Prof. shoots colleagues at UAH

The University of Alabama in Huntsville campus is closed this week, and students there say they are shocked and confused after authorities say a biology professor opened fire on her colleagues on Friday

Three professors were killed after Amy Bishop allegedly shot them. Three other UAH professors were injured – two are still listed as critical in the hospital on Sunday and one had been released.

Several students said they had complained about Bishop’s courses, according to the Associated Press.

Julie Backer, a junior majoring in English, was in Bishop’s class for two semesters.

“When I first heard about the shooting, I figured it was just a student with problems,” Backer said. “But to find out it’s your own teacher? It’s hard to wrap your mind around it. It’s just sickening.”

UAH spokesman Ray Garner said Bishop, 42, had been denied tenure, and this was to be her last semester. Some have said Bishop opened fire because of a dispute over the issue of her firing during a biology staff meeting.

Authorities declined to discuss a motive at a Saturday news conference, according to the Associated Press, though Garner said the faculty meeting wasn’t scheduled to discuss tenure issues.

In a statement, UA System Chancellor Malcolm Portera said the entire system is saddened by the events at the Huntsville campus.

“In every way possible, we are assisting and supporting the University community, the families and friends of the victims, and the citizens of Huntsville,” he said.

Cameron Mortazavi, a freshman majoring in electrical engineering, said he was taking a physics exam in the building next to the Shelby Center when the shooting started.

He said he turned in his test expecting to talk to his classmates about how they did, but had about 30 text messages in his phone asking what happened and saw many emergency response vehicles and armed officers surrounding the area.

Mortazavi said he was appalled that the exam was not stopped.

“All these cell phones are going crazy, and nobody said anything … our professor didn’t stop the test,” he said. “And all the proctors were walking around, so nobody could check their phone because they’d think we’re cheating.”

UAH students received a text message around 4:30 p.m., Mortazavi estimated, even though the shooting had happened around 3:55 p.m.

Jeffrey Warner, a current UAH student, said he was frustrated about the delay of the alert system to inform students of the shooting.

“I was mad because they left us in the dark about this whole thing that affects everyone on campus,” he said. “What if Dr. Bishop had just walked out and not been stopped? Students would have had no idea of what was going on or where she could have gone.”

Erica Pruett, a senior majoring in biology, works in a research lab on the third floor of the Shelby center where the shooting happened. When she found out about the shooting, she said she was in disbelief, thinking it was some sort of cruel joke.

Pruett said she knew all of the professors personally, and described the biology department was like a family. While some students may find it hard to go back to campus, she said she is looking forward to getting back to work.

“Just being on the floor where it happened will be difficult,” Pruett said. “I will continually be praying for my faculty.”

Sara Powers, a freshman majoring in biology, said one of her professors, Adriel Johnson, who taught introduction to the health care profession, was killed in the shooting.

“I don’t know if we will even have that class anymore, because while there are multiple math and biology professors he was the only one who taught this class,” Powers said.

Reporters Will Tucker, Jessica Cheek, Amanda Sams and Haley Herfurth gathered this information. Editor Amanda Peterson compiled the reports. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

  • Clayton Burns

    The federal government should mandate a best practices review of security at universities, and help to establish a standard system. It would be worthwhile examining PowerPhone as the core of a nation-wide system.

    The wretched practices in information flow in universities must be managed with several initiatives:

    1.To get any federal funding, universities would have to agree to post on the Internet open course evaluations, with the personal details of the students kept private and any sensitive material subject to adjudication. The President of the United States should set this requirement immediately. Course evaluations should be conducted twice per term, and the students should be able to update them. Despite threats against Biology at UBC, the same chaotic conditions in the courses that may have contributed to the threats persist today. Universities do not have true analytical units where the implications of the course evaluations are studied minutely so as to create policy and help instructors with their difficulties.

    2.US universities, beginning with Harvard, should be required by the President to initiate doctorates in Intelligence so that chronic pathologies in information management can be dealt with. At Harvard, there is a severe imbalance between business and general undergraduate students. Harvard should set up a class of 100 PhD students in Intelligence, deducting this complement from the HBS, in September. How could Amy Bishop have been foisted off on UAH without any apparent effective warning from police or administrators having had contact with her?

    3.The broken interface between the humanities and biology must be repaired. For example, students at UBC are being exploited by the English department, which offers trivial courses in which books by faculty members are often given priority over such brilliant tools as the COBUILD English Grammar and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 5th edition, with its valuable CD.

    4.The parasitism afflicting American universities has never been focused by any so-called education journalist in the country. How could anyone imagine that the SAT is just as good for application purposes as “In Search of Memory”? In America, the President should say, we just don’t do GMAT or LSAT. Instead, we read “Main Currents of Marxism,” and pass an oral and written exam on it as part of the application process for business or law. Harvard decided to hand its application process over to parasites. Harvard is not ready to show leadership on the issue of the lapses in information flow that helped cause the deaths at UAH. Perhaps that is fine with Harvard, but it is not fine with me.

    The test of any human being or system is the ability to recognize new information for what it is and to adapt. Adaptation is well beyond the capacity of American universities as they are now constituted, where money and favors for friends rule the day.

    Clayton Burns PhD Vancouver Canada.

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  • Anonymous

    This is sad. I’ve never heard of a teacher behaving like that. She was only 42 and already saw nothing left in her future?

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LWMXCRWTW7G5U4TU7HM2VC4HEM Iya Salvador

    this is tragic, things should not turn like this if the professor seek counseling. through this it could be avoided. 

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    Hi,it is very unfortunate that either professor or students often shoot each other.Almost every second month there is such incident and we lost some human being.It is great loss for parents,friends and society as well. Simliar cases happened not only in USA institutes rather some other countries of the world as well.
    We should consider complete though to those factors which compelled for firing or shooting.College administration should be vigilant and if some student or Professor needs psychiatric help,they should cooperate.
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