• September 4, 2015

Professor Had Raised Concerns About Accused Shooter's Mental Health

Academe is often home to oddballs. Choosing to spend your life in a library or laboratory is, by definition, out of the ordinary.

But before she allegedly opened fire on her colleagues, killing three of them and severely injuring two more, was Amy Bishop, an assistant biology professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, simply another eccentric academic? Or did her behavior indicate that something was seriously wrong with her?

Her colleagues agree that she could be unusual. William Setzer, chairman of the chemistry department, recalls that she would interrupt meetings with bizarre tangents, "left field kind of stuff." Robert O. Lawton, a biology professor who was in the room during the shooting but escaped unscathed, also thought she could be strange, but said she wasn't the strangest academic he'd run across in his long career.

Another professor, however, has long been wary of Ms. Bishop. He asked The Chronicle not to use his name because, considering recent events, he is worried about his own safety. The professor, who was a member of Ms. Bishop's tenure-review committee, said he first became concerned about Ms. Bishop's mental health "about five minutes after I met her."

The professor said that during a meeting of the tenure-review committee, he expressed his opinion that Ms. Bishop was "crazy." Word of what he said made it back to Ms. Bishop. In September, after her tenure denial, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging gender discrimination. The professor's remark was going to be used as possible evidence in that case.

It was then, the professor said, that the associate provost of the university, John Severn, came to him and asked whether he truly believed what he had said about Ms. Bishop. (Reached by phone, Mr. Severn declined to comment.) The professor was given the opportunity to back off the claim, or to say it was a flippant remark. But he didn't. "I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that," the professor said. "This woman has a pattern of erratic behavior. She did things that weren't normal."

No one incident stands out, the professor said, but a series of interactions caused him to think she was "out of touch with reality." Once, he said, she "went ballistic" when a grant application being filed on her behalf was turned in late. The professor said he avoided Ms. Bishop whenever he saw her, on or off the campus. When he spotted her not long ago at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, he made sure he was out of sight until she had left the store. He even skipped a faculty retreat because he knew she would be there.

To be clear, it wasn't as if the professor told the university that he thought Ms. Bishop was potentially violent. And, at the time, the university was narrowly focused on the legal fallout from a possible lawsuit by Ms. Bishop, he said.

Word of the professor's opinion about Ms. Bishop's mental health did not make it to the university's president, David B. Williams. The president said a reporter's account was the first he'd heard of it. A spokesman for the university declined to comment, citing the still-active EEOC complaint.

When the professor found out on Friday afternoon that there had been a shooting on the campus, he didn't immediately hear exactly where it happened, who was involved, or whether the shooter was a faculty member, student, or someone from outside the university. Even so, the professor said his first thought was: "Oh my God. I bet it was Amy Bishop."


1. 11242283 - February 17, 2010 at 06:05 am

This is the worst kind of after the fact gossip. A person who declines to be named and who cannot cite one example of what he's talking about (except going ballistic over a late grant application -- which is hardly unknown, at least in my experience of my colleagues) gets to assert that he knew within 5 minutes of meeting Ms. Bishop that she was crazy. Ms. Bishop will have to answer for what she did but this kind of reporting is irresponsible and not worthy of the Chronicle. If the vague allegations of every male professor who thought a female colleague 'crazy' were investigated to the degree this article suggests Ms. Bishop ought to have been on the basis of this one observer, HR dept would be doing very little else.

2. 11294136 - February 17, 2010 at 06:22 am

Chronicle: Here's a thought. Since you are running out of stories down there, why don't you pack it up and head back to DC.

3. plancinedim - February 17, 2010 at 06:47 am

Most agreed! with the comment #1. I could not believe either on the way how the article was going like 's/he said that, I heard that pattern.' I was disappointed when I reached the end of the article.

4. malcolmx - February 17, 2010 at 07:02 am

Oh so now this dude knew she was nuts FIVE minutes after meeting her. What bull! So Dr. Bishop's entire life was leading up to this one tragedy. This dude was on the tenure committee and he thought she was nuts. Well, there goes his objectivity. Dr. Bishop over-reacted and went postal and took out the minorities in the unit. Her husband must have been asleep at the switch. Wife borrows a gun and out of the clear blue begins target practice. What the f**k! Who was the nitwit who loaned her the gun?

5. research1047 - February 17, 2010 at 07:38 am

This is apalling journalism. But, let me tell you, I knew she was crazy five minutes BEFORE I never met her.


Dan Gilmartin, Seminole State College of Florida

6. avatarmh - February 17, 2010 at 07:38 am

Indeed this article and tenure committee member paints a disturbing picture of the environment in which Dr. Bishop worked: allegations with only one semi-tangible example: "She "went ballistic" when a grant application being filed on her behalf was turned in late." How ballistic did she go after likely being totally sleep-deprived juggling teaching, publication, student supervision, conferences, committees, husband, and children to squeeze in another grant proposals (which we've already read was considered a weakness in her tenure package), only to find out that someone at her institution didn't do his job and didn't get the proposal in on time? For anyone who doesn't know, grant deadlines are hard and failure to meet them results in rejection. BTW, it is fairly common for assistant professors to work 100 hour weeks. The non-challantness of this comment is disturbing and suggests this faculty member got no support. And it does smell a bit like a gender bias, too.

7. osholes - February 17, 2010 at 07:47 am

Well, how about this, reported just this morning on WBUR Boston? Amy Bishop had been put on probation for punching a woman in a restaurant. Surely that kind of thing is in the public record and should have been available to anyone hiring her. And it supports claims of people that Ms. Bishop had a short and dangerous fuse.
Ms. Bishop would certainly have had reason to be angry at anyone whose incompetence interfered with her career. She had absolutely no reason of any kind to blow people away with a gun.

8. 22228715 - February 17, 2010 at 07:56 am

Not only did this anonymous person probably not help the situation, but he probably contributed to the problem. Using unprofessional and unkind language such as "crazy" and "ballistic" was unbecoming to any grown-up let alone a tenured professor, and the use of inflammatory and adolescent ways to describe and address concerning behavior likely put administrators and peers in the position of having to first assess his credibility rather than going right to the concern. His description, now and of his past actions, sounds more like high school students trying to distance themselves from an odd or disturbed teen by shaming and bullying him into departure, or in an attempt to make the person worse so the principal will take action. When that happens it makes it so much more difficult to resolve and makes the situation more dangerous. In addition, it's just cruel. Perhaps he has already realized that his actions were less than heroic - hence the anonymous interview.

9. rab1960 - February 17, 2010 at 08:09 am

"This is the worst kind of after the fact gossip. A person who declines to be named ....."

Interesting comment by a person known to us only as "11242283".

10. harborcoat - February 17, 2010 at 08:21 am

You could tell this was going to be an odd piece of journalism right from the start:

"Academe is often home to oddballs. Choosing to spend your life in a library or laboratory is, by definition, out of the ordinary."

Um, as opposed to spending it in a law firm or office cubicle? In a cockpit or a coal mine?

and this:

"Or did her behavior indicate that something was seriously wrong with her?"

Um, shooting her brother, suspected of sending letter bombs, punching women in restaurants?

I think I'll go back to just reading the articles about What Football costs and Open Access Journals...

11. haggard - February 17, 2010 at 08:28 am

i agree with harborcoat. this article is the worst kind of gossip. the unnamed professor who hid from amy bishop in the bookstore and avoided meetings she attended was not exactly behaving as a mature adult.

12. 22276478 - February 17, 2010 at 08:41 am

Finally, someone not making excuses for the fact that the woman was nuts. Crazy is the best word for it. Bravo to the person.

13. 22276478 - February 17, 2010 at 08:43 am

and to add - he is unnamed for fear of personal safety and not as a "gossip."

14. marciag - February 17, 2010 at 08:46 am

I think this is a good story and good journalism.

It addresses a high-profile shooting in the heart of their beat, academia. What could be more important to any of us than the murder of our colleagues? Tom Bartlett and Robin Wilson found an informed source willing to speak from personal experience about the suspect. The reporters sought further comment from the provost and the president. They explained why the source wished to remain anonymous.

If I were their editor, I'd be proud to have them on my staff.

Marcia Goodrich, senior writer
Michigan Technological University

15. trendisnotdestiny - February 17, 2010 at 08:50 am


It must be so brave to have such powerful insights about someone ater 5 minutes and little context; this type of reductionistic labelling about what is normal and what is not in this environment by a male with enough power to file a complaint but helpless to mentor, teach, correct, or offer guidance astounds.... why don't we all avoid what we do not know by hiding in the Barnes and Noble bathroom, that way we can be really safe and take observational pot shots.... This piece really pissed me off... Nobody deserves to be shot, but this lack of backbone, vague staff member reminds me of Frank Burns...

16. otherview - February 17, 2010 at 08:57 am

While the un-named source may appear to be unprofessional to many, unprofessionalism can also be seen elsewhere. Doesn't anybody think it is unprofessional for members of a P&T committee to be leaking what is said about candiadates for tenure?

