The Library of Virginia Releases Virginia Tech Review Panel Records

Handwritten notes from Second Public Meeting of Virginia Tech Review Panel, dated 21 May 2007, by Phil Schaenman, Virginia Tech Review Panel staff director, Records of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, Series II. Files of TriData, Subseries C.1. Files of Phil Schaenman, Box 16, Folder 4, Accession 51144, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia. The Library of Virginia has completed processing the records of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, 2007-2009 (bulk 2007) (accession 51144) and they are open to researchers. This collection documents Virginia’s official investigation into the 16 April 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Included are the records of individual panel members, Seung Hui Cho’s educational records from Fairfax County and Virginia Tech as well as his Virginia Tech medical records, interview notes, chapter drafts of Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007: Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel presented to Governor Kaine, August 2007, and addendums to the report compiled in November and December 2009. This is a hybrid collection with paper records available in the Library’s Archives Research Room during normal business hours. The Virginia Tech Review Panel emails are accessible online via Digitool under State Archives Collections. Researchers are strongly encouraged to read the email Tip Sheets before using the collection.

On 16 April 2007, Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured at least 17 others before turning the gun on himself. The massacre at Virginia Tech is one of the deadliest shooting incidents by a single gunman in United States history. On 19 April 2007, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine commissioned the Virginia Tech Review Panel “to conduct an independent, thorough, and objective incident review of the tragedy at Virginia Tech and to make recommendations regarding improvements that can be made in the Commonwealth’s laws, policies, procedures, systems and institutions, as well as those of other governmental entities and private providers.” The eight member panel was chaired by Col. Gerald Massengill, a retired Virginia State Police Superintendent, and included nationally-recognized experts in higher education, mental health, legal, and victim’s services. Kaine formalized the Tech Panel’s charge in Executive Order 53 (2007) issued on 18 June 2007.

  • Memo from Lawrence Roberts, Counselor to the Governor, dated 19 April 2007, to Governor Tim Kaine and Chief of Staff Bill Leighty, Re: Virginia Tech Commission

TriData, a division of System Planning Corporation, provided staff support for the Virginia Tech Review Panel. In April 2007, Massengill requested that Governor Tim Kaine retain TriData on behalf of the Commonwealth to assist the Panel in completing an independent analysis of the circumstances of the 16 April 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech. TriData provided research, staff support and logistics for the Panel. TriData assisted the panel in collecting, organizing, and analyzing relevant information needed to develop a detailed factual analysis of the shooting and provide recommendations to Governor Kaine. TriData also assisted with writing, editing, and compiling the panel’s report to the governor.

  • Email from Lucinda Roy, Chair, Virginia Tech English Department, dated 19 October 2005, to Seung Hui Cho and Summary of Seung Hui Cho’s contacts with Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center
  • Cho’s History, includes Bela Sood’s notes from interview with Cho’s family, 20 July 2007
  • Cho History

On 29 May 2007, the panel engaged the international law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and From LLP to provide legal advice on a pro bono basis. Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell recommended that Governor Kaine appoint a special counsel for the panel in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

The panel held four public meetings: 10 May 2007 in Richmond, 21 May 2007 at Virginia Tech, 11 June 2007 at George Mason University in Fairfax, and 18 July 2007 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The panel held a closed session on 19 July 2007 in Charlottesville to consult with counsel and discuss confidential matters and records. The panel began writing their report in July with assistance and editing by TriData and Skadden.

  • Diane Strickland’s notes from interview with Niki Giovanni, 9 July 2007 and Roy Crouse, 12 July 2007
  • Preliminary Draft, Chapter II. Timeline of Events, with edits/comments by Brad Marcus, 8 August 2007
  • Concerns about Final Draft Review

The Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel was released on 30 August 2007. It revealed deficiencies in the mental health care system, campus security, and gun laws. The panel made more than 70 recommendations directed to colleges, universities, mental health providers, law enforcement officials, emergency service providers, and law makers. The General Assembly passed legislation to reform mental health commitment laws and campus security policies. One major recommendation by the panel was defeated: requiring background checks for all firearms purchases at gun shows.

In April 2008, the commonwealth reached an $11 million financial settlement with 24 families of students and faculty who were killed or injured during the Virginia Tech shooting. The commonwealth agreed to provide monetary pay outs, medical care, and information on the shooting in exchange for the families waiving their right to sue. Two families did not accept the settlement and filed a civil suit against the commonwealth in 2009. The discovery of Cho’s counseling center records in July 2009 as well as  other concerns by family members about the panel’s official timeline for 16 April 2007 lead to calls for the panel to reconvene. Kaine did not reconvene the panel but agreed to have the report revised to reflect new details that had surfaced since 2007. The first addendum was completed by TriData in November 2009. Additional corrections to the addendum were made in December 2009.

  • Family Supplement to Addendum, Forever in Our Hearts: Mass Shooting at Virginia Tech – Supplement to the Report of the Review Panel, December 2009

Additional records related to the Virginia Tech shooting can be found in the Library of Virginia Email Project – Governor Tim Kaine Portal. This online digital collection includes over 8,000 Virginia Tech-related emails from 17 Kaine administration staff members, including Tim Kaine, Larry Roberts, Mark Rubin, Marc Follmer, and Kate Paris. Subjects of these emails include the creation, work, and report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel; meetings and correspondence between Kaine administration officials and family members of those killed or injured during the shooting; and implementation of the 2008 settlement agreement.

-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist

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