← Previous Post: | Next Post:


‘The student charged in the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia football players had a semi-automatic rifle, pistol, ammunition, magazines and a device used to make bullets fire faster in his on-Grounds dorm room…’

No surprise there. This is the USA.

But this certainly makes the University of Virginia look – if possible – even worse. This is a student who had an active university judicial case pending against him (and pending… and pending…) for gun stuff. He’d been engaged in other criminal activity, but for some reason it was all suspended sentences. His father knew he was “extremely paranoid,” and I’m thinking people on campus had noticed too. Professors? Others in his dorm?

To ask the bloody obvious: Why didn’t the school do anything about this heavily armed paranoid with a rap sheet?


Details here about how any fucking asshole can buy an arsenal in the gun-happy state of Virginia.

Margaret Soltan, November 18, 2022 3:00PM
Posted in: guns

Trackback URL for this post:

9 Responses to “‘The student charged in the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia football players had a semi-automatic rifle, pistol, ammunition, magazines and a device used to make bullets fire faster in his on-Grounds dorm room…’”

  1. Rita Says:

    He was enrolled in one of my colleague’s classes and colleague says he never made an appearance. So likely that this was true of other courses, and professors did not have occasion to notice any behavior.

    I think I mentioned before that I once had a student who was mid-psychotic break and said a whole bunch of totally insane stuff to me both in and out of class, but FERPA prevents 1) faculty from sharing this info with each other and 2) admin from sharing any info about students’ histories w/ faculty. So it turned out that he was behaving equally menacingly in all his courses, and he had a history of such behavior that the university was well-aware of. But no one could tell anyone anything. We only learned this after my colleague, whom I (apparently illegally) briefed about this situation, called up the dean and demanded that the student be immediately removed from my class. And even then, the admin hesitated at first on the grounds that the student was entitled to whatever constitutes “due process” for crazy people before he was removed.

    All of which is to say, I don’t think it’s so easy to address potentially threatening students as you suggest. Once someone, student or faculty, actually complains about being threatened, you can get the ball rolling, but since no one can talk to each other to piece together a pattern of troubling behavior, it’s harder to do that.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    First thing that popped up when I Googled how faculty report threatening students was this George Mason page, which makes the process sound pretty straightforward.
    You can try dealing with the student directly, and if that doesn’t work, or you’d rather go directly to the administration, you can report the student. I’ve no idea how quickly the student is removed from class after that.
    I don’t think you need to talk to anyone else to build up a pattern of behavior; your own observation is enough.
    In the case of Jones, if it’s true he simply didn’t attend class or show up in professors’ offices, not much could be done there. I’d like to know why after recruiting him the football program never used him. Was that in part because they thought he was nuts? If so, did the program report him?

  3. Rita Says:

    Well, for most of the behaviors listed here, the student wouldn’t need to be removed b/c they seem mainly to be symptoms of depression. I think the problem is not in reporting someone and starting a bureaucratic process, it’s getting any kind of rapid action to be taken. Jones was also in process, so to speak. Who knows when the process was due to be completed? Unless the student has made an explicit threat against his own or someone else’s life, there isn’t any obvious urgency to act, and I think there are a number of protections in place for students so that they’re not just summarily booted from school any time they have a problem. In my case, the student was saying bizarre things but not threatening anyone. I didn’t say anything about it until more than a month into the term b/c I thought he was just a pill, and it was my lot to be stuck with a pill that term. But had I known what he was up to in his other courses, or what his history at the university had been, it would’ve been immediately obvious that he was having a breakdown.

    (Also, while I realize that “weight loss/gain” can indeed be a sign of mental illness, as this George Mason list indicates, I find the idea of reporting a student for getting too fat to be hilarious.)

  4. Rita Says:

    I should add that, although this student turned out to have been behaving erratically in all his courses, I was his only professor to report anything. So presumably his other three or four professors were just planning to put up with someone in the throes of psychosis for the whole semester. And this guy was not in the habit of skipping class or keeping quiet. So I just can’t imagine that a student who never shows up to class and doesn’t visibly both anyone is going to inspire a more robust response from anyone at the university.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Couple of reactions: Yeah, I saw the weight gain/loss thing and giggled. OTOH if a student became noticeably pale and emaciated over the course of the semester (I had a guy like this – huge black earrings, tight t shirts with morbid messages, and a something to him that told me he was majorly strung out on drugs – we talked, after class one day, and I casually asked if he was ok, and he confirmed he was struggling. I saw him the next semester, said he looked great, and he confirmed he was getting help.) I would want to talk to the student, or tell someone about him/her.

