• October 22, 2014

Biology Professor Charged With Murder in Alabama Shooting

Three professors are dead; three others injured

Amy Bishop Arrested

Bob Gathany, The Huntsville Times

Amy Bishop, a biology professor at the U. of Alabama at Huntsville, is taken into custody on Friday. Police say she killed three professors and wounded three others in a shooting at a faculty meeting.

Last updated February 14, 2:53 p.m., U.S. Eastern time

More Coverage: Twitter: Live Updates From Huntsville | Forum: Personnel Policies and Workplace Violence | From the Archives: Advice on Being Denied Tenure

A biology professor who the police say began shooting at a faculty meeting Friday afternoon has been charged with murder. Three professors were killed and three others wounded in the shooting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Amy Bishop, a Harvard-educated biologist, was charged with a single count of capital murder Friday night. 

The Associated Press reported that when she was taken Friday night from a police precinct to the county jail, she could be heard saying, "It didn't happen. There's no way. ... They are still alive."

James Anderson, Ms. Bishop's husband, told The Chronicle in an interview that he didn't know his wife had a gun when he dropped her off at the faculty meeting on Friday. Nor did he know specifically what might have caused Ms. Bishop to open fire.

But he knew that she felt she had been unfairly denied tenure. Ms. Bishop had been informed months ago that she would not be granted tenure, and a university official said the faculty meeting was not related to her tenure case.  But according to Mr. Anderson, Ms. Bishop was taking the fight to the highest level—the university's Board of Trustees.

One of the dead — Gopi K. Podila, chairman of the department of biological sciences — supported her tenure bid, according to the chairman of Huntsville's chemistry department.

The police found the murder weapon, a 9-millimeter pistol, Friday night in a second-floor bathroom in the university's Shelby Center for Science and Technology, The Huntsville Times reported.

The mass shooting was not the first violent incident in which the professor was involved: According to The Boston Globe, Ms. Bishop shot and killed her teenage brother more than two decades ago, when she was 20 years old. That shooting was ruled an accident by the police in Braintree, Mass., but Braintree's current police chief has disputed that determination.

A university spokesman identified the dead as Mr. Podila and two other faculty members in the department, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson.

Three others were injured. Officials said Joseph Leahy, a professor in the department, was in critical condition at Huntsville Hospital. Stephanie Monticciolo, a staff assistant, and Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera, another professor, were in stable condition.

The campus will be closed all of next week, as officials have canceled all classes and events. Faculty and staff members who still want to report to work will be able to do so.

More on the shooting:

A photo gallery from The Huntsville Times

Videos of briefings

Comments

1. cristhomas - February 13, 2010 at 12:24 am

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2. cuzincall - February 13, 2010 at 07:09 am

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3. cuzincall - February 13, 2010 at 08:15 am

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4. allenh - February 13, 2010 at 08:41 am

Shame? Do you even know what you're talking about? They were spam ads for weight loss products.

5. cuzincall - February 13, 2010 at 09:06 am

a great shame

I wrote one of them.

6. cuzincall - February 13, 2010 at 09:09 am

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7. willismg - February 13, 2010 at 09:37 am

Before #7 gets deleted, and the others try to say it was a diet ad, let me just say that if the previously deleted comment (2) is anything like #7, then it absolutely should have been deleted. I have no connection to either the commenter or the University of Alabama, but the attitude/opinion expressed in #7 has no place here. Cuzincall, please, as the kids say, stfu.

8. keystonegal - February 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

This sort of thing pains my heart. On my campus there are at least two professors with clear, psychological issues that interfere with their day to day work. They disrupt the balance of their departments and terrorize their students. Yet, even though there is fear on the part of some students and faculty as to their future behavior ... they are, like our students with psychological disordered, permitted to be on campus. Until when??? Someone dies?

We, as a society, have to come to better grips with understanding the true dangers that some (not all) psychological disorders have. We need to do a better job at identifying those who are no treat from those who are a threat.

It should come as no surprise that this repeated acting out that results in death (be it students or faculty) from people with clear and obvious psychological disorders would take place on our liberal campuses ... and it our liberal campuses, with compassion and rationalistic reason who will have to help us get to a better place as a society so situations like this do not happen again!

9. griz882 - February 13, 2010 at 10:54 am

This is sad. If you look at the comments on the New York Times site it is shaping up to become a debate between gun control and tenure. As tragic as it sounds, this could become a kind of academic bumper sticker - "Guns Don't Kill People, Tenure Does."

Clearly Dr. Bishop had issues that went deeper than a denial of academic work. She took the lives of three people in anger but not the kind that suddenly boiled over. Sadly she thought this out.

This should lead to several things especially a review of continued reliance on the tenure system. Of course, a college campus is not a place for guns, but will the vague and often unfair nature of tenure be questioned here? Is it still logical to have it?

I hope this tragedy will give administrators pause. I hope they will look at both campus safety and the necessity of tenure. To be fair, I think tenure should be done away with and replaced with a contract system that allows for greater freedom of movement in the academic system without harm to ones future.

Nevertheless, the question of tenure is not what forced Dr. Bishop to kill. That is a question if human nature and one that will not be easily solved.

10. jsr199 - February 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

What a horrible tragedy, and my heart goes all those involved, including the perpetrator. Of course murder is wrong, but maybe this horror will force academia to confront the psychological trauma that is tenure denial, and develop ways that let people down gently over the course of several years, rather than let denial be a surprise. T-T professors spend days every year writing performance reports, and still they don't know if they are on the right track, because committees, heads, and deans remain vague in their recommendations, just so that if someone somewhere decides that denial is in order for whatever reason, they can follow through. The result is psychological scarring, and the sociopathic snaps when reality hits.

11. cuzincall - February 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Let me say, the kids also know when they are being mistreated and when things are not quite fair. Thanks GOd when Malcolm X talked about Chickens Coming Home to Roost, there was no so called manager to stop his speech. Again, shame on the manager for prohibiting free sppech. And I bet the manager is a card carrying member of the AAUP.

12. nebo113 - February 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm

cuzincall--I asked the mods to remove your post, and I probably wasn't the only one who did. Your comment was vicious, ugly, and completely uncalled for. CHE contributors can practice free speech, but we do so within the bounds of civility and the CHE guidelines. Obviously, you do understand that posts that are civil will not be removed, as #12 indicates. It's still here and mostly likely no one will hit "report abuse."

13. jffoster - February 13, 2010 at 01:33 pm

In reference to No 10., to use a tragedy like this as an argument for or against "the tenure system" is like using the few instances of premeditated vehicular homicide that happen each year as an argument for or against "the automobile system".

14. teacherspaddle - February 13, 2010 at 01:44 pm

I wish I had a clearer sense of how departments and administrators deal with mentally-ill faculty, including those that are tenure-track or tenured. The tenure bit *is* relevant, b/c tenure guidelines establish fairly rigorous parameters for promotion, hiring, and firing, and don't adequately spell out just causes for dismissal that are *not* related to the candidate's perceived limitations in research, teaching, or service.

I support tenure, and I think it reprehensible to turn this tragedy into a soapbox for abolishing tenure or ranting about gun control. And yet I see why this story will resonate with a lot of academics. The FBI profile below, describing those likely to kill, sounds like the dark underside of academia.

From the AP: "Gregg McCrary, a retired FBI agent and private criminal profiler based in Fredericksburg, Va., said there is no typical outline of a mass shooter but noted they often share a sense of paranoia, depression or a feeling that they are not appreciated." ...

15. fast_and_bulbous - February 13, 2010 at 02:19 pm

The tenure process, and whether she was treated unfairly or not, is completely irrelevant.

She killed these people in cold blood, in a premeditated manner.

Nothing at all justifies this, period.

Shame on the people who use this event to further their own political agendas.

16. jruiz - February 13, 2010 at 02:40 pm

What bothers me about this is that I can envision several of my colleagues taking me and others out in the same way. Administrators know of their psychological problems, but have done nothing about it.

17. livefreeordie2 - February 13, 2010 at 02:55 pm

I completely agree with teacherspaddle and think it is inappropriate to use this kind of tragedy to advance any type of political agenda, whether for or against gun control or for or against tenure. These types of actions are the product of a sick mind who, absent tenure, would find something else about which to be angry and absent a gun, would use some other method of killing or hurting those who are the focus of their anger.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, friends, students, and co-workers.

18. physicsprof - February 13, 2010 at 03:18 pm

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19. phikaw - February 13, 2010 at 03:19 pm

Would people suggest that a reexamination of the normal academic processes of grading students would be warranted because a psychologically disturbed student killed the professor of a class that the student failed? I agree entirely with those who point out that the fact and the specific circumstances of tenure denial (even if there were unfairness involved, which I am in no position to judge) are not on trial here. Really folks, let us get a grip and stick with the fact that (a) this is very tragic for all concerned and (b) the problem here is the person who committed murder, not an academic process (which, whatever else one might think about it, is not correlated in any way with the occurrence of murder).

20. 11119344 - February 13, 2010 at 03:25 pm

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I hope that more institutions will examine all-too-neglected issues of faculty mental health and organizational culture.