Perhaps the un-named source was truly concerned for his safety.

17. harborcoat - February 17, 2010 at 08:59 am

But, Marcia, with all due respect, this article pretty much failed to tell us anything new. We knew going in that the shooter was "crazy" -- or any word one chooses use to describe the behaviour of someone who does what she's "alleged" to have done. Did that description of her have any bearing on the tenure denial? The story doesn't tell us. Were there others who felt similarly about her? The story doesn't tell us. "No one incident stands out"? I understand the sources need for anonymity, but that is just non-supported, under-reported space-filling. I'd expect better from an article at a site dedicated to reportage of university affairs. This isn't The Enquirer. Or even the New York Post.

At the end of the day, filing a story just to file one, because one has a salacious, anonymous tidbit to report, is just not "good journalism". It's not a scoop; it's hack tabloid journalism. Having been--before coming to academia--both an editor and journalist, at magazines and newspapers, I feel somewhat experienced enough to say that I'd tell my writers to wait until there is more to offer in the story. Sometimes it's better to be thorough, informational and subtle than it is to be first.

AND, I'd tell my writers to stay away from such ridiculous and presumptuous story openings (as I mentioned in my last post)...

18. cghixson - February 17, 2010 at 09:02 am

I'm amazed that a publication targeted at and supposedly serving academics, begins an article by taking potshots at academics.This is appalling journalism - childish, amateurish, unprofessional. Fox News would be proud.

19. jnicolay - February 17, 2010 at 09:08 am

A number of years accumulated before that review committee gathered to pronounce judgment. No one will dispute that faculty members are in fact (including myself) quirky at best. But “crazy”? If degree of craziness is on the performance list for tenure, then common sense would indicate that you are counseled long before tenure comes to fruition. Tenure is not the final assessment of mental health. In fact, tenure decisions should come as no surprise to candidates. Did Ms. Bishop receive any professional counseling over these years? Would not “crazy” within 5 minutes suggest that “crazy” over six years would only be all the more demonstrable?
The loss of life and its impact on this fine university no doubt will scar many for years to come. But is not the greater challenge for the academic community at large to grapple with how faculty are offered professional counseling, and prescribed a course of action regarding perceptions and performance? Why does the tenure review, cloaked in anonymity as it is, serve as the final judgment? I agree with my colleagues, there is much amiss here.

20. 11188056 - February 17, 2010 at 09:16 am

As someone who chose to be a librarian, I was taken aback by the first few line of this article, "choosing to spend your life in a library or laboratory is, by definition, out of the ordinary". The authors of this article decided to choose these two areas to be out of the ordinary. The majority of high school students coming out of high school can't even read or write well enough to make a full sentence. Texting is the "norm". Perhaps if these people would spent more time in a library or laboratory, their future would not look so bleak. Now to the real issue behind this article, Dr. Bishop, unfortunately had some serious issues. And now three innocent people have lost their lives.

21. fullprof99 - February 17, 2010 at 09:16 am

I'm not getting the posters who think this article somehow is bad journalism, especially the one thinking that the comment that the shooter was seen to be crazy is off base because she happened to be a woman. Hello? Women get a free pass because of the fear that somehow any allegation about them is a matter of sexism? Bishop pretty demonstrably has proven herself by subsequent actions to be "crazy" and if the provost had listened to this prof's advice people might be alive who now are dead. I have been around people who are crazy--or with mental disorders if you wish to be PC about it--and they generally have revealed themselves as such by a lot of little behaviors that would be hard to identify in detail years after the fact. The impression wsa clear, however. When several of these later have been successfully treated the difference again was clear, if hard to explain in detail.

22. sciprofmw - February 17, 2010 at 09:25 am

When I read these articles in the Chronicle on this incident, it kind of reminds me of something.....oh yeah - standing in line at the grocery store checking out the latest in the Enquirer or InTouch Weekly.

23. pflady - February 17, 2010 at 09:31 am

No doubt the lady was unbalanced (or acted in an unbalanced manner). However, going ballistic after a grant application is turned in late (especially one that may have had an impact on her obtaining tenure) is what I would call NORMAL behavior in academe.

24. ethan56 - February 17, 2010 at 09:31 am

I think the article does provide useful and sad information about the atmosphere surrounding Bishop at UAH. No doubt her own behavior was mostly responsible for it. Nevertheless, if it is the case that someone on her tenure-review committee leaked to her statesments that a member of the committee said she was "crazy", then that person, the leader, bears a significant responsibility here. First of all, comments are supposed to be confidential--and there's a reason for this. (On the other hand, confidentiality can't be used as a cover for abusive conduct against a candidate...) Second, the leaker was giving Bishop information that was bound to be extremely upsetting to her even if she were stable. Third, the information would have helped establish a paranoid mindset for her--as well as get her started in all the ugly business attendent on filing a lawsuit against your own department.

Of course, the problem is this is coming from an anonymous informant, I agree. But I think it's more than gossip. So the article has some value.

25. kwrigley - February 17, 2010 at 09:35 am

Why is a life in a library or laboratory out of the ordinary? Where did the author locate this definition? I stopped reading after the first two sentences.

26. jpstreet - February 17, 2010 at 09:54 am

It is cowardly to make such claims and refuse to identify yourself. "I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that . . ." How noble to insist you possess instant insight into an individual and then brag that you repeatedly stood by your characterization of 'crazy'. Yet you are incapable of providing specific incidents to substantiate your claim of 'erractic behavior'? Of course she went 'ballistic' when a grant application was turned in late. You idiot. Let me provide a specific example of your cowardice - apparently one of numerous examples - cowering among the Barnes and Noble stacks to avoid the individual. You might have had a hand in preventing this tragedy if you have pursued your claims in a determined and professional manner.

And Chronicle staff, why publish this tabloid trash?

27. martisco - February 17, 2010 at 09:56 am

And now I suppose we'll read a lot of well-articulated handwringing about how juggling academics and motherhood can be so tough on moms...


28. fullprof99 - February 17, 2010 at 09:57 am

i agree with harborcoat. this article is the worst kind of gossip. the unnamed professor who hid from amy bishop in the bookstore and avoided meetings she attended was not exactly behaving as a mature adult.
What, avoiding a person who was violently "crazy" is not behaving as a mature adult? I think it is precisely the intelligent decision under the circumstances. While the anonymous source didn't yet know the facts of her past violence he was smart enough to recognize the danger that she posed and to take steps to protect himself from her. This poster seems somehow to think that polite behavior around the sociopathic will gain their good will. It doesn't work that way, and given the difficulties of dealing effectively with such people in advance of violence avoidance is a good policy.

29. maxwell10 - February 17, 2010 at 09:58 am

It took TWO people to write this article?!

30. oldcommprof - February 17, 2010 at 10:01 am

The unnamed professor was a shrewd judge of character and even had the good sense to report his assessment to Academic Affairs. There was plenty to go on prior to the massacre -- shooting her brother, punching out a woman in a Boston restaurant and probable involvement in sending pipe bombs to her doc supervisor. But I guess we can't say anything that would hurt the feelings of homicidal maniacs.

This is good reporting, BTW. Good journalists always seek to find motives and explanations for events. Sorry we're not prescient and able to report them before anything happens as some here who object to after-the-fact coverage would like.

And there are plenty of nutjobs in academia. I work with a few.

31. cbscribe - February 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

I absolutely agree with harborcoat's assessment. As a former newspaper and magazine journalist, I was blown away by the first line of this piece. I'm a campus publications professional, and personally I think spending hours in a library sounds like a delightful way to pass the time. Silly me--didn't realize that made me an oddball. This was a cheap attempt at a catchy lead. It caught my attention all right, but for all the wrong reasons. And the entire piece itself is built around the 20/20 hindsight of one unnamed individual who really offers next to nothing to back up his diagnosis. Where are the examples from their encounters that led him to conclude she was "crazy"? I don't fault him for acknowledging how she made him feel; I fault the writers for building an entire article around it. This is a shabby and thin piece of journalism, and it left me wanting for something more--facts maybe.

32. 11182967 - February 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

How interesting that there has been so little comment about the ease with which Prof. Bishop could obtain a gun and bring it onto campus--especially in light of recent efforts on some campuses to permit faculty to carry weapons. All of us in academia have known unstable persons and observed unsettling and at least potentially violent behavior on the part of students or faculty or even parents. This isn't academic behavior, it's human behavior. The difference between punching somone in a restaurant and killing people in a lecture hall may well have been nothing more than the ease of access to the means of murder. I'm glad to be on a campus where firearms are (at least officially) banned. I'd like to live in a society where (especially concealed) firearms were banned completely. As an adminstrator at a primarily commuter campus who is often the final person to have to tell someone "No," I always scan the list of new gun permits in the loca paper. Certainly the gun didn't kill all by itself, but the result could hardly have been the same without the gun.

33. patmctee - February 17, 2010 at 10:24 am

The Chronicle has sunk to new depths with this article. Were you purchased by the Enquirer?

