News broke this afternoon that there was a shooting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Shelby Hall. It took me a while to find that this is (among other things) the home of UAH’s chemistry department. While CNN hasn’t filled in the details, the Huntsville Times already has reported that biology Professor Amy Bishop was taken into custody and her husband has been detained for the deaths of 3 faculty members and the wounding of 3 others.
While stunning and tragic, this would not have rated a post except for the alleged reason for the shooting: denial of tenure. According to the New York Times:
WAFF, the NBC affiliate in Huntsville, quoted university officials as saying the professor began shooting after learning at the faculty meeting that she was being denied tenure…
Dr. Bishop had told acquaintances recently that she was worried about getting tenure, said a business associate who met her at a business technology open house at the end of January and asked not to be named because of the close-knit nature of the science community in Huntsville. “She began to talk about her problems getting tenure in a very forceful and animated way, saying it was unfair,” the associate said, referring to a conversation in which she blamed specific colleagues for her problems.
Wow. Denial of tenure must be crushing for an assistant professor, especially since the process must seem protracted, random and unfair (at times). The really surprising detail is that (allegedly) she brought a gun; that’s an indication of a willingness to use violence and a certain level of forethought as to the potential outcome of the meeting. (CORRECTED: see update below.) Academic science is high pressure indeed.
My (our) thoughts are with the families of the victims.
UPDATE: From the AP:
University spokesman Ray Garner said Saturday that the professor, Amy Bishop, had been informed months ago that she would not be granted tenure. He said the faculty meeting where she is accused of gunning down colleagues was not called to discuss tenure.