I tried to capture some thoughts about this in a blog post, meant to encourage less sharp edged reflections on this unfolding story: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/the-university-of-alabama-huntsville-shootings-and-the-academic-workplace/

David Yamada
Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute
Suffolk University Law School, Boston

21. akprof - February 13, 2010 at 03:47 pm

I have tried to deal with faculty members with mental health problems by giving them reduced loads so they would have time to seek help - faculty resist such efforts strongly, even if there is no mention of the reason in their personnel file. And I agree that denial of tenure is NO justification or even a good flimsy excuse for this sort of behavior

22. janobrien - February 13, 2010 at 03:51 pm

If she is a professor going for tenue, she probably has a PhD. Then shouldn't she have been called "Dr" Bishop instead of "Ms"?

Also, I agree that we don't give mental health enough attention. I wonder if there weren't some tell-tale signs that would have warned people of her condition and could have prevented this. We all have the responsibility to watch for these signs, just as you would watch someone for signs of a stroke and get them medical attention. How do we give "first aid" for mental problems?

23. jack_433 - February 13, 2010 at 04:08 pm

For those in the debate over tenure, pure and simple it is an economic decision. Tenure has value, including monetary value. Eliminate tenure and faculty salaries will increase. In turn, faculty will be subject to dismissal within the boundaries of existing laws.

Likely, most institutions would develop faculty review mechanisms that would not leave a decision to dismiss in the hands of one individual. I have an tenured individual in my college who has managed to alienate everyone in her department. Faculty who should be working closely with here because of their fields have elected to work with faculty in other colleges, a good thing. If her dismissal was put to a departmental vote today she would not survive the vote and would be put on a terminal year contract.

24. dailye45 - February 13, 2010 at 04:27 pm

I don't think that anyone has tried to "justify" an allegedly premeditated killing with the tenure denial. Instead I am hearing people explore the tenure denial as either a potential motivation for Dr. Bishop's anger or as something that may have triggered an episode of mental illness -- an episode that is itself speculative.

That a wider conversation about tenure has to happen in the academy cannot be denied.

That an even-more-important conversation about mental illness in the academy has to happen cannot be denied.

Perhaps we can shift the locus of those conversations to another forum and create a space here for our condolences and for our appreciative reflections on the work of the three who were killed.

25. supertatie - February 13, 2010 at 04:27 pm

Just recently, a writer for the Chronicle described her own battle with mental illness (schizophrenia, I believe, in her case) which resulted in her hearing "voices," etc., and distorted perceptions of inferiority and being mocked and humiliated by students.

She pleaded her case for tolerance, understanding, and the contributions that people with mental illness can make as academics. I think her condition is under control now, but an event like the one at Huntsville, as well as the murder of a Yale medical student by a lab technician, makes that argument hard to hear. On the one hand, we want to help those contending with mental illness make their contributions. On the other, when something boils over, and we are forced to look at behaviors that gave clear warning of a problem, how do we justify ignoring it?

I would like to hear from people who have experience with this, to get their opinions of what kinds of behaviors justify action, and which can be safely accommodated in the academic environment - be those the behaviors of faculty, staff members, or students.

26. blue_state_academic - February 13, 2010 at 04:33 pm

janobrien (#23): The Chronicle's style guidelines call for professors to be referred to as "Mr." or "Ms." after initially being identified by their full names, unless they are medical, dental, veterinary, etc. doctors. If you check out other articles you'll see this.

27. bearjimmy - February 13, 2010 at 04:39 pm

Yesterday's events at the University of Alabama at Huntsville are clearly a warning to all of us in the Academy. A scholar, with at least one credential from the likes of Harvard, turned killer is mind boggling, and then some. I don't own a gun, nor do I have any experience with any gun. Taking a gun to an academic meeting is unimaginable. My work is not in the realm of guns, mental health, nor police science. To that end, reading the statement the shooter reportedly made,"They are still alive." leaves me nonplussed.

I look to the CHE to report the truth, or revisions of previous stories when the truth is discovered. Seeing that a moderator has control of what stays on this blog is a great comfort. I can not imagine using this tragic event to promote a personal agenda, or in any way belittle the lives of three dead scholars, or others who are suffering from Dr. Bishop's unwarranted actions.

Having to add a faculty meeting to the list of places where I'm already afraid to be, i.e., air flights on planes loaded with enough jet fuel to fly coast to coast, or in a skyscraper in dense urban enviornment, means the places where each of us can truly feel safe shrank by one, yesterday.

My heart goes out to all of those whose lives are caught-up in this unimaginable event within the Academy. And, thank you CHE moderator for protecting this event, and us from abuse.

28. laoshi - February 13, 2010 at 04:47 pm

That press conference was ten minutes too long. When will we start pressing the drive-by media with obstruction of justice?

29. truthadnauseum - February 13, 2010 at 04:50 pm

In response to #26 above, does anyone know if the accused ever threatened to kill before? That's a key incidator.

The vast majority of the mentally ill never hurt anyone (except themselves). Further, nearly all of the mentally ill -- especially those with children -- *never* reveal their illness because they wisely fear systematic bias from their peers (mentally ill faculty do not work in a constant manner over time).

I predict that this outlier will energize conversation at university/corporate cocktail parties, and fuel a new, creative undercurrent of unofficial activity to extricate the mentally ill from higher education.

30. scholaris - February 13, 2010 at 05:02 pm

There was a clear mismatch between the professor and her institutional environment. If this was so obvious, why they hired her and why she accepted the job, and why she continued to stay are incomprehensible. To the forumites/commenteers here: I think not tenure but the peer review system should be abolished. If you ask those (local colleagues) who made the tenure decision in the first place, they will repeat she did not fulfill the standards. The decisionmakers themselves have no accountability. As for students' comments: you are doomed if you are a strong teacher with high standards and doomed if you are just winging teaching... I am not trying to bring out sympathy for a murderer (who clearly deliberated this shooting spree), but the media's singling out the person's psychology is grossly overlooking the problems of academic employment, institutions of tenure and peer review, and the work environment that they create.

31. sqrtnegone - February 13, 2010 at 05:04 pm

The Chronicle is not a government entity, therefore they do not have to allow free speech. That being said, I fear that this tragedy will repeat itself, and may already have. Two elementary school administrators in Tennesee were shot by an employee who was not rehired.

32. jack_433 - February 13, 2010 at 05:06 pm

Abolish unions in academia and make all individuals achieve status on their individual merits.

33. jffoster - February 13, 2010 at 05:17 pm

Daily45 in 25 says:

"That a wider conversation about tenure has to happen in the academy cannot be denied.'

Ah but it can. I deny it. Tenure, like all things or systems made by Man, is imperfect. But I think it works pretty much the way it ought in most colleges and universities, and where it doesn't, there has been some essentially local corruption of the sytem.

But I join daily45 in suggesting this tragedy in Alabama and this particular thread is not the place to have that conversation.

And I certainly deny

34. cwinton - February 13, 2010 at 05:21 pm

The only thing we know for certain regarding this tragedy is that Ms. Bishop showed up at a faculty meeting, apparently with malicious intent which she proceeded to carry out in an act of extreme criminal violence. Her tenure denial may or may not have been a contributing factor for her aberrant behavior, although it could indicate a history of troubled relations with colleagues. It may come out that she has a history of mental problems, but if so it hasn't been reported. Her back story doesn't sound particularly troubled. On the domestic front, it has been reported is that she is the mother of four children and she and her husband have a business on the side. Her professional profile on the web shows 3 publications for 2009, the first since 2006, with her husband as one of her co-authors (draw your own conclusions RE her tenure case). Given the extreme nature of her actions, it would be surprising if warning signs were not present; however, there is no reliable way to predict this kind of extreme behavior. Lots of things at universities or elsewhere can certainly cause mental angst, but don't ever seem to be the root cause for an act of violence. We don't know if UAH experienced a series of episodes with Ms. Bishop for which the was the culminating act or if it seemingly came from nowhere. All we know is that she apparently committed this reprehensible act and so now must face the consequences at the hands of the criminal justice system, a small solace for the victims.

35. truthadnauseum - February 13, 2010 at 05:36 pm

Like others above, I suspect that organizational culture is a key predictor in this case.

36. willismg - February 13, 2010 at 05:39 pm

It's now being reported that the alleged killer also killed her own brother 20 years ago in Boston. According to the AP reports, there is some question as to whether this prior act was "covered up".

37. willismg - February 13, 2010 at 05:40 pm

the reference for my last post..
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_ala_university_shooting_brother

38. landrumkelly - February 13, 2010 at 05:53 pm

Another Harvard alum makes the headlines. . . .

39. fullprof99 - February 13, 2010 at 06:17 pm

I don't know if the Harvard connection made a difference or not. I have seen a few (not many) faculty members from supposedly elite institutions who had a sense of entitlement that did not match their actual achievements. Certainly the fact that this person seems to have gotten away with a killing years ago suggests that she was treated as a special case.

I mistrust comments that tenure requirements are not made clear. I know that at my institution they are quite clear, but despite multiple written reviews warning of inadequate publication over a period of six or seven years, I have seen several assistant professors who persisted in believing that they somehow would get tenure on the basis of teaching and service without having become active scholars. I also have recently (last ten years or so) seen increasing numbers of faculty members who expect not to be self-starters in all areas, but simply to be able to follow instructions and be rewarded with life long job security.