34. drj50 - February 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

I don't know. Lots of people who post here take considerably less than five minutes to conclude that other posters are morons, racists, etc.

35. obrienjochron - February 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

I found this article disturbing, and I find the chronicle increasingly less and less distinguishable from USA Today.

36. cegarber - February 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

First of all, this suggests a major bias in the tenure process since this professor seems to have no specific incidents to back his "feeling". I think many would "go ballistic" if a grant was not turned in on time. However, if the anger was out of proportion, then that would be a suggestion for anger problems.

Even more concerning: how did the comments made at the tenure committee get out of the room? the deliberations are supposed to be confidential. This is an exiguous violation of the process. The Coen Brothers got is right in "The Serious Man", when they portrayed confidential information being leaked to the tenure candidate.

Amy Bishop needed help and no one either noticed or bothered to act to help her; that is a tragedy.

37. whm3113 - February 17, 2010 at 10:40 am

The article is helpful to me in that is allows me, as the reader, to complete the profile of the shooter in my mind. Was this someone who behaved normally until she snapped, or was she someone who appeared to others as unbalanced prior to the incident?

This entire incident is disturbing on many levels. As others had noted, was the shooter's prior behavior ignored? Did anyone note that she was unbalanced and attempt to intervene? As a reader of the Chronicle I am interested in the answers to these questions. It is possible that there are people on our campuses who could benefit from any lessons we can learn from this awful incident.

38. tgpalaima - February 17, 2010 at 10:43 am

This article would be disturbing without the gender issues that make it even more disturbing.

Besides the irreponsibility of printing such offhand and unsupported personal opinions, the act of conveying those opinions to journalists of any sort under the circumstances is irresponsible.

The article looks like an exercise by two writers in filling a page when they had nothing to report. Their editors also bear responsibility for printing it.

As for Professor Anonymous, one could argue that s/he bears a grave professional and personal responsibility now. If Prof. Anonymous really did think Bishop was mentally disturbed, s/he should have taken steps within the university to have this properly noted and addressed and to have Bishop helped through counseling. The fact that s/he didn't is itself either irresponsible or proof that s/he is attaching more meaning to half-formed impressions after the fact than are warranted.

I also agree that this reads more like a tabloid piece than a Chronicle piece.

39. twilight_zone - February 17, 2010 at 10:45 am

Question: how many of you posters, having learned someone you interacted with, AND previously filed negative statements about, was a homicidal psychopath would be willing to reveal YOUR name?? Also, keep in mind you do not know this woman yourself nor do you know the potential as-of-yet unrevealed bizarre or chilling details he may be privy to. You cannot know how you'd react having compiled these data as he evidently has. Leave him alone, he's just trying to enlighten the public without endangering himself. Kudos to him for stepping up without being a blind fool.

40. jws0303 - February 17, 2010 at 10:47 am

Perhaps, this article serves as a reminder for some of us that “gut feelings” about someone or some situation can be on target.

41. wendelswerk - February 17, 2010 at 10:47 am

You guys act like there is not a shred of truth to her being crazy. I am sorry. From all the stories I read this woman was nutty. And given the fact that the tenure process is remarkably unfair, biased toward white males that study mainstream topics I can see how the pressure cooker pushed her deeper into the abyss. In any case I know that you can tell when someone is most whacked and she fit the bill.

42. fullprof99 - February 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

"Amy Bishop needed help and no one either noticed or bothered to act to help her; that is a tragedy."
Bishop probably was beyond help. She decided to:
1) Kill her brother.
2) Attack a woman in a restaurant in an attempt to take away a child seat.
3) Apparently send a pipe bomb to a supervisor.
4) Go ballistic over a late grant application. (This implies immoderate anger involving loss of control.)
4) Kill her colleagues in cold blood.

As I mentioned earlier, Bishop appears to be a sociopathic personality. Such people generally are not really treatable, though some may learn to control their behaviour to a degree.

Regarding tenure review comments getting out of the room, my experience of such groups is that nothing should be assumed to be secret. Human nature just doesn't allow us to rely on secrecy. (Such reviews are more generally labeled "confidential" in recognition of this fact.)

43. dowinter - February 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

This article is a reflection of our current affinity for exposure, even in academe. The anonymous "I told you so" professor needed to expose his "pre-tragedy" insight, the journalists (yes, journalists) needed to expose their investigative and writing skills, and you and I needed to expose our reactions. In an era of fb and twitter, as well as other "exposure" sites, we may see more of each other than is actually useful. Neither the "prescient" professor nor the "twittered" journalists have significantly contributed to decoding this tragedy.

44. johntoradze - February 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hey, I've always been a jock, and I like hanging out in the library too. It's a favorite place where one can always find conversation with books that have something worthwhile to say. What a ridiculous throwaway line to the mythical idiot everyman.

This is a lousy article, but only because the examples aren't there. The single example is terrible, perhaps even calculated to generate sympathy for Amy. If the "Cowardly Professor" used it among several, I am rather sure that the reason was HOW ballistic she got over it and the way she came across. That said, the fact that the article makes no effort to build a case for what the "Cowardly Professor" said is damning of the two writers who did not provide a set of examples, and degree of "ballistic". I'd go ballistic myself if that happened, and so would most. If the "Cowardly Professor" thinks that such things are commonplace and should be, then I'd call HIM nuts, and HE absolutely should be fired, or at least put out to pasture. Such an event near the time of tenure decision smacks to me of deliberate conspiracy to prevent Amy from getting tenure, and we all know that happens - oh yes it does.

I think that the "Cowardly Professor" appears on the surface to be a back-stabbing jackal of the worst sort. However, discretion is the better part of valor, and it is quite likely given the timing of events that Amy was armed in that bookstore and ready to blow. He may simply have been a person who is good at reading signals, he may be a person of high emotional intelligence. The subsequent events bear out this idea.

So yeah. Shabby and thin journalism, sophomorically written - if that.

45. misstrudy - February 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hindsight is always 100% perfect. But if all professors acting nutty were murderers-in-the-making, than all universities would be suffering from these tragedies all the time, for decades if not for centuries. I am disappointed in this article, it seems as if the Chronicle is publishing gossip and opinion just in order to keep on publishing something about the case.

46. cotede - February 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

So disappointing...since when does wanting to spend one's career in a library or a laboratory indicate that person is an "oddball?" CHE needs a better editor, fast.

I agree with cegarber. I have great sympathy for Bishop's victims. At the same time, the University failed all of these people. Bishop was clearly mentally ill and no one took the time to talk to her long enough to find out just how sick she was. I imagine everyone was too busy avoiding her. Don't we all have some sort of responsibility to each other and, in the larger picture, the students?

47. neesuser - February 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

This episode at Alabama-Huntsville is a tragedy. Pure and simple. Assuming Bishop is found guilty, then she bears the responsibility for her reaction to the denial of tenure.

That siad, what is coming out of the reporting is the curious due process that exists at the university. Bishop's publication record looks thin to be sure, but how much weight did the unnamed professor have in the decision to deny tenure when he commented that he thought she was nuts in the promotion meeting? Nothing in the promotion criteria addresses not being a nutjob that I remember. Maybe it should, but he was likely not qualified to make that assessment. Sounds like grounds for an EEOC suit to me. Also if the criterion of insanity that she went ballistic after a proposal went in late, then nearly all of us are also nuts.

Did the university not do any background checks prior to hiring her? Certainly the very troubling incidents with her brother and the Boston restaurant would have been flagged as part of the public record. The pipe bomb incident may not have shown up and she was cleared of that apparently.

Separating the oddballs from those who are dangerous has always been difficult, as has been shown by campus incidents over the years. The price of academia is being open to a spectrum of personalities and views. Six people have paid the price for being part of the academy and being at a faculty meeting. Very sad.

48. charisma - February 17, 2010 at 11:11 am

Being a librarian, I don't appreciate the negative stereotypes implied in the first two lines either, but I do think that the authors of this article do point to a grave concern in the academic workplace (and no doubt other kinds of workplaces as well). This concern has to do with administrative decision making based on fear of litigation rather than in consideration of the work environment. It is especially of concern when administrators do not act to require "temperamental" people with a history of bullying or otherwise harassing their colleagues to shape up or ship out. I don't know if the assailant in this case was guilty of bullying or harassing her colleagues, but she obviously did enough to intimate a colleague to the point that he tried to avoid her presence even if it meant foregoing a faculty meeting. I don't understand why so many seem to want to find someone to blame other than the one who ended up killing three of her colleagues and wounding three others.

49. ana_wilder - February 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

Crazy or criminal?

A crazy person is not rational. A crazy person is not capable of making some rational distinctions, cannot distinguish the difference between right and wrong. A crazy person is not a criminal. A crazy person should not be punished for his or her behavior.

Someone who is a menace to society is a criminal. A criminal is rational and chooses to do wrong to serve his or her own best interests. A conviction does not make a criminal. Being dangerous makes one a criminal. A criminal, because he or she is rational, should be punished for his or her behavior.

