Few on Virginia Tech Campus Blame School for Massacre Despite Criticism From Victims' Parents

With an independent panel saying Virginia Tech's actions might have cost lives and some victims' parents wanting him held accountable for the rampage, university president Charles Steger must look no further than his campus for support.

"I don't think he should resign," said Samantha Cavanaugh, a junior from Manassas. "Considering what he knew at the time, he couldn't have really done anything differently."

The panel concluded that lives could have been saved if alerts had been sent earlier and classes canceled after two people were killed on April 16.

In the more than two hours it took administrators to send an e-mail warning after student Sueng-Hui Cho's first shootings, he had time to leave the dormitory, mail a videotaped confession and manifesto to NBC News, then return to campus and make his way to a classroom building, where he killed 30 more people and himself.

Click here to read the key findings of the report (pdf).

Steger on Thursday defended the university's response to the nation's deadliest school shooting, saying officials couldn't have known the gunman would attack twice. But some victims' families called on Steger and campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum to resign, or, failing that, for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to fire them.

"Resignation is a little extreme," said Joe Riseborough, a sophomore from Pennsylvania. "My opinion of that whole day is that it was just bad communication. It wasn't the president's fault."

Steger, unshaken by the criticism at a news conference, simply said, "My answer to that is no," when asked about resigning.

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"I believe that based on what we knew at the time we did the right things, quite honestly," he said.

Ishwar Puri, head of an engineering department that occupies the classroom building where most of Cho's carnage took place, warned against pointing fingers.

"This is a story of recrimination or a story of redemption, which will just take us into the past," he said. "The story of redemption is how we move on and how we dedicate ourselves to Virginia Tech."

Support for the university doesn't have to mean backing its leaders, said Celeste Peterson, whose freshman daughter Erin was killed. She called on Kaine to fire Steger and the police chief.

"I love Virginia Tech, too. My daughter loved Virginia Tech," Peterson said, but "we have to separate Virginia Tech brick and mortar from the administration, which is inept."

Had the university known about Cho's history of mental illness, Steger said, the administration might have treated him differently before the massacre. The university hopes a "threat assessment team" will provide the kind of information Steger said the school lacked about Cho.

The eight-member panel appointed by Kaine spent four months investigating the attacks. It released its findings late Wednesday.

The panel found that even before the shooting spree, the university failed to properly care for the mentally troubled Cho. It said a quick warning on April 16 could have made a difference in 31 lives.

But the panel also concluded that a lockdown of the 131 buildings on campus would not have been feasible. And while the first message from the university could have been sent at least an hour earlier and been more specific, Cho likely still would have found more people to kill, it said.

"I really think they really did all they could between the first and second shootings," said Daniel Stenger, a senior from Williamsburg. "They had no reason to suspect he would come back."

Ben Rice, a sophomore from Richmond, said the current atmosphere on campus shows that school officials acted appropriately.

As students crossed campus in between classes Thursday, their talk was of coursework, research and plans for the evening, not the panel's report.

"It seems pretty amazing that after something so horrible that this community could be so tight-knit," Rice said. "There's a lot of love here."

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