- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech has devised a system to prioritize, study and adopt more than 200 recommendations for changes after the mass shooting on campus in April, the university’s board of visitors was told yesterday.

Minnis E. Ridenour, a senior resource fellow at the university, showed board members color-coded charts that will cross-reference recommendations of a panel appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, to look into the killings with those in the school’s internal investigations.

Also to be considered are recommendations from federal studies started after a mentally disturbed student killed 32 persons, wounded two dozen, then took his life April 16 in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

A policy group of many of the university’s top officials is meeting several times a week to set priorities on the recommendations and distribute them to committees for review, school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Mr. Ridenour said the group will act within a month or two to implement items with the highest priority and will give the board quarterly reports on its progress on all of the items. The first will be in November.

Member James R. Smith of Roanoke said the recommendations are related to a situation that is still “laden with emotion.”

“We need to be able to breathe some passion into this process,” he said.

In response to a question about what can be done immediately, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger said officials have taken steps to make the campus safer with such changes as door locks and better care for troubled students.

After the board was told 17,000 people have signed up for a new system to notify students and staff of emergencies by e-mail, text messages and online instant messages, the mother of a student wounded in Seung-hui Cho’s rampage asked who would decide when alerts were issued. Mr. Steger replied that he usually would do so.

“You still have human error,” Diane Strollo said after the meeting.

Mrs. Strollo, whose daughter Hilary was shot three times, said she drove six hours from her home, in Pittsburgh, because she wanted to hear firsthand what university officials were doing to increase security. Her daughter has returned to school.

Mr. Steger said the recommendations for change must be considered in conjunction with budget constraints imposed by the state and with the school’s six-year strategic plan.

He said Virginia Tech has spent roughly $8 million not in its budget on recovery from the shootings, and has been asked to cut spending by nearly $15 million because of a projected state revenue shortfall.

“It is a significant amount,” Mr. Steger said.

Grant money may be available for some of the recommendations, particularly those for improving mental health services. Virginia Tech learned Friday that it will receive more than $960,000 in federal funds to add several case managers, who will monitor and follow up with troubled students.

Cho was ordered to receive outpatient treatment after an overnight involuntary commitment at a mental health center in December 2005 but received no follow-up services.

An application for a $6 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department for additional counseling services is pending.

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