of the students, Yassir Nazar, said, "We have lost many friends and professors. But in spite of our wounds, we want to show our solidarity with the students of Virginia Tech who are our brothers in humanity and in pursuing knowledge." In spite of the deteriorating condition of higher education due to neglect over the last two decades, and the carnage heaped upon the professors and students -- indeed, the entire country -- over the last four years, these students can extend the hand of understanding and sympathy in the spirit I know to be a cornerstone of the true Iraqi character.

Just. Simply. Amazing.