By Dean Seal
While many are heading out to support the American Cancer Society at Relay for Life Friday, some are choosing to spend their April 20 supporting a different cause – marijuana.
April 20 has earned a stigma in American culture as an underground holiday devoted to the celebration, often through consumption, of marijuana. The designation of April 20 as a cannabis holiday originates from the term “4/20”, a code that typically refers to marijuana or the consumption of marijuana by its users.
Select students commemorate the occasion across the country, specifically in densely populated areas and college campuses, with anything from large-scale observances to more private affairs. For some students, this sentiment is shared.
But, because the possession, growth and distribution of marijuana remain illegal in Virginia, the use of cannabis remains largely hidden on campus. The Division of Student Affairs classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, marked for its “high potential for abuse” and a “lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
The Students for Sensible Drug Policy are working to change the current system with a booth in Squires today.
“We’re an international grassroots group who knows the war on drugs is failing our society and generation,” said Chloe Beemer, president of the SSDP and a sophomore international studies major. “We obviously chose to establish a booth on 4/20 for a reason. We don’t advocate or encourage drug use of any kind, but we’re against the drug war, and we know today there’s a heightened awareness for the subject.”
The group advocates for more reasonable drug policies on campus, actively working towards extending the “Good Samaritan” policy to be more inclusive to drug offenses, instead of just alcohol offenses.
Despite recent revisions in the school’s Zero Tolerance drug policy, wherein violators will be sanctioned with a more individualized approach, students purport that the drug atmosphere on campus remains minimal, with no particular difference on April 20.
“I’ve never really noticed a change in the atmosphere at Tech (on April 20). The people who typically smoke are taking everything off campus,” said Nick Michaely, a senior finance major. “People do what they do all semester long; there’s no discrepancy on one day over another, at least not on campus.”
In fact, April 20 doesn’t see an increase in drug violators for campus residents.
“We’ve seen a general increase in the amount of marijuana violations in general in the past few years, but not specific to 4/20,” said Tricia Smith, associate director of Housing and Resident Life. “I think RAs on 4/20 exercise the same observation and judgment as they do throughout the year, but no increase in vigilance just because of a date.”
That means you won’t be seeing dozens of patrol cars circling the drill field just for the occasion.
“We watch for marijuana violators year round, so we won’t put extra officers out or increase patrol,” said Deborah Morgan, spokeswoman for the Tech Police Department. “I don’t know of any particular date that receives more scrutiny. Residents halls are not the easiest place to smoke.”
Some students, however, do notice a different trend on the day, just not in dorms.
“Off campus activity spikes every year, or at least around where I live,” said a senior biology major, who also preferred to remain unnamed. “I’ll celebrate Friday, but the difference that 4/20 makes is that you see a lot more people [consuming marijuana] than typically would. And they won’t be anywhere near campus, where it isn’t acceptable.”
The relative risk of getting caught when using drugs on campus is largely effective in keeping marijuana use out of the dorms. Some users even appreciate the diligence of Tech’s drug procedures.
“Even though 4/20 is a great experience with my friends, I think Tech has a good policy in keeping drug use off campus,” said an anonymous sophomore international studies major. “They don’t impose themselves on us. It’s just common knowledge that however you celebrate, it can’t happen here.”
NASA’s space shuttle Discovery made a victory lap around the capital region this week, before landing at Dulles airport Tuesday afternoon on the back of a 747.
The historic final voyage is ending Thursday when Discovery is brought home to the Udvar-Hazy center in Chantilly, Virginia, kicking off a weekend long celebration.
Follow Collegiate Times news reporter Kelsey Jo Starr as she covers the the space shuttle event live from Washington, D.C.
By Liana Bayne, Special Sections Editor
Susan Anderson, a math professor and the director of Womanspace, was teaching in the same classroom yesterday, April 16, 2012, that she was five years ago, April 16, 2007.
“Today was a bit odd,” she said. “When the moment of silence occurred, I realized I was teaching in the same classroom, and that gave me a haunted feeling.”
For Anderson, her remembrances of April 16, 2007 are always tied to a dark period in her life.
“My mom went to the hospital on April 17 (2007),” she said. Several weeks after her mother left the hospital, Anderson said, her mother was a Hospice patient. Anderson’s mother passed away shortly after that.
“It’s completely intertwined with my family tragedy,” Anderson said. “I have a hard time thinking of one without the other.”
