Slain Virginia Tech students to be awarded degrees

All of the students killed in the Virginia Tech shootings will receive posthumous degrees, university officials said Thursday.

All of the students killed in the Virginia Tech shootings will receive posthumous degrees, university officials said Thursday.

"We have recommended, and the president has approved, a decision to award all students who were killed on Monday posthumous degrees from Virginia Tech, for the degree they were pursuing," said provost Mark McNamee, the university’s vice-president of academic affairs.

"The families are very happy about this."

McNamee spoke at a news conference in Blacksburg updating the investigation into Monday's shootings that left 33 people dead and at least 15 injured. The killer was among the dead.

McNamee said the degrees will be awarded during the regular graduation ceremonies the slain students would have participated in with their friends.

With classes set to resume on Monday, McNamee said university officials will be working hard to help ease students back into the classrooms, if they are ready.

"We are going to encourage them very strongly to continue in their classes… but to do it in the context of what they are capable of handling in the current circumstances," he said.

The university will offer students several options on how to complete their courses, and will consider awarding a grade based on work already completed, he said.

State inquiry panel members named

Officials also said the university will set up a board to review the incidents. On Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine said the state had ordered a probe into the school's handling of information during the rampage.

The university has been criticized for failing to cancel classes following the first shooting on campus that killed two people in a dorm. Two hours later, the killer shot and killed 30 more people in another building on campus.

Kaine, speaking Thursday afternoon at a news conference in Richmond, Va., said former Virginia State police superintendent Col. Gerald Massengill would lead the independent review panel.

Former U.S. secretary of Homeland Defence Tom Ridge will also be on the panel, along with six other experts in psychology, criminology, mental health and the law, said Kaine.

Hesaid the panel will have three main aims: tolearn all it can about the killer, probe the circumstances surrounding the shootings, and examine the police and medical response.

"These are the three areas in broad scope I've asked the commission to examine," he said.

Police to leave campus soon

Police said Thursday they are winding down their on-scene investigation at the campus and will likely deliver less frequent updates on the shootings.

"From this point, we probably will have very little to tell you on a daily basis from a law enforcement perspective," said Virginia State Police Col. Steve Flaherty.

"We certainly will come back to you when we have… meaningful developments."

Flaherty said police will begin combing through "mounds of evidence" to try to figure out how and why 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui carried out the shootings.

Flaherty said police didn't learn any new information from a package of video clips and papers mailed by the killer to NBC News on the day of the shootings.

Dave McInnis, an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service, said the clerk at the Blacksburg postal outlet remembers correcting the mailing address on the package.

"The clerk… is co-operating fully with authorities with this investigation. However, she does not wish to make further statements to the media," said McInnis.

Authorities said the post office was very busy that Monday because the deadline to file income tax returns was the following day.