50. realitychick - February 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

The "oddball" comment about academics that the author opened the article with displays a disrespect for academics in general. Was the tenure-review professor who described Bishop as "crazy" himself an "oddball?" Were the people that Bishop shot also "oddballs?"

51. richardnesmith - February 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

Though Ms. Bishop will pay for her crimes...the large egos and poor relationships found in most university deptartments make this kind of behavior possible. I have witness some of the most cruel acts and words between university colleagues...and the worse are usually unspoken. :-(

52. latino - February 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

Sadly, the colleague in the report shows exactly the subjectivism and lack of ethics that poison not only committees but also departments. You can blame the chronicle and its professionalism, well, but they report what comes from the world of our higher education.

53. proudtoteach - February 17, 2010 at 11:36 am

I worked with her and yes, she is crazy, eccentric, and prone to violent outbursts. did i expect it to go to this level? No. Am I shocked? yes. Would I want my name attached to public comments about her? DEFINITELY NOT! Do not judge this anonymous professor
unless you have been there.

54. willismg - February 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm

And what if she gets off and your name is out there?

55. sbaron33 - February 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

So the reliable source in the article avoids people that may make him feel uncomfortable by hiding and skulking around, and by not fulfilling his faculty responsibilities by his attendance at a retreat. Does anyone but me think that this is a "crazy" person himself? One who avoids eye and personal contact? As others have written, remarkably bad journalism is displayed by the two writers, and one wonders why no editorial control seemed to have been applied in this instance. It shouldn't be too difficult for the Chronicle to find someone at a school of journalism to help out if a regular editor is "away from his/her desk" that day. There seems to be no need to rush this fluff to press.

56. speterfreund - February 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm

The anonymous tenure review committee member's comments raise one disturbing implication not commented on thus far. If s/he could make a snap judgment on Professor Bishop's sanity within five minutes and then, when asked, prove unable to recall any particular instances of behavior that led him/her to that conclusion, then what other snap judgments did this committee member and the others who served on the review committee arrive at regarding Bishop's tenurability. Bishop's mental problems and unexcusable actions duly noted, it may very well be the case that she did not receive a fair review, if the anonymous committee member's comments are at all indicative of the committee's thinking.

57. poptop - February 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Wow. There are some thin-skinned people here that take themselves waaay too seriously.

The professor expressed his opinion during the tenure-review meeting that Bishop was crazy. How many here would be outraged if she had been granted tenure and he had kept his mouth shut?

This professor was not alone in thinking she was crazy. Plenty of former neighbors, classmates and colleagues (not to mention law enforcement in several cities) have thought she was crazy. The difference between the professor and the others is that he had the courage to speak up where it mattered BEFORE something nasty happened.

58. proudtoteach - February 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Ha! someone should talk to her former(short-term!) grad students who either left or were kicked out of her lab! don't you think THEY talked to those in position to make tenure decisions? come on people! this is not the first time she has acted abnormally!

59. alwayslearning - February 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm

To paraphrase the psychoanalyst Karen Horney, we can have as many preferences as we desire, but when our preferences become demands, that is when we can get into trouble. Amy Bishop's killing rage and some of her past violent behavior demonstrate the sometimes lethal extremes to which humans go to satisfy their demands. One has to wonder how, if at all, her parents (one an academic himself) contributed to the formation of her personality and behavorial choices, and if differences in how they raised her and how they may have negatively influenced her could have altered her choices.

60. jharwell - February 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Yes, the first two sentences of this article are repellent, rude, not supported, and indicate a lack of respect for people who enjoy the learning and teaching environment. But, this tragedy hints a reasons for the authors attitude. How could a person with a record of violence (shot her younger brother, sent a bomb to her dissertation supervisor) be hired into such a public position as a professor? My experience in academia has taught me that the academic systems of hiring and promoting sustain and encourage destructive behaviors toward both professors and students. Have you not heard of mobbing? That's when the "in-group" of a department attacks a tenure applicants reputation with NO SUPPORTING EVIDENCE for the sole purpose of destroyng them. Haven't you heard that the tenure process is nothing but a high level hazing ritual? Don't you know of new instructors that had to leave a department or university because they had no chance to advance without participation or performance in the professors sex and drug in-group? Haven't you heard at least a thousand stories of students--male and female--that must join in that sex and drug culture in order to graduate with decent grades? The academic system itself fosters innappropriate attitudes and destructive behavior at all levels of the universities, from individual that demand sex, departmental politics that destroy reputations and careers, and administrations that pit faculty against each other because they don't want to make hard decisions. The story of Amy Bishop reveals the inadequate, arbitrary, and destructive working environment of academia.

61. justme2010 - February 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I love this thread. She WAS CRAZY, killed 3 people, did anyone miss that part of the story??? Look at her history; she should have never been hired. We do not do proper backgrounds on our people and this is just one example. Full criminal backgrounds, to include fingerprints (watch the fireworks on this one!) should be done on every college employee and particularly those with daily student interaction.
Some of the comments here are typical of the head-in-the-sand attitude so prevalent in academia when it comes with dealing with nut cases (and yes, I do work in academia). We are trying so hard to be PC and protect the wackos, we miss the obvious. Fear of "offending" anyone or "being sued" has reached staggering proportions and has become institutionalized. Everyone who knew she was nuts and failed to say anything is reponsible. And for those who take offense to the introduction, please look around you. Is not that there are no wackos at our universities, is trying to separate the dangerous nutjobs (staff AND students)from the regular ones.:-)

62. nprlibrary - February 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm

This message is being sent by a reporter at NPR. I am eager to speak with the professor who declined to be named in the story. Please contact me at craigsliststory@npr.org. Thank you.

63. realitychick - February 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Those interested in the University of Alabama at Huntsville shootings may be interested in reading about the controversy at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, where a student named Zacharia Bucharest carried a gun on campus and offered to procure assault rifles for other students.


Zacharia Bucharest's youtube and Myspace profiles show Bucharest to be a man who is deeply attracted to violence. On his youtube website, Bucharest
names among his hobbies "sniping" and "explosives," and he names "The Art of War" as his favorite book.

Zacharia Bucharest's youtube profile states:

"About Me: Member of IDF special forces. I am now studying in the USA. I support all things Jewish and anti-terrorist, especially SERBIA!!! They are fighting the same war Israel has been for longer even."

Zacharia Bucharest's Myspace profile states:

"Who I'd like to meet: Moses, Itzhak, Yaakov, Abraham and the Maccabi's so's I could introduce firearms to them. But we got world domination on the under anyway baby, YEEEEEEEEAH!!! And Hitler's parents so I could off them with two double taps..."

In a classroom at PSU, Economics Professor John Hall accused Zacharia Bucharest of being an agent-provocateur, which Bucharest denied. For having made that accusation, Professor Hall has been banned from the University, while Zach Bucharest continues to attend classes.

64. trendisnotdestiny - February 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm

It is not enough to simplistically call Dr. Bishop crazy; her past may indicate that, her actions may have been odd, and her willingness to use violence to solve solutions may have been more embedded the her decision making than we know, BUT without question she was bright enough to enter the system, maintain some assemblance of connection to UHA via teaching and research, and contribute in her way prior to the tenure process... It is so easy in this society of 'liquid modernity' to dismiss context and locate all problems within individuals rather than systems which have much more power to act but are indifferent or quivering in a Barnes and Noble bathroom; we must grow up and accept our own responsibility for these actions at higher levels.... it is too simplistic to point a finger and say crazy wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for her....Dr. Bishop

65. trendisnotdestiny - February 17, 2010 at 01:00 pm

Dowinter is spot on here; it is not even close to good enough that the colleague noticed in 5 minutes something is off; it is not good enough that the chronicle clings to a tired and simplistic narrative... It is not good enough to talk about the policies on campuses around weapons.... people need to act proactively versus tell us how smart they have been retroactively....

66. slpprof - February 17, 2010 at 01:05 pm

OK, I agree this story was flawed. She needed editors and 24 hours to think about writing a tag line that was bound to offend most of her readership. But the bashing that the anonymous professor is taking here is unwarranted if you have not walked in his or her shoes.

I had an in-law whose personality was absolutely similar to what has been described for Bishop. She too had assaulted a woman over a trivial matter, and was well known to the police for constantly calling them about her neighbors. My relative showed a pattern of poor judgment and self-centered behavior. I am not a psychologist so I'm not qualified to apply labels, but she definitely believed she was a victim and unfairly targeted all the time. She was unemployable (somehow, she always had the boss from hell). This was all frustrating and tragic for our family and we all disliked her. But the real point of this story, whether the scenario plays out in or out of academia, is what happened next: a horrible tragedy unfolded that our social systems seem to have no way to prevent: a dear family member was almost murdered by my former in-law. A less lethal weapon, and lesser degree of premeditation, averted the tragedy that happened in the biology faculty meeting.

