Tenure reviews are extremely stressful: imagine a job evaluation in which you may be told that you’ve been doing a fine job, you’re doing interesting work, but you aren’t quite as dazzling as your employer would like…so you’re fired. And then, because academic jobs in your specialty are scattered very thin on the ground, you get to spend a year struggling to find a new position (with the same horror show finale possible), and pack up and move to a completely different part of the country, uprooting all your connections that you may have built up over the last 5 or 6 years. What makes it even worse is how much you lose, since if your tenure committee approves you, you get a secure job for the rest of your life.
The stresses do not excuse Amy Bishop, however, who attended her tenure review meeting and when it did not return a favorable result, pulled out a gun and murdered and wounded her colleagues. Three are hospitalized with injuries, one is in critical condition; these three are dead.
I’m horrified. Good people with years of training and years of productivity ahead of them, with families and loved ones left behind, all wiped out in a flash of insanity, and leaving a body of students who are going to be scarred by this one awful event.
I’m also dismayed — I’ve been at meetings like that many times, where we walk in with trust in our colleagues that the worst we will face is a bitter intellectual argument. I’ve sat at tables with my fellow faculty lined up around them, and never before thought how easy we’d be as targets for one mad person to fire upon. The ease of access to handguns is a great social evil, one that too easily simplifies the conversion of disagreement into lethal combat.
Express your anger and grief here, or on Drugmonkey’s open thread.
Abel has more on her academic status — she seems to have had active grants and a foothold in industry.
And holy crap — Bishop shot and killed her brother in a shotgun accident in 1986! Or maybe not so much an accident — some reports say it was during an argument.