Letter to the Editor

Some Thoughts about Gunman and the UC Irvine Community

Like many students and alumni on May 20, 2009, I was alarmed to hear of possible violence emerging on the UC Irvine campus that was eerily similar to past campus tragedies at other educational institutions. The details which ultimately emerged marked this event at UCI as one of poor decision-making by a student, a few misunderstandings, and in the end, I hope, reconciliation among the UCI community.

I am writing this letter in response to the media coverage and the sincerely remorseful open letter by Christopher Proffitt published in the New University. I agree with Mr. Proffitt that he made some very poor decisions on May 20, which led to a series of unfortunate events that caused the unnecessary use of university resources and the unnecessary questioning of Matt Fritz, a student who had done nothing wrong. But as the dust settles on the events of a day that we all wish had never happened, above all else I can say I am proud to be an alumnus of UCI because of the responses of all those involved.

When faced with a developing crisis, the university assessed the situation and responded proactively. I was very impressed to learn that UCI had utilized Zot Alert as an effective way to alert students. I was also impressed by the overwhelming updates on my Facebook page and the communication made possible by students and alumni alike. Certainly, the emergency response personnel at UCI can mark this as a successful emergency response and use this as an opportunity to study and learn lessons about which improvements can be made if a more threatening event were to happen in the future.

To Matt Fritz: You fell victim to unfortunate misunderstandings and a case of mistaken identity, but I gathered from your interview in the Orange County Register that you responded with exemplified understanding for the serious nature of the matter at hand. In an instant, you became a representative of UCI to the surrounding community and you responded with class and poise that we can all be proud of and build from.

Lastly, to Christopher Proffitt: As you said, you made some poor decisions, which had some very serious unintended consequences that could have developed into something much worse. You were at fault, but I realize this was not your intent and your lack of sound judgment on this day was not in any way malicious. Your open letter to the UCI community moved me to write this letter and express my pride in having attended and graduated from this university. Despite your mistakes on May 20, you responded appropriately in the aftermath of the incident. I applaud you for taking accountability for your actions, your sincere and public apology and for demonstrating humility. I want you to know that I am happy that you are a student at UCI because of how you responded to this challenging moment in your life. UCI is a place of high education, but many lessons are taught along the way through failure, shortcomings and mistakes. I urge you, Mr. Proffitt, to grow and learn from this experience and I encourage the entire university to do the same.

Chris Balster
Alumnus 2006