Monday, September 22, 2008

Virginia Tech Tragedy: Demand for Transparency Continues

In a series of three articles since June 19, 2008, David Ress, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, has continued the call for transparency from Virginia Tech as to the discussions, decisions and actions of the leadership team on the morning of April 16, 2007 after the first two shootings.

In a September 13, 2008 article titled Did Tech shootings spur idea to close? Victims dad says police chief wanted lockdown, but other accounts differ, Ress highlights the fact that no one can remember whether anyone suggested a lockdown. Greg Gwaltney, whose son Matthew was one of the students killed in Norris Hall, recalls a conversation with VT Police Chief Wendel Flinchum nearly a month after the tragedy in which the chief said he told President Steger to shut down the campus. Flinchum did not have the authority to call the lockdown himself.

Virginia Tech, through spokesperson Larry Hincker denied the lockdown suggestion was made.

Reprinted from

Did Tech shootings spur idea to close?
Victim's dad says police chief wanted lockdown,
but other accounts differ

September 13, 2008


On a bright May day, not quite a month after the massacre, Chesterfield County businessman Greg Gwaltney asked the question.

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum was taking Gwaltney to see where his son, Matt, had died. As the two men, side by side, were walking between Patton and Burruss halls and turning up the steps to Norris Hall, Gwaltney said:

"I wish you had just shut the campus down after the first two shootings."

"I really wanted to shut this place down. It wasn't my call," Gwaltney remembers Flinchum replying. "[Virginia Tech President Charles W.] Steger is the man, and I told him to."

. . .

Flinchum doesn't remember the conversation that way, said university spokesman Larry Hincker. While he doesn't recall exactly what he did say, Flinchum is sure he didn't say what Gwaltney remembers, because the chief never made that recommendation, Hincker added. Steger doesn't remember hearing anyone suggest it, Hincker said.

Flinchum did not respond directly to repeated phone calls and e-mails from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

There is a glaring lack of consistency in VT leadership's discussions of the lockdown issue. I covered the lockdown issue in my report Crisis of Leadership: A Response to the Virginia Tech Panel Report; specifically on pages 9, 13-15, and 25-26 of the report.

President Steger clearly uses the term lockdown in this CNN video: Va Deaths: Warnings Questioned

"We had the sirens going off, we sent I messages, we sent out emails and we utilized the telephone tree and we concluded it was best once they got into the classroom that was where to lock them down….Based on, you know, we had to make this decision based on what we knew at the time….and I think we did it as well as we could."

Steger also uses the term lockdown as cited in this CNN article: Officials thought killer left campus after first shooting

"The school's lockdown system worked very well, Steger said. Students were cooperative and very few people were out after the lockdown, he said."

How can President Steger and the leadership team continue to claim ignorance as to what transpired during such a critical stage of the management of the crisis? The lockdown decision is paramount during a killer-at-large incident.

For people in such esteemed positions, if they truly don't remember such discussions, isn't that de-facto incompetence? And if they are deliberately withholding information, isn't that dishonesty?

In either case, incompetence or dishonesty, these individuals must be held accountable by virtue of the leadership roles they serve for the university.


Did Tech shootings spur idea to close?
By David Ress
September 13, 2008
Click here to visit site
Tech release of records
omits key materials
By David Ress
July 21, 2008
Click here to visit site
Tech not commenting
on April 16 e-mails
By David Ress
June 19, 2008
Click here to visit site
Virginia Tech Blogs Click here to visit site
Crisis of Leadership: A Response to the Virginia Tech Panel Report Click here to visit site

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