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After criticism, Virginia Tech seeks reform; some say an internal audit doesn't go far enough.

WHILE A GUBERNATORIAL PANEL'S REPORT CRITICIZED DECISIONS made by Virginia Tech before, during, and after last April's shooting, three university-conducted overviews sought to determine how to better protect students. They examined communications and security operations, and assessed interactions among departments on campus, including academic affairs and student counseling services.

President Charles W. Steger told the media, "I asked for the creation of two different but concurrent review processes. The external review, commissioned by Gov. [Tim] Kaine, is essentially investigatory in nature, while ours is a forward looking review of university policy, resources, and infrastructure through the prism of April 16." Virginia Tech's internal overview recommended additional security measures and more counseling for mentally troubled students. It cites that there was "good cooperation and sound agreement" between emergency workers and that cellular and phone systems on campus should be upgraded to avoid being overloaded in emergencies. Some suggestions have been carried out, such as replacing the types of door handles gunman Seung-Hui Cho chained during his rampage and instituting an emergency alert system.

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Critics, however, say the university's internal review does not cover the much-debated decision to keep the campus open after the first set of shootings. The Virginia Tech Review Panel's report states that university officials could have saved lives by notifying students and faculty members earlier about the killings and missed numerous ways to address Cho's mental health problems.

Colleges nationwide have responded to the tragedy by installing new emergency notification systems, reinforcing current procedures, and better informing students about seeking counseling. The University of California, Santa Barbara, is expecting to have a text messaging system in place no later than January 1, 2008, according to Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor for Public Affairs. UCSB already has an on-campus emergency task force that centers on preparing for earthquakes and other disasters. A parents' handbook, distributed at summer orientations, features new material on campus preparedness. UCSB had a tragic experience in 2001, when a freshman with a history of mental illness plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians, killing four people.
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Title Annotation:BEHIND the NEWS
Author:Herrmann, Michele
Publication:University Business
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Words:344
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