Anderson said when she went to the hospital in Lynchburg, Va., that her mother was admitted to on April 17, 2007, the workers there were making orange and maroon ribbons to support Virginia Tech. Anderson said it was encouraging to hear people she didn’t know talking about things happening on her campus.
“It was like different circles of sorrow,” she said, dealing with her mother’s declining health and with the aftermath of the campus shootings that happened the day before.
Anderson was working at Monday’s open house in the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, representing Womanspace. She said Womanspace works with the CPSVP to try to educate people about all kinds of violence.
“I would like students to make a commitment annually to work to lessen violence,” Anderson said. “It isn’t just shooting and murders, it’s sexual assault, verbal abuse, harming children… I would like them to make a commit to making the world better.”
By Liana Bayne, Special Sections Editor
Guy Sims, assistant vice president for student affairs, still chokes up a little when he thinks about his son’s seventh birthday — April 16, 2007.
Sims was in only his second semester as an administrator at Virginia Tech in spring 2007. He said April 16 was a difficult day. He worked late that night. He expected there would be leftover birthday cake from his son’s party when he went home, and he was looking forward to having a slice of cake after the day’s events.
“When I got home, I saw that they didn’t cut it,” he said. “And the presents were still out, and unopened.”
The next day, April 17, Sims thought he’d celebrate his son’s birthday that evening. But he worked late again.
“I thought, man, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be at home,” he said. Although the days following the campus shootings meant long work hours, Sims wanted to make sure he celebrated his son’s birthday. A couple days later, they had birthday cake and presents for breakfast before he went to work on campus.
“For a couple years, it really bothered him,” Sims said. “I used to have to make sure to take extra time with him.”
Now, Sims’s son is 13, and isn’t as bothered by his birthday coinciding with the anniversary of the shootings.
Sims, who was enjoying Monday afternoon’s sunny community picnic, said he felt that the whole community of Blacksburg, not just Tech students, had come together well in this year’s remembrance events.
“It’s a wonderful expression of a community that has come to reflect, but also to look forward,” he said.
By Liana Bayne, Special Sections Editor
Lauren Prociv and her twin sister Kathryn decided to come to Virginia Tech because of the April 16, 2007, shootings.
“I remember the day vividly,” Lauren Prociv said. “I hadn’t made the decision to come yet.”
Prociv was in seventh period at Paul VI Catholic High School when she found out.
“My teacher had MSN.com up in class. I remember walking out of class and I was talking to my twin sister. No one had heard about it or knew anything,” Prociv said. “When I went to 8th period, I told my teacher, you need to turn on the news. People didn’t believe me.”
When the Prociv sisters went home, they sat in front of the TV for 10 hours, Lauren Prociv said, watching news coverage.
On April 11, just a few days before, she and Kathryn had toured Tech’s campus. That day, there was a bomb threat called in on Torgersen Bridge, and their tour group had been rerouted through the upper quad.
“It was really scary,” she said.
But Prociv and her sister didn’t feel scared to commit to Tech for both of the undergraduate and graduate studies.
“We weren’t scared,” she said. “Seeing how strong and resilient Tech was,” inspired them, she said.
The Prociv sisters were part of the class of 2008.
“It was strange, but it affected me in a positive way,” Prociv said.
She said she’s seen the student body react strongly to tragedy, even those students who weren’t at Tech in 2007.
“We have a new level of sympathy,” she said. “We know how to act, handle (tragic situations), and help each other and other schools (that experience tragedy).”
Prociv said being a Tech student has “made me be a more cautious, but a better person.”
“I think there’s something about being at Tech that makes you feel like you should cherish every moment,” she said. “That’s not a negative feeling, it’s a positive.”
By Liana Bayne, Special Sections Editor
Tacy Newell still thinks of the sound of the alert siren near Major Williams Hall on the morning of April 16, 2007.
“This bullhorn kept going, and going, and going,” she said. “’Take cover, this is not a drill.’”
Newell, a retired mother of five, was working part-time as an academic advisor for the natural resources and geography departments in 2007.
She was supposed to be in McBryde Hall, just next door to Major Williams, but chose to stay in her office when she received an email that two people had been shot in a domestic disturbance that morning.
“First, I texted my children that I was okay,” she said. “Then I was getting calls from coworkers, because they thought I was in McBryde.”
One of her coworkers had to come in late, at around 9:30 a.m. “I called her,” Newell said, “and I asked her where she was. She was in the parking lot behind Norris and I said, ‘Karen, get back in the car, lock your door, and go home.’”