40. davidcoberly - February 13, 2010 at 06:19 pm

It is no coincidence that all my colleagues and I "assumed" the murders were related to a denial of tenure when we first heard the case break.

41. geochaucer - February 13, 2010 at 06:42 pm

It's hard to know how many posters on this thread are associated with higher education and how many are not. Either way the trivialization of a tragedy, and the hijacking of this incident for folks to soapbox their pet agendas ("down with tenure," "down with Harvard" etc.)is dismaying. Several of these comments are barely above the notch of inflammatory talk radio, and some few not even that. I despair at our culture's ability to deal with any serious challenges when even a forum that should be the epitome of rational discussion can become so shallow and malicious.

42. lizhud - February 13, 2010 at 06:48 pm

To teacherspaddle and others, I'd vote no--tenure is not relevant. Divorce and child custody are not relevant when a father kills his ex-wife and kids after becoming "distraught" over the divorce. In the same way, economic inequality is not in question when an armed robber kills a bank guard in an attempted heist. Yes, we need to address problems in any of these areas where they exist. But most people who commit crimes are in some occupation or under some perceived stress. The fact that a shooter can share characteristics with anyone who at times is frustrated and overwhelmed by life's challenges (a sense of paranoia, depression or a feeling that they are not appreciated) does not and should not allow us to take our attention off of a woman who just took three lives, and put three more in jeopardy. Let's save our discussion of tenure, academia, contract faculty, and other matters for another time and consider the tragedy that this woman's actions have brought about. If we are going to look toward something else to investigate, perhaps it's her earlier actions that, had someone focused on her actions then and not excuses for her actions, may well have prevented the current tragedy.

43. teacherspaddle - February 13, 2010 at 07:24 pm

The earlier shooting does, I think, radically alter the discussion; it sounds like many officers felt this early shooting was intentional, but she was never charged. Long history here...

I stressed the relevance of tenure, if you read my post, to highlight the added challenges of dismissing/disciplining/firing those faculty who are on tenure track and who exhibit highly troubling behavior unrelated to research/service/teaching.

I believe faculty and administrators lack good information on understanding, assisting, and when necessary, disciplining mentally ill faculty who are extremely disruptive. We get trained to spot and assist troubled, directing them to on-campus resources, but troubled faculty are tolerated as "eccentric" and "difficult personalities." And I do not think discussing this problem is disrepectful.

44. teacherspaddle - February 13, 2010 at 08:21 pm

.. . I will only add that Gina Barreca's CHE column on the horror story here demands to be read. That column pretty much says it for me.

45. letafcoving - February 13, 2010 at 09:22 pm

Violence is a disease. It is a health epidemic that has not been addressed as such.

46. physicsprof - February 13, 2010 at 09:50 pm

My goodness, #46... Another medical professional pushing special interests forward?
Violence is not a disease, it is part of a human nature. If violence does exits, it is because violence is a product of evolution crucial for survival of human species (nature does not care about survival of individuals though).

47. siepierski - February 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm

The incident at Huntsville is indeed catastrophic,and I feel for the families of all involved. However, we must be careful not to over react and label people who are perhaps eccentric, overwrought, under emotional pressure etc. as "dangerous" because of what someone thinks they might do. I would much rather take the risk of being shot at a staff meeting than risk having my colleagues labeled "unstable" or "dangerous" by those who dont agree with them.
If interventions that address dangerous individuals are to be put in place, there need to be safeguards to prevent those interventions being misused in witch hunts.

48. zefelius - February 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I don't think I see anything perforce wrong with expounding an opinion on a "tragedy" in connection to its social, political, or ethical context. To say that one ought to be ashamed of doing so looks, at first sight, like the "appeal to pity" fallacy. In any case, at the end of the day, all great moral questions can be traced back to various tagedies---actual or potential.

49. dgcamp - February 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Perhaps we need to examine the pressure we are putting on all people in academia? Increasing stress. Increasing strain. Increasing competitiveness. Productivity over quality. There is little or no life-work balance in Academia nowadays. The bar to gain tenure or to get promoted has risen to nearly impossible heights. You have to teach well. You have to have a great research program. You have to bring in grants. You have to engage in community and college service. The institution just wants more and more and more. It is not psychologically, medically or spiritually healhy. Under such pressure, some people snap psychologically, start to fail medically, or begin to have a spiritual crisis. This woman obviously had some mental problems, but the pressure in acaademia and the presure to gain tenure, and her subsequent denial of tenure (the scarlet letter in academia) were likely contributing factors in her loss of control.

50. hildavcarpenter - February 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm

This tragedy reflects similar tragedies in corporations and school rooms. Firing disabled psychologically troubled tenure candidates because they don't fit in may not be the answer. However, helping them should be. IF, and I stress If, the signs are recognizable, then helping the person just might avert a tragedy.

Oh, and the American Disabilities Act does protect mental illness, for those of you afraid to work with psychologically impaired peers. You don't really have a choice. Your school takes government money, they play by government rules.

I can only hold those touched by this tragedy in my heart, and hope for people not to become too vicious in the backlash.

51. peacock129 - February 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

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52. peacock129 - February 13, 2010 at 11:56 pm

First, and foremost, my heart goes out to the family, friends, and colleagues of the victims. Whether or not the issue was denial of tenure, no issue can ever justify a horrible crime of this nature. I suspect that the Harvard PhD suspect will be represented by an attorney who will plead "not guilty for reasons of temporary insanity." (The aphorism, "There is a fine line between genius and insanity." comes to mind.) What this tragedy proves to me is simply that women and men are capable of heinous acts, no matter their level of intelligence. History is full of brilliant people who killed others for no reason, let alone a "justifiable" one.

53. peacock129 - February 13, 2010 at 11:57 pm

On a minor note, I wish people in academe would clarify which "administration" they are speaking of when suggesting who should deal with faculty who show clear signs of mental illness or other behavior that would get most people in the “real world” fired. I have been a college administrator for 32 years, but I am not an “academic” administrator. Academic administrators are usually faculty members who rise up in rank (and this includes most presidents) and perpetuate the tenure system that rewards competent AND incompetent professors with a lifetime guarantee of employment.

54. scholaris - February 14, 2010 at 12:37 am

Regarding whether we should focus on tenure and academic stress or on the mass shooting (and killing), we need to do both. If we were to focus only on the killing (the last straw that broke the whole herd's back), we would end up with discussions about weapon carrying laws, metal detectors, and emergency messaging systems. These are all important because they could prevent the killing. But there are a lot of very serious problems on campuses (both for professors and students) that do not result in killing, but cause human suffering. A tenure denial (especially if it were unfair or based on department politics), or social isolation of a first-generation immigrant student are important to deal with even if they do not lead to killing others/themselves. Some people might self-inflict, or act in (such as turn an alcoholic, and then ruin the family, etc...). The story is very sad, and I cannot express my sympathy to those who lost a loved one at work (at a faculty meeting? I still can't believe this). But it does force us to look into the well known secret of academia--the pressures on junior faculty.

55. kirbyrecord - February 14, 2010 at 01:17 am

I wish people would learn to distinguish bringing up possible reasons or causes for tragic events from justifying horrible actions by merely mentioning things that trigger them. This is what stiffled intelligent discussion after 9/11 because merely talking about the causes of 9/11 were construed as attempts to justify them. If such horrible incidents have any chance to teach us something, we have to be free to disuss the circumstances that lead to them. Certainly, the tenure system is not the only cause of this incident but was merely the trigger for it. But social circumstances, social problems and ills and in this case-- university political machinations-- all need to be reviewed when something of this magnitude takes place.

56. myemotan - February 14, 2010 at 09:14 am

Not Now
I do not question at all the relevance or legitimacy of the topics of tenure or no tenure, guns or no guns, and mental illness or non-mental illness in the wake of the UA-Huntsville tragedy, but I question their timing, I question the medium of their representation, and I question the (premature) speculative focus on them, especially mental illness as a culpable bugaboo. We should reserve or restrict (AT LEAST NOW) all or most of our words to condolence: condolence for the families, friends, and colleagues or students of the killed; condolence for the families, friends, and colleagues or students of the wounded; and finally appreciation words for the works or contributions of the already dead and get-well words for those still in the hospital. There would be time for analyzing or psychoanalyzing culpability factors, but now may not be the time and this Chronicle forum (at this time) may not be the place. (Dr. Okhamafe).

57. cragie - February 14, 2010 at 09:28 am

There is a rush to judgment here. There is no evidence of mental illness. It even appears now that the police in her home town are going to re-open the investigation of the incident in 1986 where she "accidentally" killed her brother with a shotgun.

The workplace can be dangerous. So can school. Parents need to evaluate those risks when deciding whether their children should go to school and, later, take that first job. I assume that most parents will decide that the benefits of leaving the nest outweigh the risks, just as millions of Americans get into their cars every day while at the same time knowing the risks. In fact, it appears Dr. Bishop's life also highlights the risks of the nest/family itself, given the violent death of her teenage brother.