We have not figured out how to handle mental illness even when we all know it when we see it, like this anonymous professor did. Tenure and gender bias have nothing to do with it. Complete social failure and lack of recourse for dealing with longterm serious mental health problems are the root causes. The devil of mental illness is that a key feature of the problem is that the person with the illness often denies the need for help. Our society's emphasis on autonomy prevents help from reaching all too many just like Amy Bishop. Whether such help is available, as pointed out by a poster who noted the lack of treatment for the true sociopath, is another question. But we don't even have a mechanism for trying.

My relative took the woman who almost killed him back into his home when she exited the criminal justice and half-way house system, as otherwise she would have been homeless. She was no longer violent, but was never normal or happy till the day she died. We should be able to do better than this.

67. bemidji1 - February 17, 2010 at 01:16 pm

This is news. Sometimes the coverage is sensational because the news itself is sensational. I would like to know what every person on that campus is thinking, even if they're all anonymous. This certainly won't be the final word on the story, but for me the real issue is how do we, as professionals, handle a situation in which we know someone has the potential to be a danger to others and nobody knows what to do about it?

Louise Mengelkoch
Professor of Journalism
Bemidji State University
Bemidji, Minnesota

68. trendisnotdestiny - February 17, 2010 at 01:21 pm

Slpprof, as someone who is in the mental health field who works clinically and in academic setting; what authority do you have rule out the context of gender or tenure? While my indifference towards the 'B&N Hiding Prof' could be certainly be mistaken as more information comes out; I am not mistaken that there is a gap in knowledge between people who experience mental illness themselves and onlookers or the people who observe it (supposedly without bias). Mental illness is but one issue of UAH complexity, to privilege this one issue over others probably indicates something about your experience and less about the context of why Dr. Bishop saw killing parts of her environment as an option... My apologies if this is any way received as indifferent to yours or families' experiences which you present persuasively

69. cheri28 - February 17, 2010 at 01:30 pm

Seeing as how Amy Bishop AND her husband Jim Anderson were suspects in a pipe bombing case, I wouldn't want my name used either.

And personally, I would like to thank The Chronicle for being ahead of the curve, as far as reporting on this event.

70. gh890 - February 17, 2010 at 01:33 pm

I agree absolutely with poster #41. In my opinion, as academics we are trained to rationalize and justify our thinking. The downside can be a tendency to ignore and discount "irrational" gut instincts (look at the first few posters for an example of this). However, I can add my voice to the group who has had niggling, unfounded discomfort about an individual turn out to be spot on in hindsight. I was lucky enough to act on my discomfort and keep myself out of a dangerous situation. I take this article as lesson about the importance of not ignoring your instincts.

71. jharwell - February 17, 2010 at 01:34 pm

Here is the latest support for my argument that the academic environment ignores, supports, and fosters destructive behaviors (see above):

Another record of violence:
In 2002, Bishop was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct after a tirade at the International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Mass. Peabody police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto said Bishop became incensed when she found out another woman had received the restaurant's last booster seat. Bishop hit the woman while shouting, "I am Dr. Amy Bishop," according to the police report.

Students complained about her behaviors, signed and submitted a petition at least 3 times in the last year.

The students were "blown off" by the department chair, but the complaints in the petition were shared with Prof. Bishop who used them word for word to the class.

The University President claims no knowledge of the petition.


72. navydad - February 17, 2010 at 01:40 pm

I've been perplexed by the vehement responses to the unnamed colleague who perceived Bishop to be crazy. First of all, many of you pick on the fact that the colleague talks about Bishop "going ballistic," as if focusing on that incident demonstrates poor judgment or prejudice of some sort. I have to believe that the colleague picked up on various cues that Bishop was disturbed, not just that one incident, just as other colleagues noticed she was odd in her behavior. Whatever he was picking up on, apparently he was right. So how is it objectionable to go back and review Bishop's history and colleagues' perceptions of her in order to learn something that might help prevent such crimes in the future?

73. martisco - February 17, 2010 at 01:45 pm

Yes, considering how many OTHER times this woman has gotten away without being prosecuted, if I had something on her I wouldn't be willing to reveal my name either!

74. cheri28 - February 17, 2010 at 01:50 pm

Why isn't anyone commenting on or picking up on the fact that Amy Bishop was an academic fraud????


The people posting comments here would be the best qualified to look at her "publishing" (as it were) record and explain to lay people just what it means when you claim your lab is located in your house and your 3 underage children are listed as authors of your vanity press papers.

Instead, the lot of you spend all day worried about a writers use of the word odd and someone calling Amy Bishop crazy, when she so obviously was.

As it stands now, the majority of you look like you are defending the violent track record of a very disturbed woman just because she was a woman and was denied tenure.

NO ONE, after looking at her academic fraud would conclude for one minute that this woman deserved anything other than a swift firing.

UAH needs to be held responsible for keeping someone on staff like Amy Bishop. Not because she was crazy, but because she defrauded academe.

75. trendisnotdestiny - February 17, 2010 at 02:05 pm

True, this is an institutional problem; one that jharwell has been adept at presenting; my contention is that reinforcing the obvious narrative of crazy actions by one person shifts the emphasis away from institutional analysis at all levels: individual mental health, the specific universities' relational health with each other (where one suspects that open and honest communication is to be feared by reading this article), and larger systems of corporate governance where individuals are cogs in the machine of profit and production (however thin or fraudulent)... hypocrisy exists and makes it more complex than she is crazy--- story over. If this article interrogated each system equally bringing in pertinent systemic information, then many people blogging here might be more inclined to looking at the fraud you speak of.

76. mubbs - February 17, 2010 at 02:40 pm

The article isn't that bad--I mean the Chronicle is more of an academic gossip paper anyways.

But the guy interviewed is an idiot.

He clearly thought the woman was weird--not crazy.

If he really thought she was crazy--like shoot up a faculty meeting crazy--then he would have reported her to the police or to the department--officially.

If he really knew she was capable of that, why was he such a coward?

77. cheri28 - February 17, 2010 at 03:10 pm

There are LOTS of crazy people. Infinitesimal amounts do harm. But if anyone could correctly predict just who is going to be violent, then there wouldn't ever be any Amy Bishops's now would there?

78. fergbutt - February 17, 2010 at 03:42 pm

Circle the wagons. Let's not peel back the protective layer hiding the crazies on campus. They are very rare, but everyone knows one.


79. ethan56 - February 17, 2010 at 03:46 pm

Cheri28 at no. 75 seems startlingly correct. Amy Bishop was an academic fraud. She listed her children as co-authors of a 2009 paper. She listed what turns out to be her house as "Cherokee Labs" where she said her husband was employed. etc. etc. People should look at the link provided by Cheri28.

How much did UAH know about this? Surely someone on the tenure committee would have been suspicious seeing those four "Anderson" co-authors with first name initials which were her children, and one the initial of her husband's first name. They would have known the members of her family.

The information cited by Cheri28 also shows that Bishop's published website "research agenda" in 2008 was exactly the same as the one back in "2003". That is, she's made no progress. Woof!

80. fergbutt - February 17, 2010 at 03:46 pm

I find it interesting that many commenting here have rejected the idea that anyone could know someone else is crazy in only 5 minutes. I guess they never read Malcolm Gladwell's book: Blink

It doesn't take long to size someone up. Just think of all the blind dates you've been on where you knew almost immediately that you'd be staring at your food for the next hour or two.

81. parkiso - February 17, 2010 at 03:54 pm

I honestly am confused on how to handle the "mental health" issue and the forming of opinions about a colleague going up for tenure. Disclaimer - I am a full professor and have served on a number of P&T committees.

First,so if you are someone who has had a long "exposure" to the person - committee assignments, peer reviews, hallway interactions, seeing them interact with students, etc. - how can you NOT have some opinions before you hit the room to discuss the case? Now saying them out loud before you hit the room, I understand that that might be a problem. But in reality saying people should go into the room without an opinion is not very valid.

Second, leaving aside the issue that most of us (me included) cannot claim any mental health expertise and calling someone "crazy" is probably not correct in either the academic sense or in the mental health sense, surely people can recognize colleagues who seem to need some health for some mental issues (whatever they officially might be). Whether or not there is a mechanism to force them to get that is another issue. But to take umbrage at the poster who recognized the issues with her seems wrong to me.

82. ethan56 - February 17, 2010 at 04:25 pm

Realitychick's version of what happened at Portland State is completely distorted. Professor Hall halted class in the middle of a lecture, berated this student who was sitting quietly in class over and over, called him a "killer", an Israeli sniper, an FBI agent (over and over), put a letter which Hall had written to the FBI up on the documents camera, claimed "I know who your superiors are", took a photo of the student without the student's permission, and claimed he was going to put that photo up around campus on many posters. When the student, who had sat quietly through this, then said that some of what Hall said was true (he had served in the Israeli army), but most was not, and got up to leave, Hall shouted at him "Never come back to PSU!"

No student, under no circumstances, should be verbally assaulted and humiliated in a class in such a fashion. It is for this outrageous behavior that Hall has been suspended.

