Asian-Americans react to Virginia Tech shooting

David Chih, director of the Asian American Cultural Center, introduces himself to students and faculty to discuss the Virginia Tech shootings Beck Diefenbach

David Chih, director of the Asian American Cultural Center, introduces himself to students and faculty to discuss the Virginia Tech shootings Beck Diefenbach

By Erika Strebel

When Eduardo Salgado, freshman in LAS, heard about the shooting at Virginia Tech, the first thing that came to his mind was campus safety.

“It brought more concern among students about safety on campus, especially since the (Virginia Tech) campus is about the same size as ours,” he said.

But Salgado said that does not mean he thinks the campus is unsafe.

“I still feel safe,” he said. “It’s just that different people act different ways. You can’t predict how things will happen.”

Salgado is only one of many students, administrators and organizations dealing with the aftermath of the shooting at Virginia Tech and the discovery of the shooter’s identity.

In response to the incident at Virginia Tech, the Asian American Cultural Center in Urbana held an open meeting Tuesday night to address concerns like campus safety and services available for students.

“We wanted to invite Asian-American students and community leaders to have a discussion about what happened and its impact on our campus and the Asian-American community,” the center’s director, David Chih, said.

Vice Chancellor Renee Romano, University Police Chief Krystal Fitzpatrick, University Counseling Center psychologist Kuanwu Lin and Associate Dean of Students Ruth McCauley attended. Representatives from various Asian student organizations, cultural centers and members of the Champaign-Urbana religious community also attended. All students were invited.

At the event Fitzpatrick addressed students’ concerns about campus safety in light of the shooting.

“The University Police Department does train for this type of situation,” Fitzpatrick said.

She said a SWAT team of officers from Urbana, Champaign and the University have trained on campus. Fitzpatrick also said that the University is developing a telephone emergency notification system to facilitate the ease and speed at which information can be spread in a similar situation.

Beyond concerns about campus safety, attendees discussed the racial issues behind the shooting.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old Korean-American majoring in English at Virginia Tech, was identified as the shooter Tuesday.

Students and staff expressed their concerns about retaliatory action against Koreans, Korean-Americans and those of other Asian backgrounds.

Korean Cultural Center Director Sunny Jeong said that there had been discussion of cancelling this month’s Korean film festival scheduled for Thursday because of anti-Korean sentiment some students have already sensed on campus.

“Our main concern is the safety of the two students hosting the event,” she said. “They felt uncomfortable because they are promoting Korean culture.”

A female Korean medical student, who wished to remain anonymous in fear that she would be targeted by hate crimes, said that she did not think race had anything to do with the incident until media began to report Cho’s ethnicity.

“It heightens my sentiments towards the victims and others, and I hope that Asian-Americans unite and say that we are just as sorry as the non-Asian public,” she said. “We hope that there is no retaliatory action against Asian-Americans.”

Romano encouraged students to take advantage of the University’s counseling services if they have concerns.

The Counseling Center will be taking “walk-in” individuals and groups that want to talk about the incident and its impact over the next week. Students can go to the counseling center individually or ask counselors to address their organization by calling the Dean of Students Office at 333-0050.

“It is terrifying because it hit so close to home,” Romano said. “It’s frightening and horrifying to all of us.”