It appears that some observers are longing for the days where colleges acted in loco parentis. Even if we could bring back the past, what would colleges and other employers do? Fire/expel anyone who, at any time, drifted from a meeting agenda/class syllabus and went off on a verbal tangent? We would soon have tens of millions of people on welfare and/or disability. The American voter does not seem to be in the mood for that type of new entitlement.

Worst of all, there are some comments indicating that the incidents at Huntsville and Yale were inevitable due to lax tolerance of mental illness. If in fact all of these people are mentally ill, they are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators of it. While many police departments and emergency rooms now provide training on dealing with the mentally ill, typically police officers and emergency room doctors/nurses have been prejudiced/intolerant of the mentally ill and unlikely to believe their versions of events. This has made it almost risk-free for criminals to prey on the mentally ill. In addition, those with severe mental illness are typically focused inward and are less able to avoid and ward off the situations leading to becoming victims of crime.

58. 22228715 - February 14, 2010 at 10:39 am

As a student affairs professional in the post-Virginia Tech environment, I predict that this incident will inundate department chairs and deans with complaints about odd and eccentric behavior and demands that people be removed from their positions. Be prepared - as mentioned above, it is illegal to remove or suspend someone for merely having a mental illness, and action should be taken when someone has acted in a way that violates standards or policies. You will spend tremendous amounts of time investigating, sorting, and deciding about these things, and many of the situations will leave you in the uncomfortable position of feeling sympathy for those on the social fringes while you are verbally attacked by very frightened slightly-more-mentally-healthy people. (And a few situations will make the campus a safer place.)

If this event does have a similar impact on academic affairs as Virginia Tech had on student affairs, then it will have both positive and negative consequences. In student affairs, I think we now have far, far fewer incidents that are ignored or not reported, when intervening and communicating across campus or beyond is really a good idea and good safety practice. One might also argue that it is healthy to be less nonchalant about jokes or games about violence or weapons. On the other hand, it has also increased workload considerably, and more importantly, created an atmosphere where it becomes very easy for the villagers to light the torches and come after anyone who is 'different' by the standards whomever is most vocal.

If department chairs and deans do not already have good written protocol for addressing reported threatening behavior, and a thorough knowledge of 504 and ADA... start working on it now...

59. sigalbiology - February 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

First, I am horribly saddened by the tragic loss of life in this horrible incident....
....I just can't get the image of this happening at a departmental meeting out of my head.......

May G-d comfort the families of those who were killed among all of His mourners, and may they find solace and peace in the good memories of those who are no longer with them in this world.

Secondly, I submit that this incident, as well as many many many others that do make it to the front page of our yellow journals, is symptomatic of a country where the entire institution of education has disintegrated before my very eyes within the last 5 years.

These are desparate times we are living in, and tragic events such as this underscore the degree of desparation being fostered in our educational system, among both students AND and teachers.....

MDSigal

60. fgraham - February 14, 2010 at 02:17 pm


This is horrible! Deepest condolences for the families of the victims of this terrible crime.
There are many comments that the gun possession is not the problem.
If that is true, and I am not certain it is, but IF it is, then the problem is that many people have a tendency to address their personal problems with the criminal use of a gun, including the one faculty member here in this news story. Given the high rate of imprisonment in the US for gun crimes, then, one can even say with some validity that this tendency is a significant part of our culture, like it or not. IF we are NOT willing to restrict the right to possess guns, then WE MUST address this tendency in our culture to use guns to address personal problems. There is nothing in our Constitution that says we can't create a culture of no gun use, except for absolutely necessary self-defense, and possibly hunting animals where legal. How do we do this? I do not know. But the alternative is to continue with phenomenally high murder rates and deplorable incidents like this.
Perhaps K-12 schools and Universities can play a role in helping to create a culture in which the use of guns is abhorrent to almost everyone on a gut level. Sadly, in recent news stories, they are already playing a role as places where guns are already too frequently in use.


61. mainiac - February 14, 2010 at 03:17 pm

Gun culture in American society operates from bottom to the top. Here, an untenured professor uses a handgun to murder. at the top, President/Professor Obama uses drones in Pakistan to kill civilians......

62. hellgrammite - February 14, 2010 at 04:31 pm

Does the university magnanimously "allow" citizens to defend themselves on campus, I wonder?

In other words, have their civil rights (the 2nd Amendment) been revoked while they are there?

I do not know.

But I do know that if someone nearby was sagely taking personal responsibility for their personal security and was armed, they could have lowered the final horrible tally from FIVE to TWO.

Those two would be: the first innocent victim shot, and then the aggressor.

63. rebakeele - February 14, 2010 at 05:45 pm

I was afraid that comment #63 would appear. I am a faculty member in Utah, where the right-of-the-tea-partiers made it impossible for the University of Utah or any other higher ed institution forbid concealed weapons on campus. Some extremists wear their guns in holsters in stores or events. Not ever having been certain in 40 years which faculty were simply entitled, self-centered and arrogant and which might be mentally ill--or angry and totally in disagreement with someone elses argument, I couldn't disagree more. This is a tragedy. And if #63 is taken seriously I shudder to think about ugly senate meetings, grievance committees, committees trying to develop policy that might affect someone with that gun in their drawer or hidden in a holster as they play wannabee police officer.

seeingsystems10

64. hellgrammite - February 14, 2010 at 06:09 pm

"I was afraid that comment #63 would appear."

I am not afraid of YOUR comment.

"I am a faculty member in Utah, where the right-of-the-tea-partiers made it impossible for the University of Utah or any other higher ed institution forbid concealed weapons on campus."

A psychologically imbalanced shooter brought a weapon onto UAH, used it, and destroyed professors' lives and the lives of their families.
If the weapon had been "forbidden", would that event have been averted?

"Some extremists wear their guns in holsters in stores or events."

Shocking. Did any of your 'extremists' shoot, kill, or maim any of their co-workers illegally and unjustifiable?

"Not ever having been certain in 40 years which faculty were simply entitled, self-centered and arrogant and which might be mentally ill--or angry and totally in disagreement with someone elses argument, I couldn't disagree more."

Do you feel the same way around the tens of thousands of people you interact with, or are in close proximity to, in the rest of your life outside of faculty/staff meetings?
Any or all of them could be armed discreetly.
Many of them are taking responsibility for their personal security (and yours) and are legally armed, and skilled at arms.

"This is a tragedy. And if #63 is taken seriously I shudder to think about ugly senate meetings, grievance committees, committees trying to develop policy that might affect someone with that gun in their drawer or hidden in a holster as they play wannabee police officer."

I shudder to think of you, poor soul, at: traffic lights, in lines at stores, walking your doggie, at the DMV, walking back to your car from the restaurant or bookstore, in your home at night...at which any or all of, you might come across someone like that imbalanced shooter.
There will not be a police officer there at the crucial moment.
Also, who better to have discreetly and skillfully armed than all those people at the committee meetings you mentioned?
I can think of few better.

65. physicsprof - February 14, 2010 at 06:26 pm

rebakeele (#64) I am sorry that you were born after guns were invented. As #65 pointed out school is not the only place you might encounter people carrying guns. By the way, how many shooting or non-shooting incidents have occured at the University of Utah?

66. djohn - February 14, 2010 at 07:09 pm

Having read the comments (in other forums) of how Ms. Bishop was perceived, I don't think this could have been avoided. Some students stated that she had strange social skills and could not look them in the eye...some professional collagues thought she obsessed about her tenure and talked in an animated fashion about it.... but in hind sight - the administration could not have taken these reports and projected the danger that was to come. If every professor who had odd social skills (or lack thereof) or talked obsessively about their tenure were locked up - well.....that just would never happen. In addition to the victims and their families, the ones I feel most sad for are her children...what will become of them and how will they deal with this shocking turn of events? Prayers for all at UAH.....

67. cragie - February 15, 2010 at 10:55 am

The use of firearms has long been restricted on the sites of corporate complexes, government complexes, and college campuses. The reasons are obvious -- someone in a dorm who is cleaning a weapon could discharge it which could injure a lot of people. The issue is the density of population on site. Someone who doesn't like these policies is not being denied a postsecondary education. He/she can take on-line classes or can do more research to find a college that has a loophole or has somehow forgotten to ban firearms from campus. Seems like a strange criterion upon which to choose one's college, though. Putting aside the issue of college education, someone who goes to job interviews in corporate America (or small businesses) announcing an intent to "pack heat" at work will not receive many job offers. It is not a "civil rights" issue.

68. hellgrammite - February 15, 2010 at 03:58 pm

"The use of firearms has long been restricted on the sites of corporate complexes, government complexes, and college campuses."

The rights of minorities and women to vote was 'long denied', ergo, they should not have that right? What length of time exactly that a civil rights violation persists precludes that right ever being recognized and the situation being corrected, in your eyes?
Did that restriction you refer to stop the killer? After mentally hurdling violation of laws and morals that prohibit assault with a deadly weapon and murder, the hand of imbalanced slaughterers is stayed by weapon laws?

"The reasons are obvious --"

To you. Not everyone.

"someone in a dorm who is cleaning a weapon could discharge it which could injure a lot of people."