The student may be a troubled person, too--those websites are disturbing. But if Professor Hall thought the student was dangerous, or even carrying a gun (as realitychick has claimed elsewhere), then Hall's behavior in verbally assaulting that student over and over in that classroom is even more irresponsible, incomprehensible, and reprehensible. If Hall thought the student was dangerous, he should've contacted the school authorities--but he did not. Because (ahem) he was suspicious of them. Right.

83. middlepassage - February 17, 2010 at 04:44 pm

I can understand criticism of the article as tabloid like, but what I don't understand is the empathy that commentators are showing for this arrogant, cold blooded murder... oh, allegedly. The professor, while proclaiming she's Dr. Bishop from Harvard, struck a woman in a two bit restaurant because the woman took the last booster seat. I'd say she's bat sht crazy! And let's not forget the brother accident. She's held one too many guns.

And as for the unnamed professor, I know what it's like to wonder if someone is crazy enough to be violent. I would have hidden from her also.

84. 11182967 - February 17, 2010 at 04:53 pm

Why am I still the only one in the midst of the pop psychology, media critiques, tenure process analyses, etc., to comment on the one factor in this situation which society might be able to moderate if we so chose--not human emotions and behavior, but easy access to deadly weapons? I raised this issue after 32 comments of the other sort, and 50 more comments later no one else seems to think that easy access to handguns has anything to do with this horrible event. Would there have been three deaths from a knife? A club? A vial of acid? Even a pipe bomb would have been more difficult to obtain and utilize. Do we want to stop people from killing others with ease?--then stop making it easy to obtain the weapons. This affirms how people think of the professoriate: so eager to pontificate on diagnoses and treatments, so reluctant to address practical issues like gun control. John Tee

85. middlepassage - February 17, 2010 at 04:57 pm

For 61. jharwell,

I'm not buying that Bishop is just a victim of her environment. Little Miss Privileged got a get out of jail free card for killing her brother. The elitism in our criminal justice system gave her a free pass.

Yes many people are put through the presses unfairly, but how many then go and indiscriminately kill innocent people?

What seems clear from what I read, she was a bad teacher and a fraud in her research. She clung to her status as Dr. Harvard and thought her inferiors should bow before her title.

She's very possibly a sociopath. Sociopaths do not need defending. We need to be protected from them.

86. oldcommprof - February 17, 2010 at 05:04 pm

Again, the apologists from the mental health community refuse to acknowledge that the unnamed professor reported Bishop's craziness to the associate provost. And Unnamed wasn't cowardly in the bookstore -- I myself avoid crazy people whenever possible.

Others are all worked up that we've apparently learned that some females are dangerous nuts.

And with three dead, others can't seem to get past the fact that oddballs are reported to be on our faculties. I could make you a rather long list of seriously weird faculty in my shop....

87. bibliophile - February 17, 2010 at 05:20 pm

It's too bad that we're so tied to the notion of being politically correct that we can't "label" someone "crazy" and possibly avert tragedy. What if the anonymous professor's suspicions had been investigated instead of hush-hushed? Who among us has not had a gut feeling that turned out to be correct? (Or should I ask who can even admit to having had gut feelings, much less bringing them up, in a pc world?) Unless we can feel comfortable suggesting that a person might need help, how can we ever get to a point of investigation, much less intervention? I don't advocate crucifying an individual on hearsay. But, patterns do need to be pointed out, inappropriate behavior does need to be corrected, and, yes, sometimes intuitive feelings merit another look into a matter, if for no other reason than mental illness needs to be treated for the sake of both the patient and society at large.

Note to trendisnotdestiny: You confuse intelligence and mentalillness. (". . . BUT without question she was bright enough to enter the system, maintain some assemblance of connection to UHA via teaching and research, and contribute in her way prior to the tenure process...") Hello??? Mental illness and intelligence are not necessarily exclusive. To suggest that they are demonstrates the lenses through which you really label the mentally ill. Moreover, the mark of a dysfunctional system is that the members are not even aware of the lenses they wear! If a person is mentally ill, acknowledgement is the first step. Only then can we move away from fearing the mentally ill, which causes "quivering in a Barnes and Noble bathroom," to helping the mentally ill individual. You're right--the system did fail Ms. Bishop. But, it isn't just the system failure that's the problem. The issue is that we need an entirely new system within which to navigate. That being said, however, does not take away the fact that Ms. Bishop is, most likely, mentally ill. And niether being mentally ill nor being the victim of a system dismisses accountability.

Sadly, Ms. Bishop is now in a place where she will have little chance of receiving help to move on to a path of mental health; she will probably remain one of the many misunderstood, mistreated, and untreated mentally ill prisoners (literally and metaphorically) in this country. Could this tragedy, for both the victims of the shooting and for Ms. Bishop, have been avoided? We'd like to think so. But, with our antiquated views of the mentally ill (disguised as enlightened views of those individuals and the systems within which they must function), probably not. . . probably not.

88. bemidji1 - February 17, 2010 at 05:42 pm

I think this article has problems. It's not that the Chronicle is turning into a tabloid or misusing anonymous sources; the information here is clearly newsworthy. Rather it's a problem of tone, especially in the lead:

"Academe is often home to oddballs. Choosing to spend your life in a library or laboratory is, by definition, out of the ordinary."

It's flippant and cutesy. I felt as though I were about to read a soft, human-interest piece about charmingly quirky professors. Entirely inappropriate for a story on this.

Carl Sewall
Bemidji State University

89. lagoon12 - February 17, 2010 at 05:53 pm

I think the professor's comment about knowing Amy Bishop was "crazy" was extremely biased and unfair and insensitive.

90. silverlining - February 17, 2010 at 06:02 pm

I think this professor is the real hero. And hearing she passed muster with a forensic psychologist on campus is of no comfort.

91. trendisnotdestiny - February 17, 2010 at 06:02 pm

Look.. posts 79 to bibliophile; my posts are not intended to engender a disbelief in any sort of personal accountability, apologetic notions of sympathy, or in very bright and scholarly professors' intuitions and instincts; those are exaggerations of my points... Simply, it is my position that the incessant focus on crazy or confusion around what constitutes mental illness (DSM IV or not)reduces much a needed insitutional analysis unto (She's crazy---- I am done thinking about this; let move on (I have a paper to publish and a grant to write... she's crazy and we have to find other crazies before they get us;) How can we not be enraged by her actions; she killed three people; no one is making any apologies for her but my point is that she entered the system stayed in her capacity until she combusted;

I am not confusing intelligence with mental illness, even though I can see how you would come to that conclusion in my writing. The central issue is how was she able to co-exist within this system for so long with such psychopathy? My point is that the tenure process was an institutional means to an end, and her entrance (however fraudulent) are apart of the institutional responsibility that get covered up by saying: "She is crazy"; That was established a long time ago!

Bibliophile, with all due respect (acknowledgement is the first step sounds like a canned response----- it is usually the last peice of self that gets examined because much "the genius' self-identity is locked up in or bound to the origins of mental illness in the first place. Acknowledgement that a problem exists tends to occur later after blaming others from problems instead of directing it at self. This is usually caused by longterm deprivation from empathy.

I readily admit to having no insider information or real understanding of any of the parties involved other than what I have read. This has been what has been the most distressing; the narratives that feed or discourage institutional analysis and binds them emotionally of protecting Dr. Bishop on this blog; I have no interest in that endeavor at all, but why shouldn't B&N prof have to account for his position (it may turn out that he unbelievably insightful, perceptive and a hero) but the way this article reads thats not how I perceive hero's in my environment acting...

Thank you for your input; it has been received and considered

92. silverlining - February 17, 2010 at 06:08 pm

Can someone please address how a forensic pyschologist misses the clues or the behavioral pattern of a criminally insane person?

93. silverlining - February 17, 2010 at 06:22 pm

Yes, it's time to be brief and incisive. The issues: Why did a foresnic pyschologist on staff miss the signals of a criminally insane woman; why was a murderer teaching nursing students; and why are people making excuses?

Now let's speculate: What if this criminally insane woman incited a student to violence?

94. gadget - February 17, 2010 at 06:25 pm

Perhaps what we should take from this, other than castigating the reporter, is how most (all?) institutions lack mechanisms for addressing behavior that goes beyond eccentric. A faculty member at my institution tells his students that he carries a gun on the front seat of his car, possesses and knows how to use numerous weapons, expresses great paranoia about various categories of people, intimidates other faculty, and often behaves in odd and bizarre ways. Other faculty and staff avoid him and watch what they say around him for fear of setting him off on a paranoid rant. Students talk about his behavior in the classroom, even joking about their safety, but never actually pursue a complaint.

What does the institution do? Nothing. What can it do? Nothing. Under the law, someone has to make a direct threat or commit an act of violence first before there can be any action. Perhaps a reader might suggest a softer approach, such as a referral to counseling, but our lack of an EAP (employee assistance program) means that supervisors may not make even a suggestion of the need for a psychiatric evaluation, much less make a mandatory referral.

