Thursday, January 22, 2009


The second anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre is drawing near and the truth about what happened that terrible day is blurred in a flog of deceit, half-truths, and outright deception. The sad fact is that Virginia Tech is no safer today than it was on April 15, 2007.

Steger failed to act immediately following the first two shootings at West Amber Johnston. President Steger was told of the shootings by the Virginia Tech Police Chief Flinchum at 8:10am. The stories of the content of that conversation keep changing. At a minimum, Flinchum and other Virginia Tech police officers knew that there was no suspect, no witness, no weapon, and there were bloody footprints leaving the scene. Steger claims he was not aware that there was a person of interest until 8:40am—all the more reason Steger should have acted at 8:10am following his talk with Chief Flinchum.

Governor Kaine’s blue-ribbon investigation does little to clear up the questions and ambiguity about when and what President Steger was told by Chief Flinchum. Indeed, the governor has admitted that the time-line of events in the report is wrong. If something as elementary as a time-line in a criminal investigation is wrong, how can you believe anything in the report?

Steger’s defenders say that he doesn’t deserve the criticism he is getting. They call him a decent and honorable man—I am sure he is. They point to his accomplishments at Virginia Tech as a professor, as the dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, as the vice president of Outreach and Development, and as president—I am sure these accomplishments are many. I would go even further, I am sure that he is a decent man who has devoted his life to educating others. None of this however, negates the fact that he made a crucial error in judgment—he was wrong in not alerting the campus. At that critical moment following the first two shootings he was an incompetent leader—none of his previous accomplishments can negate that fact.

If I made a poor judgment and ran a stop sign causing an accident and the death of 30 people, I could not stand in court and tell the judge I am not responsible because I am a decent person with a track record of many fine accomplishments. I would be held accountable for poor judgment. President Steger needs to be held accountable, he needs to go.

President Steger demonstrated, by his inaction, that he does not deserve to be in a position of leadership; a position that may call on him to make decisions in a crisis situation in the future. He flunked that test; he flunked it badly. No matter how many security systems are put in place to protect a school, if the individual responsible for activating the systems is incompetent, the school is not safe.

President Steger also needs to explain why the Virginia Tech Police Chief was put in for a 51% pay raise. Granted, the governor has frozen pay raises, but the 51% proposal itself needs to be explained. I am sure it is not the case, but the proposed pay raise could give the appearance of an attempt to bring Chief Flinchum into agreement with Steger on when and what the school president was told about the first shootings. Even in the best of times, a 51% pay raise needs an explanation!

Following any crisis of the magnitude of Virginia Tech, rumors abound. The school needs to deal with those rumors and put them to rest. The cutoff date for donations to be included as part of the memorial fund (HSMF) disbursement to the families was August 15th. Donations after that date were placed in the school’s general scholarship fund. That date, and the determination of the amount of donations intended for the families vs. the amount intended for the school, was established solely by Virginia Tech. The families had no say in the amount of money they were to get or the cut-off date. But what is most disturbing are unsubstantiated reports that individuals in the school’s administration quietly advised donors not to make their contributions until after August 15th . If true, this would go beyond disturbing, it would be disgusting and despicable. I really cannot think of words to accurately describe such actions. Please President Steger, please Virginia Tech, clear this up.

The one thing that the Virginia Tech families need is the truth. Their lives will never move back toward any degree of normalcy until all the questions are answered. President Steger’s unwillingness to admit his role in the tragedy as well as Governor Kaine’s apparent unwillingness to thoroughly reexamine the details of the shootings, point to either indifference to the families’ suffering, incompetence, or a cover-up.

When you couple the above with the fact that the Virginia Police “declined” to turn over pertinent documents related to Cho’s purchase of weapons, you are left gasping for air and wondering what kind of Orwellian world do we live in? The victims’ families and the residents of Virginia still need a thorough and complete explanation of what went on.

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