The Florida Tragedy:  How Shall We Respond?

To:  University Community
From:  Ralph Kuncl, President 
Date:  February 15, 2018
Subject:  The Florida Tragedy:  How Shall We Respond?

It is a sad day for us all.  There is another mass murder by guns in a public place.  It is of course the case that we sincerely express our deepest condolences and prayerfulness for the families and colleagues of the victims.  But our society seems desensitized to the epidemiology of gun violence.  We have even become numb to the news.

What does it mean?  According to the NY Times, “with the Parkland shooting, three of the deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history have come in the last five months.”   As violence seems to accelerate, we cannot continue merely to mourn or give thoughts and prayers.  That is now a banal social response expected of political figures.  Rather, the rising frequency and scale of public murders indicates an epidemic.

What can universities do?  Gun violence in America is a public health crisis.  It is not merely a matter of politicized discourse on gun control vs. the Second Amendment.  America uses innovation and research to attack public health issues.  I and others will call for Congress to unplug the stops on research funding to explore the causes and cures for gun violence.  Universities are the places where politically neutral research can be carried out that can then be translated into innovation.

Before the performance last night of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, there was a moment of silence among the choristers before the music was to start.  We each thought in our own way about the day’s tragedy.  Some of the younger singers were barely out of their own high school experiences, and for them the tragedy seemed too close.  For me, thoughts were on the text of one of the world’s greatest lyrical statements about inclusiveness and peace.  The famous Ode to Joy segment includes the inspiring words (forgiving the gendered language of 1824) “Alle Menschen werden Brüder,” meaning roughly all mankind can become brothers.

As we look up at our flag flown at half-mast today, let us all be mindful of the tragic losses that our “brothers and sisters” have faced.  But let us also be mindful that the time has been long coming for a presidential commission on gun violence and an open-minded approach to research.

It is a sad day, yes, and I wish it were otherwise.  But here we are.  Let's do something about it.
Ralph