WVU Dean of Students speaks about safety concerns after two shootings in less than 24 hours

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In less than 24 hour period last week, there were two shooting shootings near the downtown West Virginia University campus leaving many people wondering about their safety.

The first incident was a fatal shooting on Friday morning that took the life of WVU sophomore Eric James Smith, 21, of Clementon, New Jersey at College Park apartments. The second happened around 1 a.m. on Saturday, February 29 when an undisclosed victim was shot in the hip area after a drug deal turned violent.

WVU’s Dean of Students Corey Farris said the University alert notifications, which use a combination of social media, text messaging and a mobile app, were critical in keeping students aware of both incidents. Regardless, he said both shootings were unusual for the university and community as a whole.

“I think it’s been unnerving because this has been so unusual for our community,” Farris said. “We’re not part of a metropolitan area where this is in the news every day. As a matter of fact, I have been here for a number of years and I don’t recall anything, quite frankly any shootings this close to campus since the late 90s.”

Farris said the University Police, which responded to the first shooting and the Morgantown Police, which responded to the second, have assured them that the incidents were isolated. Given that the shootings were isolated and contained, Farris said, that tells him the campus and surrounding community are not unsafe.

He said that he wanted to convey that the city is safe and that people need not worry about their safety any more than before the two shootings.

“Not just to the students, but the faculty and the staff,” Farris said. “We want to convey to their parents and to the greater community. We’re part of a greater community and so I’m not uncomfortable about being in our community. Again, it’s not in the news every day and since this is so uncommon for us I still feel safe and confident that our community is safe.”

If any student, faculty or staff feel any unease about the shootings WVU has counseling and mental health resources available, Farris said.

“We’ve got our counselors that have been on the ground, on-site, working and supporting and counseling students,” Farris said. “I know that they’re always available 24/7 and that hasn’t changed but they’ve also been on-site as well as they have the regular counseling center open so that anybody that walks in they can get the support that they need.”

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