Saturday, February 13, 2010

University of Alabama shooting

See the NY Times article today, Professor Is Charged After 3 Are Killed in Alabama.  This is an amazing and horrific case where a tenure denial has (apparently) led to violent retribution by the one who was denied.  We don't know all the facts yet but the Times says that she was denied tenure recently and she went to a faculty meeting with a gun and killed and injured several people, all other faculty members.

I want to post about this more later, but as someone who is trying to reach out to others who have been denied tenure, let me just make clear--while I am interested in the issues this will raise related to tenure denials, this was an absolutely bloody and uncalled for murder.  I have no sympathy for the perpetrator.  My guess is that since this is a clear cut case with several witnesses, it was clearly premeditated, and is in the south, she will be executed.

One of the frustrating things about the NY Times article is that it does NOT mention the denial first as the possible spark for the killings.  Instead it discusses the "pressure cooker" of biotech startups.

I am assembling links related to this story on my delicious site, see  Now I notice that the LA Times is saying one of the victims was a staff member.

I will be very interested to see just how random her victims were.  Was she in there to get revenge on certain people?  Or was she also just randomly killing people?

As I said, this is clearly a crazy act by a crazy person, but in both of my denials I'd be lying if I didn't say that I did have thoughts like this.  In my case (and I suspect in most cases) they ran more to the just plain suicide bent.  But I hope this case does raise some discussion about this important issue.  A tenure denial was once described by someone on as like having a nuclear bomb descend on your house.  It does feel like that.  It is like everything you worked for has been destroyed.  And not by something out of your control, like being layed off or having a business fail.  This is a long, reasoned judgement by your peers and they have decided you need to be out.


  1. I was afraid there'd be too much on the "mental illness" theme and not enough about the "tenure denial" theme in this media narrative. I agree, there has to be both. And it just shows how messed up the system really is. It wasn't until I pointed out to my (former) chair that every single tenured faculty member in my (former) department had been divorced right around the time they became tenured that he agreed that maybe, just maybe, the process demanded too much out of a person. He then understood, but still didn't want to acknowledge, that I chose my family (marriage, children) over tenure.

  2. By today (Feb 15), press somewhat and academic media more so are now ignoring tenure denial as a factor. Once writer even claiming never to have heard of violence as a reaction to tenure denial despite having written about it about 5 years ago. One comment on that piece referred to an equally violent incident in Canada that resulted in 4 people being shot.