It is not against the law to engage in paranoid rants, nor is it against the law to behave oddly. In our state, it is legal to carry concealed and unconcealed weapons, so long as the owner has obtained the state permits. There is even a movement in our state to allow students, visitors, and staff to carry weapons on college campuses.

Finally, most people who act this oddly never actually harm anyone. So why do we walk on eggshells around this faculty member? We fear that he is the exception. What else can we do?

95. navydad - February 17, 2010 at 07:26 pm

Since lots of terminology is being bandied about here, let's clarify a bit. Based on information that I have read (preliminary and incomplete), it is likely that Bishop's DSM "diagnosis" (I'm not defending the DSM, which has major problems) would fall in the category of personality disorders (Axis II). In other words, it is unlikely that she is "crazy" or "criminally insane" or "psychotic." Also, before people start trashing the forensic psychologist they should do some reading about the issues involved in predicting violence. Among other things, it would be important to know what was the question about Bishop that the psychologist was supposed to answer and what information about her was available and was used in the evaluation. I would love to address silverlinings' question about how a forensic psychologist "missed clues," but this would require a long and involved discussion of psychological evaluations. Perhaps you can go to your library and check out some recent textbooks on psychological evaluation, diagnosis, and prediction of violence. Or call an appropriate colleague from the psychology department and have a chat. You might then stop throwing around inaccurate terms like "criminally insane" or expecting that psychologists can predict violence.

96. alleyoxenfree - February 17, 2010 at 07:53 pm

This is laughable. By this professor's standards, a good percentage of colleagues I have worked with are "crazy," as I have seen and endured multiple temper tantrums about far pettier matters than a crucial grant deadline.

97. sartoris12 - February 17, 2010 at 08:53 pm

I am quite disappointed at the number of people who are calling the Chronicle to task for using this unnamed source and those criticizing the professor for his un-PC candor.

We have a colleague who's on our campus whose eccentricities have begun to becoome disruptive, and she now actually shows some possible signs of bipolar disorder. We are agonizing among our choices in handling the manner now. Such dilemmas are common; I guess our speculating could lead to an EEOC complaint such as in this person's experience...but then some alternatives are worse.

98. seekerone - February 17, 2010 at 09:20 pm

I posted a version of this on another thread and the best advice I received was to buy a titanium rifle plate, which by the way I and others in my department are considering doing. $250 each. Begin thread:

We currently have a problem on our campus that exhibits uncanny similarities to the Amy Bishop story. We have an associate prof with obvious mental stability issues that has had police reports and formal complaints filed about her behavior ON campus over the past several years. She too was recently denied promotion through all levels of T&P, goes off on disruptive and unrelated tangents during department meetings and has isolated herself from the other faculty. Students have reported her rants and being cussed out by her. She has been admonished by the administration for her unacceptable behavior and was compelled to complete anger management therapy, which did nothing but piss her off. She is currently on a [we believe forced] "medical" leave but will return for summer term. She is not getting the help she so desperately needs because she believes her problems are caused by those around her. We in the department are very concerned about her return, but return she will. It appears our administration can/won't do anything more until after she actually picks up a weapon or harms someone. It is easy enough to identify unstable individuals, but removing them from the academy is quite another issue - if not an impossible task. If anyone has any bright ideas to share on what more could be done, we would love to hear them. End previous thread.

So here we are in a position eerily similar to where UA Huntsville was before last Friday. Our Provost is impotent and afraid of lawsuits. The union, the contracts, the potential lawsuits dictate how the admin conducts itself in these circumstances. It doesn't matter how well documented a behavior is or if someone comes right out and says "crazy is CRAZY." That's just the way it is folks. I WISH we knew how to help our colleague, who doesn't want help and at the same time to give our department some grounded sense of safety, which we do not have. I believe we should learn something from the Huntsville tragedy (among others) and again - I am soliciting your bright ideas. The academy still offers our best hope, ideas and solutions no matter what people say in and out of it.

99. bekkajean - February 17, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I was appalled by this article. It was not up the the standards of the Chronicle.

100. msumenglish - February 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I applaud the Chronicle for covering this story with such aplomb. For once, I actually read the paper, which too often bores me to tears. I'm glad this woman is behind bars where she obviously belongs. Too bad so many people gave her a free pass for so long. Had they not done so, three people who are dead would be alive.

101. owtandn - February 18, 2010 at 03:30 am

sartoris12, I strongly encourage you to continue to agonize over what to do with your colleague. Clearly, these are not matters to be taken lightly and one would hope that the outcome will be productive for both your university *and* the colleague.

As far as this article reveals, the unnamed source did not agonize in the least, he "avoided" her. And the university worried about EEOC issues, not the obviously worse alternatives.

There is plenty of room for improving the way we address these issues. Demand that your colleague gets help and intervention, not just fired.

102. broadway_dave - February 18, 2010 at 07:41 am

I love libraries.

103. oaachron - February 18, 2010 at 10:06 am

To seekerone,
I was in a similar situation years ago with a collegue-turned-stalker (his way of intimidating others to get what he wanted). I learned that law enforcement cannot take action until certain criteria are met, which include actually hurting someone. However, as employers, universities can use specific incidents to mandate counseling, etc. In my situation, it was HR that eventually ended the connection - unfortunately, even with a documented history of such problems, the collegue-turned-stalker did not get the help he needed (he's still out there somewhere). Without giving up our freedoms, there is no 'good' solution to your situation; nonetheless, I recommend you try the HR route rather than the academic chain of command for assistance. HR folks know the laws and they have experience in dealing with such cases. Point to Alabama's current troubles for justifying another review of your collegue's state of mind - before she returns.

104. nacrandell - February 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

"Another professor, however, has long been wary of Ms. Bishop. He asked The Chronicle not to use his name because, considering recent events, he is worried about his own safety. The professor, who was a member of Ms. Bishop's tenure-review committee, said he first became concerned about Ms. Bishop's mental health "about five minutes after I met her."

McCarthyism is alive and well at UA of H and the Chronicle.

105. joejoel - February 18, 2010 at 02:47 pm

I have read the previous comments with interest as I am a student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who worked in Amy Bishop's lab. First of all, Bishop was not a poor, overworked professor, since she was usually absent from her lab-- the lab was mostly run by her graduate students. Second the university had good reason to deny her tenure-- her pulication in May 2009 published by the questionable International Journal of General Medicine was authored by her three children, Amy Bishop, and her husband. How unprofessional is that? It seems to me that she was trying to get anything published just to remain a professor at a demanding university. As far as the university's responsibility of checking her background prior to hiring her goes, Dr. Williams president of UAH has run a background check on Bishop, and none of the past events that have come to light show up on this check, so there is no possible way that the university could have anticipated what she was capable of. Finally, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon on our campus. Stop blaming UAH officials and faculty for problems that should have been dealt with by Ms, Bishop's parents, husband, and former communities long before she ever stepped foot in Alabama!

106. ms_annie - February 18, 2010 at 03:55 pm

"The professor, who was a member of Ms. Bishop's tenure-review committee, said he first became concerned about Ms. Bishop's mental health "about five minutes after I met her."

The professor said that during a meeting of the tenure-review committee, he expressed his opinion that Ms. Bishop was "crazy.""

THIS IS DISGUSTING. That "anonymous male professor" has good reason to remain anonymous: He's a sexist jerk. And why is the Chronicle going TABLOID?? Is this the hottest story the Chronicle has going, needing constant red meat?


FUNNY, how the fact that Bishop filed an EEOC COMPLAINT hasn't made it to the mainstream media news (that's the only valuable piece of information I found in this article, aside from the fact that more male faculty @ Huntsville are irresponsible sexist jerks, ready and willing to witch-burn IN 5 MINUTES.

Shame on UofA!!

I don't condone Dr. Bishop's behavior (goes without saying, one would hope!), but I certainly understand the crazy-making, misogynist, bullying and childish politics far too prevalent in academia!

107. twilight_zone - February 18, 2010 at 04:48 pm

Ms_annie: Fear is a good reason to stay anonymous - you obviously don't know this woman OR her husband or you'd realize how wise this decision is.

108. bluewillow - February 18, 2010 at 06:14 pm

If she had come across as outright crazy to her students it is likely that at least a few of them would have written about it on Ratemyprofessor. But there are no comments saying she is crazy there. So she must have been able to appear relatively sane in front most of her students.

109. cheri28 - February 18, 2010 at 08:08 pm

A large group of students actually signed a petition last year and complained about her unorthodox and unacceptable behaviors.

Also, regarding the professor not wanting to be named, I certainly would not blame him as it has now been reported that Amy Bishop's husband Jim Anderson not only lied about knowing that Bishop had a gun, he also lied when he said the law enforcement sent him a letter clearing him and Bishop in their investigation of the pipe bomb that was sent to perceived enemy of Amy Bishop.

LE officials are now stating that Anderson was never sent any such letter clearing him and his wife in the pipe bomb incident.

Amy Bishop wasn't bullied, she was the bully.

