The report by a commission set up by the state of Virginia on the Virginia Tech shootings is out, and the bottom line is: The university should have warned people about the first murders, and the university should have done a better job of identifying that Cho was a threat. The whole report is here, but I am basing my comments on the press reports.
I think the conclusions of the report are an attempt to placate the families of the victims by blaming university officials, but withholding any sort of real sting to the criticism by not calling for any of those officials to be punished. I am glad about that result, at least, since I don't think the criticisms are warranted.
First of all, what exactly is the causal chain of events that would have made a warning useful to the students and faculty in Norris Hall? "Hey, man, did you hear about that shooting?" "Yep, I brought my Ruger to class, just in case. Don't tell the T.A." I mean, seriously, the only thing that would have helped is if the university locked down the entire campus - if that's even technically feasible, since it's a small city. But there was no reason to think that the first shootings meant that whoever did it was about to go on a mass murder spree. And there won't be a reason to think that the next time there is a shooting on a campus, absent specific evidence to the contrary. If you really thought there were, you'd lock down what you could and send in the assault teams, not send out a warning.
The second criticism is that the university should have cut Cho out of the herd and "done something" to make him better or quarantine him, since in retrospect it's clear he was an imminent threat. But again, prospectively, was he clearly a threat? The only thing that was clear to me was that the university people found his writing disturbing, but anyone who has worked in a large college setting knows that crops up on a daily basis. If he's not committing crimes or harming himself, what exactly are you going to do? He was clearly paranoid and delusional, in retrospect, but he also did a good job of not giving anyone evidence of how insane he was, mostly by keeping his mouth shut. So you interview some kid who writes luridly (and badly) about killing his father, and he refuses to talk to you. Then what? Expel him, give him an A, or ask him to teach the next class?
What I am really afraid of here, in both cases, is overreaction. If this report is seen as credible, the next time there is a shooting on a campus, it will mean the whole place will shut down. I live near the University of Pennsylvania, an urban campus. Shootings here are not an infrequent event. And disturbed, even disturbing, behavior by students is an unworkable grounds for kicking people out of programs. Some writer will get too creative one day and the next find herself kicked out of school with a restraining order not to enter campus again ever. In both cases, I don't think it's wise or effective.