It's part of human nature to seek shelter -- to yearn for safe surroundings. Sure, we take precautions: We buckle our seatbelts. We lock our doors. But even then, we preserve our mental well being by refusing to dwell on the reasons we take those precautions in the first place.
"Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary in learning," President Bush said after the homicidal rampage that left more than 30 people dead at Virginia Tech. "When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community."
So as we pray for strength for the families who have lost loved ones, we have to ask: After the coffins are lowered and the orations read, what then? Will our need to move on, to ignore the reasons that we take precautions, get the better of us again? Or will we take some steps now that may forestall the next tragedy?
No, I'm not talking about some unconstitutional gun-control program that leaves innocent Americans defenseless, and I'm not talking about an unworkable, invasive government program. I'm referring to something that will keep students and their parents better informed about the level of safety on a particular campus.
Information, as they say, is power. To pick the right college, you and your child need to know more than just how prestigious its list of alumni is and how many victories the basketball team has notched. You need to know how safe it is.
Parents, we need to realize that universities today aren't the peaceful havens we may remember from our youth. You trust the smiling faces on the brochures at your peril. Do yourself and your college-bound children a favor: Visit the Web site of a terrific group called Security on Campus, Inc., and get the whole campus picture.
There you can access crime data for specific schools -- information you can hardly expect your friendly tour guide to volunteer while you're strolling the grounds.
Let's face it: No campus is immune, but some are worse than others. Some colleges may have an extremely high number of robberies and vandalism. Others may have repeated incidents of rape and assault. Such data is available from two major sources, the Department of Education, which collects statistics from more than 6,000 schools, and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program, which includes data for about 400 schools. Both sets of data can be accessed through www.SecurityonCampus.org.