Four hours later, a SWAT team told Newell that she was safe to leave the building.
She remembers that it was tax day, so she had to drive to Christiansburg to file.
“I was driving on 460, and I heard on the radio 17 dead, and I almost wrecked,” Newell said. “I had only officially heard two dead in the domestic incident.”
“It was surreal hearing reports that the death count kept rising,” she said.
“I hoped that this would not define Virginia Tech,” Newell said.
By Zach Crizer, editor-in-chief
Bo Hart was Virginia Tech’s SGA president last year. But in April 2007, he was a senior in high school.
On the morning of the shootings at Tech, Hart was considering his college choices for the following year.
“I remember telling my guidance counselor that morning that I wanted to go to Virginia Tech,” he said Monday while attending the community picnic on the Drillfield.
Watching the news coverage, Hart wondered how such a tragedy could strike in a place like Blacksburg.
“Out of all places, why did it have to be Virginia Tech?” Hart asked.
But as Hart, like the rest of the world, kept his eyes on Tech in the aftermath of the shootings, he saw a university community he wanted to join.
“After watching that, it was when I realized I wanted to be a part of that,” Hart said of the Tech community.
In his years at Tech, his impression of the “Hokie Nation” was only strengthened.
“Being here the past four years, it’s unlike any community in the world,” he said.
By Priscilla Alvarez and Gina Patterson, news staff writers
DJ Preston, the sports clubs coordinator for Recreational Sports, missed the bus on his way to class April 16. When he went to catch the next bus for his 9:30 a.m. class, Blacksburg Transit had stopped the route. Like many others, he sat and watched the news as the death count rose.
“I actually had friends who should have been in class in Norris, but, for what ever reason, didn’t go.” Preston said, “That hits home closer to anything.”
Even though some may not have been directly affected, the tragedy haunted everyone.
“You don’t take for granted that it could have been you,” Preston said.
Five years later, he is still thinking about the family and friends who were directly affected.
“My heart goes out to each and every one of the families who had to go through that,” he said.
In commemoration, Preston attended a community picnic that was held on the Drillfield Monday to mark the 5th anniversary of the shootings.
“A day like today just triggered a whole other level of emotion that you try to suppress,” Preston said.
By Cody Owens, news reporter
Mary Joan Armstrong, a sophomore psychology major, remembers April 16 vicariously through the vivid images related by her mother.
Armstrong’s mother and her best friend traveled more than four hours to Blacksburg from Sterling, Va., to pick up the latter’s daughter.
Before departing the campus, her mother watched thousands of students light candles on the Drillfield. She said she was amazed that they organized everything in just a few short hours.
“It just happened that day and that night there was such a community response,” said Armstrong. “They banded together and were even closer. I wanted to be a part of a community like that.”
(Updated 3:55 p.m.)
By Liana Bayne & Zach Crizer, photos by CJ Yunger & Brad Klodowski, SPPS
On Monday afternoon, community members gathered in several different locations to remember the campus shootings of April 16, 2007, and to express how they have moved forward.
The second floor of Norris Hall, where Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and injured 17 before turning the gun on himself, is now the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Representatives from Womanspace, a group that tries to educate people about violence toward women, and from Actively Caring, a student group that teaches anti-bullying in schools, were on hand to talk about their involvement with CPSVP.
Susan Anderson from Womanspace said that although she knows many current students were not on campus in 2007, “current students understand how much it impacted this campus, and they’re mindful and want to participate” in remembrance events.
Graduate student Shane McCarty, who is studying industrial and organizational psychology and is a major organizer of Actively Caring, said his organization hopes that every student at Virginia Tech could embrace a culture of caring about other people.
“I want to see the day when people select Virginia Tech because of the culture of the place,” he said.
In the Perspective Gallery on the second floor of Squires Student Center, visitors were invited to participate in an art project that represented moving forward from violence.
Mariam Shelton, a sophomore HNFE major who was working the front desk of the Perspectives Gallery on Monday afternoon, said the project had attracted almost 200 people since its opening on Saturday.
“Usually, people come through and just glance at the art,” she said. “But people are actually taking the time to sit down and pray and reflect. It’s maybe the same amount of visitors (as other art showings), but it’s more emotional.”
The gallery is decorated with pieces from Special Collections in the library that were made by people across the country in the aftermath of the 2007 shootings. It features prayer flags, banners, and paper dragonflies with positive messages inscribed on them.