    On your being the only prof to report anything: I’ve written a lot on this blog over the years about how it never ceases to amaze me what students will put up w/ from professors, and what profs will find a way to overlook in students. Of course all the wondrous technology now dragged into class by students and professors pretty much guarantees insufficient human interaction for anyone to detect anything anymore.

    Anyway, UVa’s problem is FAR more severe than this sort of thing. Quite a few people from quite a number of locations in the university knew he had a record of criminal violence and that he explicitly told people he had guns on campus. The school is in trouble.

  6. Rita Says:

    My psychotic was also at UVA. I think the reason others were willing to put up with him was that reporting is an inconvenience and it takes less effort to ignore troublesome students who don’t threaten your life than than to get involved in all these bureaucratic processes that drag on and on. This happened during my very first semester of teaching and I was naive. I also reported another duo in the same class for plagiarism (that class was great intro to teaching!) and that ended up being a two-yr ordeal of hearings and trials. They were obviously guilty and got expelled, but I don’t think I’d bother with all that again if I encountered the same behavior. Indeed, I had numerous students after that who hardly showed up to class and failed everything, which at a school like UVA is a pretty clear red flag, but I trusted other bodies at the school to deal with their issues rather than inserting myself into them. I think wanting to keep your head down and not get involved in other people’s problems is a pretty strong motivation.

    Of course, you’re right, in this case, UVA is going to be held liable for overlooking the signs. All I’m saying is that the accretion of oversights that leads to the institution overlooking a shooter is not very surprising given the way universities operate with troubled students. It’s all little red flags, here and there, not big ones or all in one place. There is a lot of inertia. So it’s hard to bring all that info together and establish a threat, and then to act on it.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Yes – the modes of administration-evasion are many for professors, and I engaged in most of them.

    I think another part of the problem, peculiar to universities, is that they tend to be invested in a sense of themselves as NOT cold paranoid corporations; they are cultured locations, where a great deal of what goes on is based on trust and good will rather than the bottom line and distrust. UVa’s particular “honor” traditions make this perhaps an even greater ethos. You’d know better than I. Gracious Southern hospitality… ?

    On top of this, Jones was a local kid who made good, as I understand it, and I suspect the school was particularly loath to be harsh with him.

    One other thing: Universities in general, but particularly southern ones, have a new reality to deal with, and they’re not facing it at all, far as I can tell. Huge numbers of people, from a young age, have multiple guns in this country. How unusual is Jones, buying guns the minute he could (tried doing it illegally, but was made to wait), keeping them in the dorm or in his car on campus (lots of students keep them in their cars)? Recall how easily U Wash football star Tyler Hilinski scored an AR-15 type gun from a college buddy of his with which to astoundingly shoot his head to bits. Sorry to be graphic, but it’s important to note not merely the profusion of weaponry, but the overkill weaponry in the hands of teenagers in this country. I have no idea what universities can do about an armed student population.

  8. Rita Says:

    I don’t know that the south ever had strict gun laws or more limited gun ownership, did it? Are guns a new reality, or a transformed worldview around an old one? Anyway, I’m not sure what a state institution like UVA can do (or even a private one) if the state laws permit possession and concealed carry. They can put up little stickers on the buildings that say “no guns!”, like nearly all universities now do, but I’m not even sure those prohibitions are legally enforceable.

    I think that’s right that universities want to avoid being (or being perceived to be) cold and punitive. That’s not what Honor is about at UVA anymore (it’s now basically the court you haul your plagiarists into), but it was originally about a community of trust so exacting that you were supposed to be able to give an exam and leave the room for the exam period and expect that no one cheated in your absence (LOL). But honor or no, trust and charity over the bottom line is the ethical expectation. But there’s a real question whether that’s a real aim of the institution or just a kind of glossy brochure claim to rope in students. And whether it serves anyone all that well to believe it, since even if there is no mass shooter incident to test it, they’re bound to discover that in most cases, a college can’t actually behave like your home/family/safe space. Eg: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/11/11/yale-suicides-mental-health-withdrawals/.

  9. Margaret Soltan Says:

    The south dominates all the “most gun-friendly” states lists, and Va. ranks way high in ‘most numbers of guns owned’ lists. You’re far more likely to be mowed down by a 20 year old holding an AR15 – a kid who is insane, paranoid, with a remarkably long history of violent crime (for someone barely out of his teens), and currently hoarding an arsenal in his itty bitty dorm room – in Virginny than you are in a lot of other states.

    As compensation, with that there new Va. governor, you’re more likely to die from a botched or not performed abortion than you are from the crazy tyke with the AR15. Whew.

Comment on this Entry

Latest UD posts at IHE