And she was an academic fraud who never even deserved to be considered for tenure. 'Twas political correctness that kept UAH from firing Bishop. Let the buck stop there.

110. cheri28 - February 18, 2010 at 08:09 pm

Dear "Ms. Annie."

Might I be so bold as to remind you of the obvious? "Crazy" isn't a gender or a gender issue.

111. tribble24 - February 18, 2010 at 09:36 pm


I am curious as to why you consider Ms Bishop an 'academic fraud'.

112. tribble24 - February 18, 2010 at 09:56 pm

Ms_Annie, expect no lessening of the media frenzy on this tragedy. It was born for movie-of-the-week fodder, tho thankfully we see crazed Rush's claims that President Obama incensed Ms Bishop under-disseminated in favor of hourly mea culpas out of Braintree.

113. lakkal - February 19, 2010 at 09:44 am

I find it amusing that so many posters are offended by a colleague calling Amy Bishop "crazy." This supports her defense attorney's plan to claim insanity and may be the only way she can avoid Alabama's death penalty for which her crime qualifies her. This colleague may end up being called for the defense in her trial. I am not surprised that so many posters defend Dr. Bishop's crime as the result of the tenure process. I have encountered the "I've been through it, it is grueling, therefore that is why she did it and somehow excuses her" attitude over and over in this case. It seems that so many academics identify with Dr. Bishop's failed tenure experience that they can't get to an understanding that she murdered three colleagues (could have been you!).

114. mary262 - February 19, 2010 at 09:53 am

If James Anderson was told not to speak to the media, why is he talking to anyone who will listen and giving conflicting stories? Listening to him I can't help but think he is looking for someone to blame stopping short of saying the university policies 'drove his wife to mass murder. I have a question then- do we have any statistics on how many professors denied tenure have reacted by committing mass murder?- You would think he would be absolutely devestated for the victims and rather than talk about how Amy was under stress and the university is partially at fault for the carnage would instead express his pain for the families of her victims. If it were a family member of mine that did that, I would shun the media not court them.

As for Amy Bishop being 'insane' correct me if I'm wrong but she would have to have a proven history of mental problems and medication to qualify for that wouldn't she? Taking shooting lessons on a rifle range prior to a mass murder sounds rather rational to me (for a killer) Did it occur to her husband that someone who 'accidently' shot her brother might never want to be around a gun again- suddenly she takes an interest in learning to shoot - he knows she's under stress and he accompanies her to a rifle range?? Maybe the husband should plead insanity instead!

It's understandable that we all want to know everything we can about Amy and what could have led to this but I think on the day that the campus is holding a memorial service for those who were slain, the media might take a moment to remember these were more than just pictures to flash on a screen for a few seconds but loving people with husbands, wives, children and grandchildren who had so much to give. What a loss.

115. englishdocno38911239 - February 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm

The meat of the story is that the unnamed prof correctly identified Bishop as "crazy" and said so during her tenure review. Good for him. Can anyone here argue that she is not? In fact, it is very well possible that whoever leaked that confidential description to Bishop is the one who set this spree in motion, for providing her the proximate cause for her paranoid fury. And I would bet money the leaker was someone who felt Bishop was being unfairly labeled because of her gender.

There's a saying that goes: When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Time to put down the criticism-of-any-woman-is-misogyny hammer. Amy Bishop is not that kind of problem. She is not the victim here; she is the killer. And judging by her history, her pathologies have been growing for a long, long time.

And to the unnamed prof, I'd stay unnamed too. The husband is not in jail, and he's about as fishy as they come.

116. doodad - February 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Have you people who've commented here read your words? All of you are blaming other people (husband, other professor who KNEW this broad was loony) instead of HER! She was an entitled liberal broad who had gotten away with fratricide before, so she felt invincible, especially having taught pro-feminine, anti-masculine garbage to kids for years.

This twat deserves the death penalty, as any man convicted of doing this would get in that state. But watch our media go to work on potential jurors by trying to make her a sympathetic figure, as they are doing now. In this country women can get by with anything by using "I'm just a cwazy female, you know how we get" excuse and I am sick of it! Since women have superior rights to men in this country, they need to have superior responsibilities for their actions as well, but I doubt you will have a Women's Studies Professor screeching for that! Effing hypocrites in academia and all of the media make me want to retch!

117. kloos - February 19, 2010 at 06:29 pm

From The Netherlands
After reading about 'tenure' issue in USA and following this case I can only say it is like a horrible nightmare of a thriller in slow motion! Thanks God such does not exist here in Holland! Just to mention a few things: such as the 'ratemyprofessor' system would be here in Holland UNTHINKABLE!...perhaps the other way around ...if. FREEDOM of EXPRESSION/WOORD is SACRED and TRANSPARENCY is a MUST at all times in all issues through. DEMOCRACY in the frist place! Wether you are excentric or lesbian or homo or ugly or black or white or of a different politic colour! bright or not. We play any game with open cards. And human rights are respected. I am positive this country would have been the one for Dr. Bishof!

118. absolute - February 19, 2010 at 06:38 pm

Reading the threads on this and other articles about this woman, I feel even more secure that I made the right decision in leaving academia after I complete my MA. Except for a minority of people who somehow manage to stay sane despite being ensconced in academia, most of you are batshit crazy. If you understand why I'm saying this, you are still sane. If you are angry and offended and/or you feel sympathy with Crazy Murdering Lady because the Pressures of Academia Can Be So Hard, you have already succumbed to those pressures and lost your rationality and likely your soul. It's sad that people don't know the truth about what you are.

119. kloos - February 19, 2010 at 06:47 pm

PS/ Dutch might 'different', you may say 'crazy'? you may also say we are rough but we are rather
to the point and right straight, that might be in USA 'abnormal!! Dangerous? No. We rather prefer that of being hypocrits.

120. absolute - February 19, 2010 at 07:45 pm

kloos -- you clearly don't know much about the USA so maybe you should quit while you're head.

121. absolute - February 19, 2010 at 07:46 pm


122. blessed_b - February 19, 2010 at 09:22 pm

I feel devastated for the families and the community of UAH. The blame clearly lies with Amy Bishop.

There is a separate story here about tenure.

To what degree is an assessment of sanity part of the tenure decision? What qualifies one faculty member to draw this conclusion about another, especially within 5 minutes? The implication of this story is that the denial of tenure was partially based on factors other than scholarship, teaching, and service.

I have been a member of the promotion and tenure committee at my university for two years and find this story chilling. I am reassured, however, by the fact that our recommendations have been based on performance records in the traditional three categories.

123. tinsun - February 19, 2010 at 09:46 pm

Reading these comments make me remember what I DO NOT miss about academia. A man calling a woman crazy does not mean she is a victim of gender discrimination for heaven's sake! But rather than continue on that line, I have to instead turn to a tangential issue near and dear to my heart...

If any one of you throws a tantrum about a proposal being late, shut up, stop being a prima donna, and consider whether or not YOU observed the deadline well enough to get all the pieces reviewed, approved and signed. You think the grants staff can put a rush on your work? With every OTHER prima donna thinking the same?


124. kloos - February 20, 2010 at 05:16 am

For your info: I am a graduate of Marymount Tarrytown and I have lived years in USA, so I know what I am talking about! About that conservative Alabama I have only heard about...

125. academicspouse - February 22, 2010 at 06:35 pm

What we need to focus on here is the need for MUCH better background checks when teachers are hired at the college level. The people who become mass shooters have often left a record long before becoming extremely violent.

Seekerone, Make sure that your institution has done a background check on your troubled colleague that is at least as thorough as the checks done on a daycare worker in your area. Also, make sure that the security/police are aware of any threats she has made. Good luck. (And keep in mind that most unstable individuals never go one shooting sprees.)

126. justme2010 - February 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

Totally agree. Every faculty should have a full background check, including fingerprints, before hire.

127. truthsayer - March 10, 2010 at 02:22 am

This is an excellent article on Amy Bishop. She obviously had friends like Moriarity who greased the road for her and fed her big fat sociopathic ego! Then of course, there were the real professors who were concerned for their own safety and those of others and had the courage to speak up. We also had students who had the courage to file a petition complaining about Amy Bishop and her teaching methods. Amy Bishop was ineffective teacher. However, people like Morirarity helped her file an EEOC complaint charging the university of gender inequities. This is truly reprehensible behavior on the part of Ms. Moriarity, her best friend and a supporter of her on the faculty teams. Ms. Moriarity has the blood of the victims on her hand. How far did she go to protect and feed Amy Bishop's ego? This reminds me of the homosexual boy who was harrassing other students and was goaded by the lesbian school principle to express himself...boy did he express himself to the point that he was offensive. In that case, one student finally had it and murdered the flaming gay boy in classroom. Ms. Morirarity reminds me of the lesbian principle who unwisely goads and encourages a sociopath to express herself -- to file a discrimination lawsuit, to lead the faculty against the president of University, spills information about student reports to her... any one who fed this self-righteous sociopath's appetite needs to make amends to the victims.

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