Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Well, we now know that Virginia Tech faculty were aware that the shooter was "disturbed," and did indeed refer him for counseling:
The English major's creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service, officials said.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."

"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was. Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.
In other words, they did everything right.

I've had students hand in pretty disturbing stuff, and it can be difficult to know how to respond. I tell my students that if they write anything that appears to contain a threat to themselves or others, I have a professional and ethical duty to follow up. I've only had to do this a few times, and in each case, the student's response has been, "Wow, I'm sorry you took it that way; no, that's not what I meant, but thanks for asking."

I know of at least one case at UNR where a writing teacher was concerned enough about a student paper to alert the campus police; to everyone's immense relief, it turned out to be a false alarm.

Elliot commented, in response to my previous post, that it must be tough to be a professor in a situation like this. Yes, indeed. I just had a conversation with a colleague in the hall; she said that she has nightmares about violent situations on campus, wondering what she'd do, wondering what she'd tell her students and how she could try to protect them.

Ditto. I pray I never have to find out.


  1. On CNN.com now there's more details from the English teacher - she took him out of class and taught him one-on-one. She tried to get help from the university and police but they didn't do anything.

    Your previous post seems quite prescient.

  2. I've read that he also set a fire in a dorm room and stalked several female students . . . which would seem to be grounds, if not for arrest, at least for disciplinary action from the university.

    I can't imagine being his parents right now. I hope they have a support system. I keep thinking of the Amish schoolhouse murders and how that devastated, grieving community reached out to the family of the shooter.

  3. It's been a rough few days around here. A few of my friends have kids who attend Virginia Tech. One of my friends was working at the hospital the day of the shootings, and she didn't hear from her daughter for several hours. The VP of nursing was informed of the situation, and he was getting ready to drive my friend to Virginia Tech when her cell phone started ringing. Her daughter was safe. Everyone on the unit including a few patients
    started crying.

    Yep, it's been a rough few days.


  4. MJ, I'm so glad your friend's daughter is safe! I hope all your other friends' kids are, too. My prayers go out to everyone.


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