The main art installation features river rocks that visitors can write on. They are then being laid in a spiral on the floor, representing “eternal life,” according to the instructions for the installation.
“I love it,” Shelton said, “because to see how many rocks have popped up since having a bare floor on Saturday. It’s touching to know people still care.”
A steady stream of Hokies and Blacksburg community members met on the Drillfield Monday for a community picnic in remembrance of the April 16, 2007, campus shootings.
Bo Hart, a Tech graduate and the 2010-11 SGA President, said the anniversary gives Hokies a chance to realize the importance of the community.
“It’s great for everyone to get together and be around other Hokies — to remember and reflect,” Hart said.
A team of 72 student volunteers set up the event. Organizers said many local businesses, including Domino’s Pizza, Olive Garden, Campus Cookies, Kroger, Log Cabin BBQ and others either donated food or offered food at discounted prices for the event.
The picnic is continuing right now.
Last night, a small group reflected on the shootings as the memorial candle was lit at midnight. More photos from that event are below.
As Virginia Tech mourns the loss of J.J. Stinson, the community is welcome to the following events to remember and reflect, according to the Newman Community website. Memories can also shared on their website.
Tonight at 8:00 p.m
The Bishop Ireton High School Alumni at Virginia Tech invite the community to the Pylons to share memories and prayers.
Friday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m.
All are welcome to reflect in the Hilcrest Dining Room. Staff from Cook Counseling Center and Housing and Residence Life will be available for additional support.
Tuesday, April 17 at 6:00 p.m.
The Newman Community is hosting a memorial service at War Memorial Chapel.
At 6:30 p.m., Bishop Ireton High school in Alexandria, Va. will host a prayer service for J.J. Stinson, a Virginia Tech student who died earlier this week.
The service will be held in the auditorium, according to Mary Kelly, Bishop Ireton’s director of communication. It will include prayers, music and a slideshow.
The Facebook page for the event says about 300 people are planning on attending, but Kelly expects the number to be higher.
Stinson graduated from Bishop Ireton in 2010. He was part of the National Honors Society and received the Presidential Award for Academics. The school also sent him to the Salesian Leadership camp in Brooklyn, Mich., which recognizes student leaders and helps them cultivate their skills.
Stinson was a second-year student and academic junior studying philosophy at Tech.
Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida, will be the inaugural speaker for the G.V. Loganathan Lecture Series, according to an announcement from the department of civil and environmental engineering.
His lecture, titled “Opportunities for Reinventing Urban Water Management in Cities of the Future,” will take place at Owens Hall Banquet Room Friday, April 6 at 4 pm.
Vairavamoorthy is internationally-recognized for his knowledge on urban water issues. Throughout his career, he has worked with UNESCO and the European Union to create clean and sustainable water and sanitation systems. He has also researched the future of sustainable water systems for cities and water issues affected by climate change in urban areas. He currently directs the University of Florida, Patel School of Global Sustainability.
Today is the last day to vote for Virginia Tech to win the “Tree Campus USA Arbor Day Events Contest.” Ten colleges are in the running to win $1,000 for trees to plant around campus. The contest is sponsored by The National Arbor Day Foundation.
Last year Tech won the competition and used the funds to purchase trees that were planted on campus during Earth Week 2011.
As of Tuesday Tech was in the lead, just a few hundred votes ahead of the University of Rochester.
You can vote at http://arbordaynow.org/contest/vote.cfm. The winning school will be announced tomorrow.
By Dean Seal, news staff writer
The Health and Wellness Group of Leadership Tech will be hosting a “Positivity Day” on the Drillfield on Wednesday, April 4 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Leadership Tech is promoting positive attitudes and encouraging students to de-stress with free food, music, games and relaxation activities. The carnival style event will host both local business and student organized information booths, which will feature activities ranging from arts and crafts to a puppy petting zoo.
“We wanted to do something related to health and wellness,” said Lucy Tamberrino, a psychology major and member of the Health and Wellness Group. “And students are really stressed out, so we decided to put a focus on mental health.”
In conjunction with the Drillfield festivities, E. Scott Geller, an alumni distinguished professor, will be speaking on positivity from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Room 344 of Squires Student Center.
Universities libraries will also be contributing to the positivity by opening up “fine amnesty” as part of a local food drive. The Library will waive a library fee or fine for any canned food item brought their information booth.