Two separate and apparently unrelated crimes in university labs have thrown the issue of school safety once again into the spotlight.

Last month, the body of 24-year-old Annie Le, a Yale pharmacology doctoral student, was found in a utility compartment in the research lab where she worked. Police have charged 24-year-old Raymond Clark III, who worked in the lab as a technician, with her murder, citing “an abundance of strong forensic evidence.” Authorities have called the case an incident of “workplace violence” and have not put forward a more specific motive.

And here in Los Angeles earlier this month, a UCLA senior was slashed by a classmate in between chemistry labs in Young Hall. The accused perpetrator, Damon D. Thompson, reportedly attacked the 20-year-old female student, whose name has not yet been released, before calmly walking to the student information center and saying he had just stabbed someone.

Thompson is currently being held on $1 million bail for suspicion of attempted murder. The victim’s family recently released a statement saying that her condition – once critical – is improving, and she is expected to recover.

So we find ourselves as a society once again turning out our empathetic pockets and wringing our hands to ask what went wrong. We look for patterns of behavior, escalations of violence or resign ourselves to plaintively asking, “Whatever has the world come to?”

What remains, however, largely missing from our collective dialogue is the unpleasant reality that the Mulberry truths we have held dear for so long – that schools should be somehow different than the “real world,” that students aren’t capable “of this kind of thing,” that bad things only happen to bad people and you can spot a troublemaker from a mile off – are woefully dated. I don’t mean to paint an irredeemable view of our world, not in the least, but these “unimaginable” situations must now be seen as imminently imaginable and handled proactively.

Our country has always been one to excel at reactive measures in the aftermath of tragedy. The 1999 shootings at Columbine High School reignited the debate over gun control laws and prompted immediate efforts by school administrators to monitor the mental health of their students, addressing specifically the often taboo subjects of bullying and ostracizing. The tragic magnitude of the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 necessitated a fundamental rethinking of the alert systems employed by campuses big and small to notify and continue to update their communities during crises.

And these reactive measures do work, to an extent. In the UCLA attack, students and staff interviewed by the L.A. Times praised the response time of both the police and the university’s medical staff. As has now become standard practice, a text alert was sent out to all students, faculty and staff warning them that an incident had taken place on campus and warned everyone to remain clear of the area.

But it is unacceptable to continue to make strides to improve safety only when saddened and spurred to frenzied, stopgap remedies. Reactionary thinking leads to overzealousness, fear mongering and unproductive defeatism. It is high time that serious, proactive steps are also taken on a consistent basis.

All college and university students should be required to provide a frequently checked phone number or email address for emergency situations. For campus security and local police, we should demand and insist upon the practice of top-notch response times. Pour funds into free and confidential mental health counseling and publicity campaigns to remove the stigma from those screenings – no one should be afraid to seek help.

Additionally, with reference to the emerging facts from these two recent situations that suggest the victims likely knew their attackers, schools should provide similar funding and publicity for conflict-resolution services. It sounds cliché for students to “work it out,” but that is precisely what our society has, for many years and at every level, failed to do.

But most importantly of all, when these terrible situations do arise, whether a “domestic dispute” or a “random act of violence” or a “manifestation of festering mental illness” – and they will arise again regardless of our efforts to prevent them – we cannot be overwhelmed and numbed by fear. We must commit ourselves anew each and every time to know that crises and their aftermaths are the times for our best thinking, our strongest and deepest resolve, our broadest empathy and most searing foresight.