The killing of a University of Washington employee this year is one of at least 15 in which colleges have provided flawed security, ignored threats, or danger signs or paid insufficient attention to disturbed students, says a USA Today analysis of more than 100 college killings since 1991. The massacre of 32 at Virginia Tech in April, like some of the 15 cases, fits a pattern of killings committed by isolated, vengeful students who turn homicidal with shocking brutality.
The pattern points to broader security flaws at colleges that can contribute to the 2,500 annual rapes and 3,000 annual aggravated assaults at colleges, experts say. “Murders can expose flaws in the system that go a lot deeper,” said S. Daniel Carter of Security on Campus, a safety-advocacy group. Campus administrators often do a poor job telling students and one another about threats, he said. “People let their guard down” on campus, said University of Washington police chief Vicky Stormo. “People tend to look at the good and don’t think that when they see something, maybe there are evil intentions. There’s a tendency to deny or ignore.” The number of potentially troubled students is growing as colleges enroll more people with mental disorders, said Russ Federman of University of Virginia psychological services.