The fiasco known as the Governor’s Review Panel Report on the Virginia Tech shootings and the Addendum to that report, continues to sink into an abyss. The latest example of this downward spiral is the letter released by Virginia Tech spokesperson Mark Owczarski. Owczarski denies that two Policy Group members warned their families of the double homicide at West Ambler Johnston Hall. I am sorry Mr. Owczarski, but your words have no credibility. The actions of President Steger’s Virginia Tech before, during, and after the April 16, 2007 tragedy have not inspired confidence in the school’s truthfulness. You admit that members of the Policy Group talked with their families but say they did not warn them. I will believe you when I see the transcript of the conversations.
Great men and women, great nations, great universities admit when they are wrong. Virginia Tech was wrong at almost every turn of events in dealing with the April 16, 2007, tragedy. But instead of admitting their errors, members of the Steger administration apparently put their careers and reputations ahead of the truth. Within days the school hired Burson-Marseller, a high-priced public relations firm, to spin the truth to Virginia Tech’s advantage. They paid that firm $633,000.00 dollars manipulate the tragedy. You do not need spin-doctors if you are going to tell the truth.
Virginia Tech knew about the charge that Policy Group members warned their families about the shooting; Virginia Tech knew about many of the errors in the Review Panel Report’s text and timeline—but said next to nothing. Virginia Tech had numerous opportunities to help in correction the badly flawed report produced by TriData, but said little. To cry “foul” now borders on both intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy. Mr. Owczarski, if Virginia Tech thinks it has fooled people, the school is badly mistaken and is wallowing in a Blacksburg pool of self-delusion.
Mr. Owczarski, how can anyone believe a Virginia Tech spokesperson when we know the school wanted all contact between school personnel and investigative authorities to be handled through school channels? That’s manipulation. How can we believe a Virginia Tech spokesperson when we know the school ostracized Professor Lucinda Roy for wanting to speak candidly about Cho and the events before the shooting? Steger’s Virginia Tech nearly ostracized Professor Roy after the shootings. The school’s heavy-handed approach to Professor Roy and other members of the English department is well documented in Professor Roy’s book, No Right to Remain Silent.
There are no candles, no plaques, no trees that can help the families in the healing process—only the truth can begin to heal. But the truth is the last thing the Virginia Tech families are being given. My family experienced this lack of honesty with regard to the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law—I see it at Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech’s moral/ethical compass, under President Charles Steger’s leadership, is so badly bent that it cannot be repaired in the near future—certainly not under his leadership. When historians address the Virginia Tech tragedy, they will have to write that it was a period when a great university lost its way and chose subterfuge over truth.