Office of the President

Regarding the tragedy at Virginia Tech

April 17, 2007

Dear Cornellian,

The tragic and incomprehensible loss of life that took place yesterday on the campus of Virginia Tech has stunned everyone throughout the Cornell community. Many of our students, faculty and staff have strong ties with members of the Virginia Tech family and, in our grief and sympathy, we are united in our thoughts, especially for the families and friends of the victims. To honor their memories, we will hold a gathering for reflection and remembrance at 12:30 PM on Thursday, April 19 in Sage Chapel. The event will be streamed live at

While there can be no guarantee against such horrific behavior, there is much we are doing to prevent such an occurrence on our campuses. Thanks to our counselors who support individuals throughout the university community in Ithaca, New York City and wherever Cornellians work and study, we are working with each of the university's departments to help our faculty and staff learn to recognize when a person is in distress and provide her or him the necessary support. Our police department devotes considerable time and effort to emergency preparedness, which regrettably encompasses strategies for handling similar situations. And, our students are doing a lot to support their fellow Cornellians through a variety of student-run programs.

The significance of a helping hand cannot be overemphasized. When we are aware of someone who is in distress, we demonstrate compassion by extending ourselves to that person, rather than ignoring the need. And when we allow others to help us when we are in trouble, we ease our own burdens and defuse potentially devastating circumstances.

To help promote the entire community's safety, there are actions you can undertake that will make a big difference. For instance, you could program your cell phone to be able to speed dial 911 and the university's own police hotline at (607) 255-1111 to reach out for help whenever you believe someone close to you needs assistance. Or, you could update your emergency contact information and add your cell phone number to so that you can be contacted more readily in the event of an emergency.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will look for answers to the many questions surrounding the Virginia Tech tragedy. This is a time when by reaching out to one another, we can find the strength to understand and grow as a community.

David J. Skorton