On Campus, Doubts About Counseling and Media

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Counselors defend their treatment of Seung-hui Cho at a news conference at Virginia Tech. Many members of the school's community are also angry that NBC News aired footage of the killer.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

There were more tough questions today for Virginia Tech administrators about whether they should have known that Seung-Hui Cho was mentally unstable and dangerous. Back in the winter of 2005, Cho was accused of stalking two women and then was admitted to a mental health facility.

NORRIS: We have several reports in this portion of the program, including the latest on the crime scene investigation. We begin our coverage with NPR's Jeff Brady in Blacksburg, Virginia.

JEFF BRADY: At today's news conference on campus, reporters pushed hard. The strain began to show in the voice of Christopher Flynn; he directs the campus counseling center.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER FLYNN (Director, Cook Counseling Center): Every mental health provider that I know works extremely hard to make sure that this does not happen. So I know that I would do any thing I could to prevent this. And every mental health practitioner who ever worked with Mr. Cho would have done anything they could to prevent this.

BRADY: Still, questions remain about whether the university and mental health providers did enough. The school's associate vice president for student affairs, Ed Spencer, says Virginia Tech employees followed procedures in handling stalking complaints against Cho. And beyond that, Spencer says, Cho had five on-campus roommates.

Mr. ED SPENCER (Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Virginia Tech): And none of them expressed any concern to us of any violence, danger or whatever.

BRADY: One of those roommates, Karan Grewal, was asked by a reporter if he wishes he had done something?

Mr. KARAN GREWAL (Seung-Hui Cho's Roommate): I'm just scared to think that maybe if I would have (unintelligible) it would make him angrier and reacted against us.

BRADY: Grewal says most of the other roommates have gone to be with their families. He plans to be back at school on Monday because he wants to return to his routine. For students on campus, last night's release of a video sent to NBC was the big news; signs have begun showing up around campus directed at reporters. One reads: Virginia Tech, stay strong; media, stay away.

Some families of victims cancelled their appearances on NBC's "Today Show" this morning in protest. The network says its decision was not taken lightly and that the videos provided an important look into the mind of a killer. Steve Flaherty with the Virginia State Police says the contents of the package Cho mailed to NBC on Monday morning should have been kept from the world.

Colonel STEVE FLAHERTY (Superintendent, Virginia State Police): Sorry that you're all exposed to these images.

BRADY: Flaherty says this is the kind of thing only investigators should have to look at. A day later, police have had a chance to closely examine the video, photos and writings that Flaherty says there isn't much that's useful.

Col. FLAHERTY: And while there were some marginal value to the package that were received, the fact of the matter is we already hade most all of these information.

BRADY: Meantime we're learning more about Seung-Hui Cho each day. In an interview with the Associative Press, Cho's uncle said as a young boy, he was a worry to his family. He was so quiet they thought he might be mute. And schoolmates say Cho's speech problem and shyness made him a target for bullies.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Blacksburg, Virginia.

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