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V Tech probe findings will influence future campus management

April 23, 2007 08:33 IST

The president of Virginia Tech University, Charles Steger, has stressed that the ongoing investigations will shed light on the future course of actions on campuses so that any tragedy can be avoided.

"I certainly hope and I'm sure that the investigations that are under way will give us a much more detail as to how this case was handled. But it is something that I think we should reflect upon very carefully and see what we can learn to ensure that this sort of tragic event doesn't happen on another campus," Steger said on Sunday at a meet the press programme.

A senior Bush administration official appearing on the same programme also argued that a process must be put in place that will come to terms with issues of privacy and security.

"How do we balance privacy with the need for security? How do we make sure that people have mental health treatment when they need it and not create a stigma for it? How do we protect privacy? These are the kinds of larger issues that are not just applicable to what happened at Blacksburg, but also what's happening in this unexplainable pattern of nightmarish episodes of violence in our society," the Secretary for Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt said.

"We'll be going across the country asking that question, asking mental health professionals, governors, law enforcement and higher education officials about their feelings and suggestions," he added.

The university witnessed a gruesome shooting incident on April 16 in which 32 people were killed. The shooter, a mentally troubled South Korean student, later killed himself.

An Indian American professor, G V Loganathan, of the Engineering department and a 26-year-old Indian student from Mumbai, Minal Panchal, pursuing her Master's Degree in Architecture, were among those gunned down in a classroom.

However, Steger refused comment on whether mentally troubled students like Cho Seung-Hui, the 23-year-old boy who gunned down the students and faculty members, should have been kept away from classes.

It has been extensively reported in the American media and elsewhere that Cho was severely mentally troubled and that the faculty of the English Department in which he was majoring for his undergraduate degree was aware of his problems and had extensively consulted on how to go about addressing the issue.

The New York Times, for instance, has said that as many as eight of Cho's teachers in the last 18 months had formed a 'task force' to discuss how to handle him.

"On at least two separate occasions they reached out to varsity officials, telling them as recently as this September that Cho was trouble. They made little headway and no action was taken by school administrators," the paper said.

Virginia Tech is giving all the indications of a campus trying to return to normalcy with classes set to resume from Monday.

The media, which has been literally camped out in Blacksburg, has been politely asked to leave the area so that students and the University authorities can go about their businesses.

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