And then be charged according to how egregious their negligence was, just like everywhere else outside the dorm, and just like with vehicles. Law-abiding citizens cannot buy handguns until they are 21, and only handguns can be carried concealed legally. How many 21+ students live in dorms, of those how many want to be armed or can afford a weapon, and of those how many are inept or negligent? Those who do not abide by the law have guns illegally, including RIGHT NOW in many many dorms across America. Those who abide by what I see as unjust laws and school regs are defenseless, but not those who ignore them.

"The issue is the density of population on site."

The issue is a civil right recognized by my Constitution, in my opinion. Also, does population density preclude one from driving through a crowded area, by law, because it endangers more people? That would make more sense to me than telling someone they have no choice but to be a defenseless victim of intentional violence, by law, in a highly-populated area where they are statistically much more likely to be a victim.

"Someone who doesn't like these policies is not being denied a postsecondary education. He/she can take on-line classes"

If a different civil right was being violated, would you recommend that the victims just submit and take online classes and not fight for their rights? Even if you personally did not agree that it was even a civil rights issue, would you dismiss the person similarly, knowing that they felt it was fundamentally wrong?

"or can do more research to find a college that has a loophole or has somehow forgotten to ban firearms from campus. Seems like a strange criterion upon which to choose one's college, though."

No loophole is required at some. It's not an issue. For instance, where I got my first Bachelor's - no policy, and no state law that forbids it. You obviously are not aware of them. There aren't people running around willy-nilly shooting wildly at them, either. I'm sure that criterion DOES seem strange to you, because you cannot fathom that people don't agree with you. This is evidenced by your presenting your opinions as facts, and your pedantic and flippant dismissal of what I very emotionally see as my inalienable right as a 'strange criterion' that someone 'forgot to ban.' That literally brings tears to my eyes.
However, despite this, I would still sacrifice my own life to defend yours if we were sitting in that tenure meeting together where the shooting took place, because I value human life, freedom, and civil rights above all else. That is not hyperbole or posturing to make my point either, but an expression of a deeply-held belief and a fact. I wish only to be magnanimously 'allowed' by my employer, every state, and the federal government to personally defend my life and that of others. My voice and pen are powerful, yes, but not in the face of an armed assailant at the crucial moment.

"Putting aside the issue of college education, someone who goes to job interviews in corporate America (or small businesses) announcing an intent to "pack heat" at work will not receive many job offers."

Why would one announce that? When you carry a concealed weapon, nobody knows, and that is the entire point. Someone who interviewed and announced strangely that they intended to practice their religion would also probably not get hired because it is inappropriate and out of place. Does that mean they should not be allowed to practice their religion?

"It is not a "civil rights" issue."

To you. The right to vote for African Americans was not a civil rights issue to many people, but luckily there was disagreement, change, and eventual freedom. To millions of Americans, that don't break the law or hurt other people, the 2nd Amendment didn't appear due to an accidental slip of the quill between two other Amendments that specifically recognize individual rights. And many of them have read The Federalist Papers and fully understand the intent of those who put it in there, and agree with that original intent.

69. cragie - February 16, 2010 at 01:52 am

It is amazing that, whenever someone wants to do something, they now compare their plight to African-Americans, whose 500-year struggle they cannot possibly fathom. There is no 2nd Amendment right for private citizens to carry concealed firearms. Even if there were, it is not a "civil right." States, counties and municipalities have the right to impose reasonable restrictions -- not to mention what private corporations and institutions can impose.

Even as the rights to possess and carry both large and concealable firearms have expanded over the years, somehow you continue to believe you are a victim of society taking away your "rights." If I had a dollar for every time I read a paranoid attack piece about a "secret plan" by Obama to "take away our firearms," I would be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. These are sly marketing tactics by the arms merchants -- who by the way don't really care about citizens right to carry or anything else.

As difficult as it is to understand, it is not your job to look inside someone's head and start picking off "unbalanced" citizens willy nilly. You say you won't "act" until the other person starts firing, but why should we take your word? Everyone is entitled to a defense, not an untrained judge/jury/executioner, all wrapped in one. Sure, when I have seen crimes occur I have sometimes wished "the system" were more "efficient." Sometimes there is a purpose for the inefficiency, whether in our justice system or in the U.S. Senate. You talk about civil rights, but what about the civil rights of the person you have picked off for looking "unbalanced" but who may have been taking out a pack of cigarettes or an iPhone, rather than a weapon?

"statistically much more likely to be a victim." According to whom?

Speaking of statistics, what about the statistics that homes with firearms have higher homicides and suicides, and the people getting hit are the people who live there, not "home invaders"?

I'm sure the parents of the students getting hit with stray bullets on college campuses would not be comforted by the twisted rationale ("egregious negligence"). Think about it: Was Amy Bishop ever charged with "egregious negligence" when she accidently shot her brother to death? It seems as if you are accepting a certain degree of death that goes along with the "positive" side of carrying weapons. Like Stalin, you probably say that we must break a few eggs to make an omlette.

What is the obsession with concealed weapons. Why not simply carry a long rifle or shotgun -- in most states the bar for licensure is much lower, simply because these weapons cannot be concealed? The law presumes not that there is anything wrong with carrying but that there is something wrong with concealing, which implies you have an ill purpose for doing the concealing.

The vast majority of religions pose no threat in the workplace, so why announce them in the interview? That is a red herring. On the other hand, it is ridiculous to think that even the most politically-conservative workplace environment would not consider firing you for not disclosing that you are carrying a concealed weapon unrelated to employment in your workplace. Of course, that's what you want -- get fired and get a good high-profile lawsuit going.

Yes, those campuses forgot to ban. I can see it now: please choose our college over all the others, because we allow firearms. You can even put aside the issue of parents, because at many schools the majority of students are over 24 years old ("adulthood" for financial aid purposes). Even with no parents in the picture, would this truly be a "selling point"? Would a large office building, or office park, attract more job applicants if it highlighted the benefit of firearms in their particular workplace?

Does the fact that those corporations and employers and their attorneys are simply protecting their posteriors change the reality? Clearly, to change their mind, you would have to argue that getting rid of the ban would reduce their potential liability somehow. Regardless of criminal outcome, what motivates university attorneys and corporate general counsels is that one case where, either accidentally or intentionally, someone discharges a firearm on site. Risk averse as they may be, they truly believe it is in their capitalist best interest to resist the use of firearms on site. It would be almost marxist to tell them to go jump in a lake, without making a convincing case for the benefits on the other side.

Where do you draw the line? Arguably some of the gun control restrictions already in place deprive large groups of Americans of their "2nd Amendment rights." For example, someone who is 25 years old and poor and has a "nervous breakdown" may be committed briefly to a state institution, while someone in the middle class or higher will voluntarily sign in to a private institution using health insurance. Later on, when that person applies for a carry permit, the poor person would be screened out but not the middle class person. State commitments are on the list of matched categories during the instant check or, more likely, the waiting period. Private hospitalizations are not in the database, because there would be no way to do it. Even if you look at involuntary state commitments, the rules are uneven across the states and arguably have included some people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and not dangerously mentally ill. Where do you draw the line? Which group will the NRA sell out next?

Overall, what is "flippant and pedantic" is to try to lump a privileged group in with the centuries' long suffering of minorities. Without facts or evidence.

70. squashpup - February 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

Dear cragie

"It is amazing that, whenever someone wants to do something, they now compare their plight to African-Americans, whose 500-year struggle they cannot possibly fathom."

It most certainly is a civil rights issue. The length of time, and the "fact" that we cannot "fathom" the struggle in another case are great appeals to emotion, but have nothing to do with facts. The fact is, the First Amendment deals with civil rights, and the Fourth and the Fifth and the as well; indeed, the entire Bill of Rights is all about civil rights. The Second Amendment is part of that same Bill of Rights. You can't pick and choose the parts of the Constitution you like and throw away the rest. Just saying it isn't a civil right doesn't make it so, especially when it is right there with all the others.

"As difficult as it is to understand, it is not your job to look inside someone's head and start picking off "unbalanced" citizens willy nilly."

Not difficult to understand in the least. What is hard to understand is why you hear someone say, "self-defense" and you interpret that as "picking off unbalanced citizens willy-nilly". Where was that advocated here?

"You say you won't "act" until the other person starts firing, but why should we take your word?"

Because we have this thing in our country called "presumption of innocence." How can I just assume you won't stab someone with a knife you got from your kitchen drawer? Should we take away your right to have sharp pencils or scissors in public places? Prior restraint is supposed to be a BAD thing, remember?

"Everyone is entitled to a defense, not an untrained judge/jury/executioner, all wrapped in one."

Good point. Who exactly is advocating that? You?

Perhaps this is how you would act in a situation where you could not control your temper, but it is not fair to project your emotions upon others. In 10 years of carrying, I've been frustrated and upset with people more than a few times. I've had people offend me. I've even had people break into my home. But, I've never unholstered my weapon in a hostile situation, not even once. And only once, when I was literally being chased down a street by someone who was likely intent upon causing me bodily harm, was resolved as soon as I pulled my shirt back to reveal my weapon. No one got hurt. Why do you have a problem with that?

I guess if you can't hold yourself to the same standard and conduct yourself as an adult, then perhaps you SHOULDN'T carry a weapon. Just be aware that others CAN and DO control their actions everyday and are responsible for themselves and don't deserve to lose their civil rights just because you don't think you can handle it.

