Saturday, February 13, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

My heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of the victims of the UAH shootings.  Likewise to the many students, faculty, and staff whose lives will be seriously affected, if not substantially altered, because of the actions of biology professor Amy Bishop.

For friends and acquaintances unfamiliar with the state’s geography and the relationship of UAH to Troy (as I have already had two inquiries along these lines), let me note that Huntsville is about 3 hours from where I live (and therefore close to 4 away from the campus of Troy University).  Also, Troy University is not affiliated with the University of Alabama system, although both are state university systems.  I do know some of the political science faculty at UAH and hope that they are well.  I am sure that they are experiencing a great deal of shock and upset at the moment.

Like other campus-based shooting, this certainly hits home for me, given my profession.  Just like it is possible to envision myself in a classroom a la Virginia Tech, it is also quite easy to consider what it might be like for something like this to take place in a faculty meeting.  Moreover, the idea that someone might take tenure-rejection very badly is not beyond the realm of possibility (not that I am saying I understand such a reaction in any kind of sympathetic sense) .

Not only is there the obvious horror of three persons prematurely removed from life and the commensurate pain and anguish brought to their families, these events will have serious ramifications for the lives a of a lot of students as well.  I do not in any way want to minimize the loss of life by discussion the following, but it occurred to me last night that this event has likely de\estroyed UAH’s biology department, as three professors are dead, one has been charged with murder and two others are seriously wounded.  That is going to affect a lot of classes and will, no doubt, cause a large number of students to have to consider changing schools to complete their studies (or delay graduation), depending on  how long it takes to rebuild what Amy Bishop destroyed in only a few minutes.

WAFF has the names of the dead:

University spokesman Ray Garner said the three killed were Dr. G. K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and two associates, Dr. Maria Ragland Davis and Dr. Adriel Johnson.

And the wounded:

He also said Joseph Leahy is in critical condition at Huntsville Hospital. Stephanie Monticello and Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera are in stable condition.

I will say that I find it disturbing that so many think that the first response to these incidences is to try and score cheap political points (see some of the comments here and here or this post).  This is, thankfully, an isolated and rare type of event that probably can’t tell us much of anything about broader patterns.  The bottom line is that sometimes people feel sufficiently desperate about their personal situations (a divorce, being fired, losing a home, facing a major tax bill or debt, etc.) that they sometimes engage in heinous violence.  I am not sure that a whole lot more can be extrapolated from such as event, although perhaps I am mistaken.  And yes, being denied tenure is a pretty dramatic event in the life of a faculty member that can the end of a career that one has invested an awful of time and resources in developing.  Again, such a statement should not be read as sympathy for Bishop, but rather an attempt to underscore a component of this event that might not be fully understood by non-academic readers.

Also in the interest of clarification, I have noted a variety of reporting on the incident, some of which has reported that she learned at the meeting of her denial of tenure and then started firing at the participants.  Let me note that this is almost certainly not what happened, as one does not typically find out the results of  the tenure and promotion process at a faculty meeting.  In my case, it was always done via a letter from the Provost and I am given to understand that at most schools that is the norm (although probably coming from one’s Dean).  I have seen other reports that she had already been denied tenure and that she had appealed (such appeals, by the way, are typically unsuccessful).  At any rate, it would seem that she already knew of her denial and came to the faculty meeting seeking premeditated revenge.  No doubt, more details will be forthcoming.  Some other reports also seem to indicate some conflict between Bishop (along with her husband, according to some) with the university over some inventions.  If this is the case, frustration over that issue coupled with the tenure rejection may form the motive for the murders.

Let me conclude by fully agreeing with the assessment of James Joyner (who also had  a round-up of reactions to the event):

It’s always baffling to me when people try to politicize random tragedies — usually while they’re breaking news stories with little real information. At first blush, Bishop would seem to be extremely bright — a Harvard-trained neuroscientist doing cutting edge work — but with some serious psychological issues.  My natural tendency in these mass murder situations is to write the shooters off as mentally ill but the seeming premeditation and obvious revenge motives against the victims would seem contrary evidence.

Regardless, however, this tragic, one-off case is unlikely to significantly alter my views on higher education, gun rights, crime and punishment, or global warming.


Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: Uncategorized | |
The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

5 Responses to “The Tragedy at Huntsville”

  1. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » A Clarification on Bishop’s Tenure Denial Says:

    [...] at least confirms my previous speculation that the meeting itself was not where or how Bishop found out about her tenure [...]

  2. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Cheap Political Points and the UAH Shooting Says:

    [...] Speaking of using a terrible event to score cheap political points, I see that Glenn Reynolds pulled a comment from that described Amy Bishop (the UAH shooter) as a “socialist” which he seemed to take as a correct assessment.   Jim Hoft (the Gateway Pundit) picked up on it in his post on the subject: “Socialist Professor Amy Bishop Who Killed 3 Profs Yesterday Shot & Killed Her Brother in 1986”.  In the text of the post he links back to the Reynolds’ post as the evidence of the classification. [...]

  3. repsac3 Says:

    And now American Power Blog (the “or this post” link above) has doubled down & also jumped on the GlennReynolds/JimHoft meme. Douglas however, links here, oddly enough… Go figure…

  4. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    A remarkable post by Douglas. Nice how he tells me to “STFU” because I am “eating crow”–most strange.

  5. Politics and the UAH Shootings | The Moderate Voice Says:

    [...] I explained at my site the other day, while I teach in the state of Alabama, I am not affiliated with UAH.  Still, the events are [...]

Leave a Reply

blog advertising is good for you

Visitors Since 2/15/03


Wikio - Top of the Blogs - Politics



Powered by WordPress