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Why is Charles Steger Still President of Va Tech?

John on December 5, 2009 at 12:46 am

S_charles_stegerMore than two years ago a commission assembled to look into the matter determined that a warning on the morning of Cho’s massacre could have saved lives.

Now it turns out that, while the administration did not see fit to alert the campus that a double homicide had taken place, some of the administrators did take time to alert family members:

One of the administrators who notified a family member was Steger’s chief of staff, Kim O’Rourke, said Phil Schaenman, the president of TriData, the outside firm that put together the report. She often called her son, a Tech student, to make sure he went to class. She told him about the dorm shootings but still told him to go to class, which he did.

“I did tell him what had been happening, and I told him to go to class,” O’Rourke told The Washington Post. “He was in class at the time of the shooting in Norris Hall.”

As if that makes it okay! The point is…he was aware there was a killer loose on campus while the rest of the student body was not. Why didn’t the rest of the student body get the same warning about the danger as your son?

Gov. Tim Kaine said if there was an effort by the school’s administration to notify family members before anyone else, it would be “inexcusable.”

“There is almost never a reason not to provide immediate notification,” Kaine told The Associated Press. “If university officials thought it was important enough to notify their own families, they should have let everyone know.”

If you were starting to think that maybe Kaine was going to take some action, you’d be wrong.

Later, Kaine spokeswoman Lynda Tran said his office had spoken with Tech and TriData officials about the report’s findings and it “does not sound like there was wrongdoing” by the two administrators.

Kaine is only too eager to find no wrongdoing now given that he backed Steger two years ago when he should have fired him. It just wouldn’t look good to reverse that decision now. Here’s the other news in the new report:

  • It took 17 minutes for the chief of the Virginia Tech Police Department to get through to the executive vice president‘s office after he learned of the dorm shooting.
  • Campus trash collection was canceled 21 minutes before students and teachers were warned. [They were more worried about trash collection than warning the student body! Why does this man still have a job?!]
  • Virginia Tech’s government affairs director ordered Steger’s office locked around 8:52 a.m. [That's 30 minutes before they notified students!] Two classroom buildings were also locked down well before the notification went out. But Owczarski said the office was never locked.
  • One student killed in the dorm, Emily Hilscher, survived several hours after being shot, but no one bothered to notify her family until she had died. [They were busy cancelling the trash pick-up.]
  • An administrator who was a member of a policy group dealing with the shooting mailed a colleague in Richmond around 8:45 a.m. that a gunman was on the loose, but warned the colleague to make sure that information didn’t get out because it was not yet “releasable.” [Is anyone going to look into this? Who ordered the information kept under wraps and why?]
  • Virginia Tech had two different emergency-alert policies in effect at the time, and that led to the delay in issuing the university-wide alert.

Steger and his administrators sat on the information for over an hour. That was an hour Cho had to prepare for his next move. That was an hour his victims could have had to make their own decisions about whether or not to head to class that morning in light of a killer on the loose. At the very least, an additional hour of notice would have had the entire campus on high alert, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

President Steger should have been fired two years ago for his abject failure to protect the campus. It’s a shame that so many people seem intent on seeing him almost as a victim of this situation, a focus for the pathos of the event. Instead, they should see him as the man who kept a double homicide on campus a secret until moments before the worst shooting spree in US history. In a better world, Steger would be unable to find a job collecting trash at Va Tech.

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Category: Crime & the Law |

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