"Sure, when I have seen crimes occur I have sometimes wished "the system" were more "efficient." Sometimes there is a purpose for the inefficiency, whether in our justice system or in the U.S. Senate. You talk about civil rights, but what about the civil rights of the person you have picked off for looking "unbalanced" but who may have been taking out a pack of cigarettes or an iPhone, rather than a weapon?"

I love these "straw man" fantasy scenarios that people dream up instead of looking at facts. Maybe if you're looking for people who fire "willy-nilly" at people drawing their iPhone, as you put it, you should start with police, who are far more likely to shoot an innocent person than a concealed carry permit holder: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2009/02/17/fact-police-are-much-more-likely-to-shoot-the-wrong-person-than-armed-citizens/ Don't get me wrong; I respect the police for keeping law and order and putting their lives on the line every day, and they have an incredibly difficult job and can never know with certainty who is innocent and who isn't. But the fact is, CCW holders do NOT go around killing people "willy-nilly". Facts are facts, no matter what you think of them.

"Speaking of statistics, what about the statistics that homes with firearms have higher homicides and suicides, and the people getting hit are the people who live there, not 'home invaders'?"

Interesting that you choose to refer to a thoroughly discredited study to make your case. Those "statistics' to which you refer were created by Arthur Kellerman, who, after examining evidence from only THREE COUNTIES out of the whole United States, "found" that you were 43 times more likely to be shot than an intruder if you had a gun in your home. And, he refused for years to allow his studies to be peer reviewed, and when he did, he was so lambasted for it that he revised his own statistics to reflect a 2.7 to 1 ratio. Some of the incidents he counted toward his "43" deaths were just bizarre. If someone broke in and shot you with a pistol, but you had a rifle upstairs in the closet, that counted toward the 43! Also, he counted suicides, which have far more to do with cultural issues than the availability of guns (for instance, Japan has strict gun control, but double suicide rate than the U.S.) You can't conclusively say that everyone who shot themselves wouldn't choose another method of suicide if guns weren't available. Plus, it assumes that the only "successful" defense is one where the bad guy ends up dead! The fact is, in many cases, merely displaying a weapon ends a confrontation. I found this out from personal experience, and I thoroughly believe that I likely would have been assaulted or mugged had I not had a firearm with me that day.

But perhaps the most telling quote comes from Kellerman himself: “If you've got to resist, your chances of being hurt are less the more lethal your weapon. If that were my wife, would I want her to have a .38 Special in her hand? Yeah.” http://thelibertyzone.com/2010/02/04/more-antigun-spew-from-academia.aspx?ref=rss

Point is, multiple researchers have found this statistic horribly flawed, and the consensus is that the study itself has been debunked on multiple occasions. http://guncite.com/gun-control-kellermann-3times.html

"Like Stalin, you probably say that we must break a few eggs to make an omlette."

Nice the way you worked Stalin into the argument through making up FALSE quotes and attributing them to Hellgrammite. Now that you have brought him up, let me point out the FACT that he would have joined YOU and argued against carrying personal firearms.

"What is the obsession with concealed weapons. Why not simply carry a long rifle or shotgun -- in most states the bar for licensure is much lower, simply because these weapons cannot be concealed? The law presumes not that there is anything wrong with carrying but that there is something wrong with concealing, which implies you have an ill purpose for doing the concealing."

Wow. You are a genius. If you like to retain privacy, you must be guilty of something! And you were trying to lump Hellgrammite in with Stalin! You have a serious suspicion and distrust of your fellow man which makes you far more scary to me than anyone who gets firearms training, a background check, and lawfully obtains a permit to carry. You treat others with suspicion and distrust, and you would act on nothing more than your fears, without regard to the fact that NO ONE DID ANYTHING TO YOU! That's the stuff that fascism is made of, Cragie! You need to seriously reflect upon yourself and your relationship to society! And, since you obviously know NOTHING about firearms, please understand that like just about anything these days, compact is better. Otherwise, why not carry around a laptop instead of an iPhone? And carrying concealed means that hoplophobes like yourself won't get your panties in a wad and have to see someone with a mere TOOL, used to defend the most important of all things...life. It's just another thing I don't have to deal with while enjoying my civil rights.

"Yes, those campuses forgot to ban. I can see it now: please choose our college over all the others, because we allow firearms. You can even put aside the issue of parents, because at many schools the majority of students are over 24 years old ("adulthood" for financial aid purposes). Even with no parents in the picture, would this truly be a "selling point"? Would a large office building, or office park, attract more job applicants if it highlighted the benefit of firearms in their particular workplace?"

It would be to me. More to the point, would places like that be more attractive to violent criminals, since many criminals are on record stating that their biggest fear is being confronted by an armed citizen?

"Does the fact that those corporations and employers and their attorneys are simply protecting their posteriors change the reality? Clearly, to change their mind, you would have to argue that getting rid of the ban would reduce their potential liability somehow."

And, that is actually happening, as people wake up to the fact that gun-free zones tend to be magnets to what police call "active shooters"; Columbine and Virginia Tech-like massacres, while extremely rare, do take place almost exclusively in gun-free zones. http://www.gunlaws.com/GFZ/GFZ-BillReview.htm

"Regardless of criminal outcome, what motivates university attorneys and corporate general counsels is that one case where, either accidentally or intentionally, someone discharges a firearm on site. Risk averse as they may be, they truly believe it is in their capitalist best interest to resist the use of firearms on site. It would be almost marxist to tell them to go jump in a lake, without making a convincing case for the benefits on the other side."

That's changing. More and more businesses are allowing firearms, even some higher profile ones like Starbucks: http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=11&sid=283297

Maybe they do know something you don't.

"Where do you draw the line? Arguably some of the gun control restrictions already in place deprive large groups of Americans of their "2nd Amendment rights." For example, someone who is 25 years old and poor and has a "nervous breakdown" may be committed briefly to a state institution, while someone in the middle class or higher will voluntarily sign in to a private institution using health insurance. Later on, when that person applies for a carry permit, the poor person would be screened out but not the middle class person. State commitments are on the list of matched categories during the instant check or, more likely, the waiting period. Private hospitalizations are not in the database, because there would be no way to do it. Even if you look at involuntary state commitments, the rules are uneven across the states and arguably have included some people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and not dangerously mentally ill. Where do you draw the line? Which group will the NRA sell out next?"

A classic example of the Perfect Solution Fallacy. So, because we now deny some their Second Amendment rights, we should quit trying to protect the Second Amendment rights of ANYONE?

"Overall, what is "flippant and pedantic" is to try to lump a privileged group in with the centuries' long suffering of minorities. Without facts or evidence."

I reject your "litmus test" that someone has to suffer for a certain period of time or be a minority to have their civil rights violated, or that you cannot violate the rights of a group because you perceive them as a member of a "privileged" class. That's the stuff of Marxism, plain and simple, and is a discrimination that is as evil as any other. And, as for facts or evidence, well, that is the Constitution. The Second Amendment is right there with the other civil rights outlined in the Bill of Rights. It is the giant elephant in the room that you refuse to recognize, but your refusal isn't going to make it go away.

71. olivia55 - February 17, 2010 at 05:54 pm

What constitutes "eccentric behavior" or behaviors that may indicate a greater problem, the presence of mental illness, exists in any given department?

Is it when a colleague refuses to participate fully in departmental meetings due to the perception of not getting her/his way about a position, promotion, tenure,etc.? When a colleague calls in sick and/or is absent more than their students, is this a sign?

Is it an increasing sense of paranoia that someone, usually several people in the department, as well as administrative are out to 'get' the person? As a result, the colleague seeks out people who may provide some measure of sympathy until they, too, are perceived to have engage in some sort of hostile behavior?

What about the colleague who only engages students, closes their office door, and refuses to engage colleagues in any sort of dialogue?

Or the colleague who imagines slights such as: eye-rolling, dismissive gestures, snide comments made in meetings or thinks that their load is being deliberately manipulated?

One television interview with a student and her mother indicated that Professor Bishop went off on tangents in the class and also the students had to read the textbook in order to successfully navigate exams. How many of us go off on tangents from time-to-time? Does this constitute a signal that all is not right?

I am very curious as to how we come up with the perceptions that some our colleagues may be mentally ill.

72. cragie - February 18, 2010 at 12:05 am

The 2nd Amendment doesn't provide specific rights to anyone, even in the recent Supreme Court decision that ignores hundreds of years of precedent. A jurisdiction can legislate and regulate all day long, just can no longer implement an absolute ban. In addition, the Constitution generally outlines what the government (and, until relatively recently in our history, actually only the federal government) can't do. It doesn't generally limit what individuals, companies, corporations, organizations, clubs, etc., do. This is why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was such a big deal for minority rights. It was a statute, because rights could not be fully realized through the Constitution. Just like the Constitution on its own couldn't integrate restaurants and hotels, it doesn't force a private employer to retain an employee who insists on carrying a firearm at work, nor prevent campuses from prohibiting students from having firearms. Even then, in '64/'65 it was touch and go for a while on whether the law would hold up. It is possible that a different Supreme Court from the one at that time -- for example the one today -- would have said that Congress simply can't use the Commerce Clause to legislate that private entities need to do business with people they do not want to do business with. Again, anyone who compares the privilege of owning a gun to civil rights is like the person who compares the Palestinians to the Sioux or Apaches, that is, it is clearly someone with a hidden agenda who is not interested in history or evidence or analysis. And it is funny that someone who blanches at the mention of Stalin then immediately and predictably trots out the red herring of marxism. How else to label such a track record of legislative success, other than the word "privileged"? How many times has anyone in Congress stood up to the gun lobby? They lose the next election quite frequently if they do, a track record mentioned at conventions. If you go back to 1964, you certainly aren't going to find a similar lobby with a nearly-undefeated record of success that was at the time backing the rights of African-Americans. In fact, that was one of the purposes for the courtroom approach in the first place. If they could win easily in the state legislatures and Congress then they wouldn't have bothered with lengthy court cases.

