As anyone who has ever taught at one can tell you, college campuses are deceptively workplaces. Lurking just below the ivy-covered surface of collegial civility among teachers and administrators is often a minefield of simmering resentments, petty slights, professional rivalries and a fierce class war between the tenured and the untenured. Competitive, highly educated, people working in a loosely supervised, and often politicized, environment is a recipe for trouble.
So, it would seem, was the case at the University of Alabama, Huntsville where Harvard-trained neurobiologist Amy Bishop shot and killed three of her colleagues, and wounded three others, during a faculty meeting on Friday. She had reportedly been denied tenure recently. Armchair psychology is always dangerous but since it’s America’s favorite indoor sport, here’s my theory: Ivy leaguer fails to make the cut at second-tier school, can’t bear the blow to her self-esteem and lashes out in a deadly rage.
What makes this case especially unusual is that women are not prone to gun violence outside of domestic disputes. Thelma and Louise duly noted, a woman shooting six people in a rage is not something that comes up a lot. And there is the intriguing detail that Bishop had shot and killed her brother in what may or may not have been an “accident” 24 years ago. The right-wing blogs are making a big thing of the fact that Bishop was an avowed “socialist,” whatever that means, but her problems seem far deeper than political labels can explain.
Seems to me there has been a spate of faculty shootings lately. Maybe we’re about to be the expression “going postal” become “going campus.”