73. squashpup - February 18, 2010 at 11:34 am

"The 2nd Amendment doesn't provide specific rights to anyone, even in the recent Supreme Court decision that ignores hundreds of years of precedent."

It is ludicrous to accept that the 2nd Amendment is in the Bill of Rights, but is entirely non-efficacious. Did they just write it because it looks good? What's it for, then?

And, as for your 100 years of precedent, the hundred years before THAT were decidedly "pro-individual gun rights". All that began changing when the government began looking for ways to keep guns away from freed slaves. Read the history...every major act of gun control since the Civil War was preceded by some sort of societal upheaval that centered around keeping some group under control. http://www.firearmsandliberty.com/cramer.racism.html Indeed, modern gun control disproportionately targets minorities, through bans on inexpensive weapons, and creating draconian laws in areas that are predominantly applied in areas populated by minorities.

The rest of what you wrote seemed somewhat detached and meandering, largely because you didn't bother to parse your writing into organized paragraphs, but the gist of it seemed to be some anger at the NRA, because they are a "powerful lobby". Once again, having representation of a lobbying group doesn't mean your civil rights aren't being violated.

The fact is, the NRA is one of few lobbies that directly acts on behalf of private citizens, getting involved in litigation in defense of individuals who attempt to exercise their 2nd Amendment CIVIL rights. And, it is largely made UP of private citizens, and it is so successful because it correctly identifies the issues that are important to Americans and lobbies on their behalf. The NRA represents its members far better than most members of Congress represent their constituents.

There are a lot of lobbying organizations, probably many you've never heard of. None of them mean squat if they don't have the backing of a large number of people. And you get that backing by supporting an issue that is important to a large number of people. It is obvious that the NRA does. To say otherwise makes you sound like a conspiracy theorist. Congress listens to them because they KNOW that the NRA represents a LARGE group of citizens.

And again, your attempt to diminish their struggle by branding them as "privileged" does smack of Marxism and incitement to class warfare, as in, "You deserve to have your rights violated since you're privileged". Insidious, but also ironic, since the NRA fights against the very gun control laws that keep many minority communities cowering in fear, unable to defend themselves. Recognizing someone's right to their own life is probably the BEST validation of their "right to person-hood", i.e., their civil rights.

74. hellgrammite - February 18, 2010 at 04:13 pm

To ensure cragie's and my continued presence here, and the presence of this lively discourse, I wish to point out that this debate is relevant to the Chronicle of Higher Educations website because of the murder of university professors on campus during a tenure meeting. It is relevant, timely, a matter of life and death, and a microcosm of an on-going struggle in America.

In the wake of this outrage, I can only wish serenity, understanding, forgiveness, hopeful optimism about the joy of life, and the will to strive onward to the friends and families - of the victims, and of the initiator of this horrible violence.

It is my firm belief that when faced with adversity, one should act, and try to persuade others to take action. To prevent this sort of nightmare from re-occurring, I will do that using my expertise and knowledge of firearms and self defense, which are the tools I am capable with which apply to this situation. I respectfully request that those who have expertise in other areas pertinent to this tragedy, such as institutional mental health services, campus security, etc. give their opinions and potential assistance to all CHE readers.

Now, back to Mr. or Mrs. cragie.

"It is amazing that, whenever someone wants to do something, they now compare their plight to African-Americans, whose 500-year struggle they cannot possibly fathom. There is no 2nd Amendment right for private citizens to carry concealed firearms."

My comparison was to African Americans and womens right to vote, and how many Americans did not see that as a civil rights issue at the time. To point out that there was difference of opinion on that rights issue, like this one, and change was possible. I, you, or any other thinking person, CAN fathom history and any type of injustice or human suffering, even 500-years worth. Re-stating your opinion about self defense and the right to keep and bear arms declaratively in the form of an irrefutable fact does not make it any more of a fact than it did the first time. I heard you, and appreciate your position. I disagree. Im telling you why. Can you hear me?

"Even if there were, it is not a civil right. States, counties and municipalities have the right to impose reasonable restrictions -- not to mention what private corporations and institutions can impose."

I believe it is a civil right - a fundamental legal right of an American citizen recognized by our Constitution, and enumerated in the Bill of Rights in the 2nd Amendment. Those govt entities you mention do indeed have the right to reasonably restrict that right, and all the others. Just like they can and should restrict your 4th Amendment right to be secure from search and seizure, by obtaining a legal warrant to violate it with probable cause. The non-govt entities you mention do not have a right to violate your civil rights. You do not see self defense or the right to keep and bear arms as a civil right, like many. I do, and I also am not alone. Hence this debate, and why laws change. Govt entities are already restricting 2nd Amendment rights, and well they should. But they are not banned. And bans, like in Washington DC, have been overturned by the Supreme Court because they are unConstitutional.

"Even as the rights to possess and carry both large and concealable firearms have expanded over the years, somehow you continue to believe you are a victim of society taking away your rights."

They have not expanded. They have only been eroded. I strongly suspect that you do not have knowledge or experience with firearms, self defense, firearm laws, or the history of this topic - which is your prerogative. However, to dismiss the concerns of people who do have that knowledge and experience and feel that they are fighting for their civil rights, if you are not fully informed, is unconscionable in my mind. Please enlighten me if I am incorrect, in the form of explanation of how rights have expanded. I will do the same to show their erosion if you wish, but am hesitant to include such voluminous detail for the sake of space on this comment tool. Summarily, those details could include the 1934 NFA, 1968 GCA, examples of purchasing, registration, and concealed carry state laws, the federal Assault Weapons Ban during the Clinton years, etc. We could compare your specific states situation with mine. I still havent had a chance to look up UAHs on-campus weapon policy, or even AL law, as I mentioned in my first post. Maybe we could discuss how historically gun control laws were used, and sometimes even specifically designed, to keep African Americans disarmed in the South, where UAH is. Let me know. And, yes, I see civil rights restrictions as urgently distressing. And your putting the rights in quotes still does not make them NOT a right, but only shows your opinion.

"If I had a dollar for every time I read a paranoid attack piece about a secret plan by Obama to take away our firearms, I would be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. These are sly marketing tactics by the arms merchants -- who by the way don't really care about citizens right to carry or anything else."

At the end of your last post, you use the term red herring to dismiss my comparison between 1st and 2nd Amendment rights and a job interview. You were incorrect, but would you agree that introducing cryptic secret plans, demonizing non-specific corporations with vague anti-capitalist suppositions, and mentioning the current President out of the blue, are the very definition of a red herring? If not, please explain.

"As difficult as it is to understand,"

Which elements of my half of this discourse indicate to you that I do not, or am incapable of, understanding this topic? Do you frequently find it advantageous to baselessly question the intelligence of people you argue with, instead of simply using reasoned debate? Despite the fact that this is an incredibly personal, politically- and emotionally-charged, life or death, civil rights issue to me, I have not insulted your intelligence or beliefs. I respectfully request that you reciprocate.

"it is not your job to look inside someone's head and start picking off 'unbalanced' citizens willy nilly. You say you won't act until the other person starts firing, but why should we take your word? Everyone is entitled to a defense, not an untrained judge/jury/executioner, all wrapped in one. Sure, when I have seen crimes occur I have sometimes wished the system were more efficient. Sometimes there is a purpose for the inefficiency, whether in our justice system or in the U.S. Senate. You talk about civil rights, but what about the civil rights of the person you have picked off for looking unbalanced but who may have been taking out a pack of cigarettes or an iPhone, rather than a weapon?"

It is NOT my, or anyone elses, job to look in someones head and pick them off. Nor did I ever say it is, or should be. Everyone is entitled to legal defense upon arrest, yes. But everyone is also legally allowed lethal force in defense of their life or against grievous bodily harm - during the commission of the crime against them. There is no need, or time, to look in someones head when they are in the act of murder - that act needs to be stopped instantly and by all available means. Also, your use of the word untrained must refer to the judge, jury, and executioner training which your imaginary vigilante so desperately needs, because it cannot refer to concealed weapon permits. They require training (except in AK and VT). And most people who legally carry weapons are very highly trained, if not by other professionals, than at least by personal practice. Do you have a close relationship with any private citizen who carries a weapon legally? Do you know, even peripherally, anyone? I already know the answer, because if you did, I assure you, you would not insult and belittle them by likening them to your imagined bloodthirsty vigilante patrolling around killing people that pull out their cigarettes or phone. It is highly-insulting, baseless, and preposterous to accuse responsible citizens that wish to legally arm and defend themselves and others of acting as, or desiring to be, judge/jury/executioner and of wantonly killing innocent people. It is simply false.

"statistically much more likely to be a victim. According to whom?"

According to those who monitor and publish those very statisticshttp://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm but also those who use the logic of violent crime coming from people, not demonized inanimate objects, and the more people the more crime. Strangely, the more people the more gun control.

"Speaking of statistics, what about the statistics that homes with firearms have higher homicides and suicides, and the people getting hit are the people who live there, not home invaders?"

Which statistics, specifically? We should look at who conducts and funds them, and how they are presented. Would you also like to look at some statistics which reflect the legal and justified use of firearms that stopped rape, robbery, and murder? Or was your appeal to statistics disingenuous?

"I'm sure the parents of the students getting hit with stray bullets on college campuses would not be comforted by the twisted rationale ("egregious negligence"). Think about it: Was Amy Bishop ever charged with "egregious negligence" when she accidently shot her brother to death?"

Where are all these imaginary stray bullets flying around pell-mell from the many Americans that are currently legally armed, including those that are carrying concealed? Are you dodging hailstorms of lead while going about your daily affairs? Do you know anyone who is? Are students parents comforted by the 'twisted rationale' of charging people with negligence during automobile accidents? Think some of them have injured loved ones? Have you dodged more auto accidents than salvos of errant gunfire? How many people do you know that have? SHOULD Bishop have been charged? You used the word accidental which means the answer is no.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: If Bishop had pre-meditatedly waited outside in the parking lot and run down her department Chairperson in her vehicle, would you push to ban cars? If she had accidentally run down her brother, would you push to ban cars?

"It seems as if you are accepting a certain degree of death that goes along with the positive side of carrying weapons."

Agreed. But, if law-abiding, responsible, conscientious Americans DON'T carry weapons to defend their lives and others, will there be no deaths? If they do carry, can they stop rapes, robberies, and murders?

"Like Stalin, you probably say that we must break a few eggs to make an omlette."

Robespierre. Unlike Stalin, who implemented tyrannical gun control, I believe in freedom, individual rights, and human life as sacrosanct. Your egg breaking equals accidental deaths, and your omelet equals freedom? Then, yes, I agree. Uh-oh, wait, do you want to ban omelets because eggs get broken to make them? Nope - I retract my acquiescence.

"What is the obsession with concealed weapons. Why not simply carry a long rifle or shotgun -- in most states the bar for licensure is much lower, simply because these weapons cannot be concealed? The law presumes not that there is anything wrong with carrying but that there is something wrong with concealing, which implies you have an ill purpose for doing the concealing."

Carrying a rifle or shotgun for defense is not practical. It impedes the myriad normal tasks of day to day life. This bar for licensure you refer to, do you know what that means? Are you aware of firearm laws in the US and across states? Do you think that all firearms in all states are required to be licensed? Are you aware that many states allow open unconcealed carry of a sidearm without any sort of licensing, and private citizens do? This ill purpose you speak of - it seems states condone it to the point of issuing permits to do it. Weird.

"The vast majority of religions pose no threat in the workplace, so why announce them in the interview? That is a red herring."

You're referring to your comment "putting aside the issue of college education, someone who goes to job interviews in corporate America (or small businesses) announcing intent to pack heat at work will not receive many job offers" in which YOU introduce the red herring non-sequitur about bringing focus to guns in a job interview. I made a parallel to 1st Amendment rights being brought up in a job interview, and pointed out that they were equally inappropriate and would be perceived as odd during an interview. The difference is: I dont want either right to be banned, don't understand what job interviews have to do with this topic, and I don't use non-sequiturs.

"On the other hand, it is ridiculous to think that even the most politically-conservative workplace environment would not consider firing you for not disclosing that you are carrying a concealed weapon unrelated to employment in your workplace."

That is false. Not all workplaces ban guns. And it is not ridiculous, but merely different from your experience and opinion. And, there is no need for disclosure, and no one would ever know the difference anyway.until the concealed carrier used the weapon in defense of their life or others. Then, ironically, if they succeeded they would be a hero and simultaneously subject to termination from employment. Or, if they were carrying outside of work in an area where governments have deemed civil rights to be null and void, they would be a hero and simultaneously subject to prosecution (usually this is just a misdemeanor, but in some cases a felony.) These are the facts of how the law and workplace rules apply. Sounds good?

"Of course, that's what you want -- get fired and get a good high-profile lawsuit going."

Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU! As I read those abusive and degrading words, and they echo in my mind, I envision the exact same words coming out of the repulsive mouth of an ignorant, racist, hateful KKK member, as he says them about an African American. Not because of anything that person did, but because the bastard harbors prejudice against them, and holds the false belief that all of them are lazy and prefer to bilk the system rather than work. Your disgusting and false accusation is a clear reflection of your incredibly uninformed assumptions about firearms and those who own and carry them. It shows that you think that the typical gun owner is a lawyered-up predator who takes advantage of our excessively disgustingly litiginous nation. I've never heard that stereotype about us before now, please enlighten me about it. I am repulsed and outraged by your flagrant prejudice. I am even more repulsed and outraged that you take that mental prejudice and turn it into acts of discrimination by belittling, demonizing, excluding, refusing to listen to, and mocking me and the many other people like me. Because you don't agree with us, and your lifestyle is different than ours. I would never do that to you, or anyone else, and certainly not in the public venue of a higher education website where freedom of thought and expression should be paramount. Shame on you.

"Yes, those campuses forgot to ban."

No, they did not. Not all state laws ban concealed carry on campus specifically, and some campuses follow suit. You are unaware of this, so it ridiculous and inconceivable to you?

"I can see it now: please choose our college over all the others, because we allow firearms. You can even put aside the issue of parents, because at many schools the majority of students are over 24 years old ("adulthood" for financial aid purposes). Even with no parents in the picture, would this truly be a 'selling point'? Would a large office building, or office park, attract more job applicants if it highlighted the benefit of firearms in their particular workplace?"

This is a non-sequitur, similar to the interview/gun/religion one above, and equally irrelevant.

"Does the fact that those corporations and employers and their attorneys are simply protecting their posteriors change the reality? Clearly, to change their mind, you would have to argue that getting rid of the ban would reduce their potential liability somehow. Regardless of criminal outcome, what motivates university attorneys and corporate general counsels is that one case where, either accidentally or intentionally, someone discharges a firearm on site. Risk averse as they may be, they truly believe it is in their capitalist best interest to resist the use of firearms on site. It would be almost marxist to tell them to go jump in a lake, without making a convincing case for the benefits on the other side."

And? Does liability and risk preclude recognition of civil rights?

"Where do you draw the line?"

Im glad you asked. I hope you clearly explain where YOU draw the line regarding this topic. I draw it here:

1. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual Constitutionally guaranteed civil right, which must be as jealously guarded, equally protected, and cherished as the rest of them. Firearms in the hands of conscientious, moral, responsible, organized citizens are the ultimate guarantor of freedom. With freedom comes responsibility. I can use my hammer to build you a house, or I can smash my innocent co-workers faces in with it during a tenure meeting. The hammer is not possessed by either a good or evil spirit. We need hammers to build houses, despite the fact they could be used for evil purposes.

2. Federal firearms legislation is the epitome of the fox watching the henhouse. It should be warily limited, in accordance with the original intent of the 2nd Amendment as laid out in the Federalist Papers. In a free society, armed citizens must be able to organize and overthrow a possible future tyrannical govt, or they are not truly free. Therefore, they must be guaranteed ownership by law to the current individually-used weapons of the day at all times. (Now: all semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols. In the future: who knows? If we could press a button and magically erase the existence of firearms and all the related technology: crossbows, bows, swords, axes, daggers. At the time the idea became action: flintlock muskets, pistols, swords, axes, and daggers. Changes over time.)

3. The individual's civil right to life is sacrosanct, and includes the right to meet direct threats to life with as much force as necessary, including lethal force, everywhere and always. The right to property does NOT mean lethal force is authorized to defend it; no human life is worth any amount or type of property.

4. No govt law or institutional policy should ban a civil right, but can reasonably restrict them.

Where do YOU draw the line?

"Arguably some of the gun control restrictions already in place deprive large groups of Americans of their 2nd Amendment rights. For example, someone who is 25 years old and poor and has a nervous breakdown may be committed briefly to a state institution, while someone in the middle class or higher will voluntarily sign in to a private institution using health insurance. Later on, when that person applies for a carry permit, the poor person would be screened out but not the middle class person. State commitments are on the list of matched categories during the instant check or, more likely, the waiting period. Private hospitalizations are not in the database, because there would be no way to do it. Even if you look at involuntary state commitments, the rules are uneven across the states and arguably have included some people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and not dangerously mentally ill. Where do you draw the line? Which group will the NRA sell out next?"

I agree. If true, that is wrong. It should be remedied. Does that subversion of rights somehow make it justified to deny the rights in the first place? And how exactly is the NRA involved in this medical injustice?

"Overall, what is flippant and pedantic is to try to lump a privileged group in with the centuries' long suffering of minorities. Without facts or evidence."

Incomprehensible statement. Please explain.

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