Breaking News: Shooting at UAH

UPDATE: I just got word from Dr. Christy, see below

This just happened late today and details are still sketchy and I know many are concerned about Dr. John Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama in Hunstville and whether they were victims of the shooting that has left three dead.

http://blog.al.com/breaking/2010/02/three_dead_one_injured_in_shoo.html

The shooting occurred in the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, apparently in the Biology Dept according to reports from the Huntsville Times.

Dr. Christy and Dr. Spencer work in the Cramer Research Hall across the street, marked “A” on the map below, note the marker for “State Climatologist”:

While I have not been in touch with Dr.’s Spencer and Christy yet, I have no reason to believe they were in the Shelby building at the time of the shooting

I’ll post updates as they become available.

UPDATE:

Al.com confirms this was a biology professor shooting up a biology faculty meeting:

http://blog.al.com/breaking/2010/02/biology_professor_accused_in_u.html

UPDATE2: Dr. Christy responds to my message:

We’re OK.  Evidently a biology professor essentially shot the entire
department at a faculty meeting after learning she was denied tenure.
At the time, I was being taped at a TV station across town by John
Coleman (remotely from San Diego) when they came in with breaking news
about a shooting at UAH.

John C

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60 thoughts on “Breaking News: Shooting at UAH

  1. Our prayers go out to the families of those killed, whomever they are. I do hope that Dr’s Christy and Spencer are safe and sound.

  2. Fox news reported that the shooting happened in the Shelby building. That’s east of the building you marked with an A.

  3. This was posted (by a reader) below the news article… may or may not be accurate…

    3 dead, 1 GSW. One shooter caught. SWAT checking building. Building on lockdown. UAH mandatory emergency notification system has yet to notify students of shooting.

    Speculation: Shooter was female biology teacher wearing a black/pink sweater who was refused tenure this morning. All victims biology faculty.

  4. and I know many are concerned about Dr. John Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer

    I’ll be concerned if you are pointing out that I should be. Most campuses are pretty big, so I would not automatically make such an association, though I appreciate the reminder that they work there.

  5. I hope they are ok. Even if they are physically fine, they probably know the victims,and it must be quite scary to have something like this happen where you work. My Prayers for the victims and their families.

  6. You know, I’m none too squeamish regarding soldiers shooting soldiers, but opening fire on teachers? In a school? As a teacher? Poor decision making.

    On that score, I’d say things were going rather poorly of late, that perhaps society at large were about to fail utterly, but this sort of thing seems mostly consistent with the spinning of planet earth. Just another fractal curve in contemporary news. Nothing to see, here.

    Excuse me.

  7. This is very sad. While I do not know the circumstances, these days and times are tough. However, tenure means security. If this woman did not get tenure, this means she was denied security. She may also have been denied defacto peer confidence. This is all so relative to what a person goes through while trying to achieve professional excellence. Its possible she could not tolerate the rejection and attacked those she believed were responsible.

    Einstien once said, “Where evil exists, God is absent”. My heart says that “If we as a society were’nt so damned determined to block the presence of “God” in the lives of people that someday this sort of thing would be less common.

    I retreat in prayer.

  8. Glad to hear Christy and Spencer are safe! Thoughts and prayers for those affected and their families

    Female spree shooter… how odd

  9. Hmm, when it comes to global warming and its suporters, it is a sign of things to come………… The current Climate change scenareo is a scam.

    “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves”.

    Winston Churchill.

  10. Scientists going postal due to lack of tenure? Yikes.

    Does that mean that she had the weapon before knowing that she wasn’t going to get tenure or did she always carry a gun? Hmm…

  11. This is especially traumatic to Huntsville/Madison because we had a murder at one of our middle schools just last Friday. Just terrible.

  12. This is why all university staff members should be allowed to conceal carry. If someone else was armed maybe three people would not be dead. Tragic.

  13. OMG wow tenure is serious business. She might have been putting up with a lot of BS just to that shot at tenure. Tenure is kind of idiotic though. It’s perpetual job security that shouldn’t exist. Some of the university policies are just strange and foreign to those on the outside world.

    The deepest regards of sympathy go out to the victims and their respective families.

  14. Well it’s good to know that those we have some knowledge of are safe; but that is beside the point. It simply isn’t tolerable that ANY academic staff at any school; should be ever at risk for this kind of action.

    We are not animals; and this kind of reaction to adverse news just is not excusable for any reason.

    Our thoughts go out to those affected by this crazyness.

  15. Really poor people skills, telling someone at a faculty meeting that they’ve been denied tenure. Don’t get me wrong, most people would brave it out or at worst brust into tears — going on a shooting rampage is beyond the pale. I suspect that the faculty staff realized there was something wrong with this particular instructor – but probably didn’t realize it was THAT wrong.

  16. Tragic. It’s unlikely to be on topic for this blog, however, and I have no enthusiasm for seeing the usual cliches repeated endlessly.

    You may be right, Mike, but nothing can be done about it.

  17. Anoneumouse,

    Your insinuation is disquieting to say the least… Could it be that crazy is crazy?

    Let’s get a story before stupid quotes are dropped…

  18. Dr. John Christy was difenately not in harms way when the shoting occured at the Univerisity of Alabama todday. I know because at that moment he was at television station WAAY being interviewed via satellite by me for my second global warming special which will be telecast Thursday evening. Dr. Christy was in great form and gave me a real straight talk interview.

    John Coleman

  19. As a member of the University of Illinois, I have to say that this is a great reason to do away with the concept of tenure completely. Our prayers go to the families and colleagues.

  20. Rhoda R:

    The word is that she was informed this morning and chose to take her revenge at the faculty meeting later in the day.

  21. It is my fervent prayer that the families of the fallen receive the comfort that can only come from God. It is also my fervent prayer that the shooter will find spiritual forgiveness for her actions. I also have a blogger friend there at UAH Dr. Tim Coleman. He fortunately was working in the Crammer building at the time doing an answer for the alabamawx blog. This is a time when we all. our nation has lost our moral direction.

    May God help us all,
    Bill Derryberry

  22. It has been said above that the alleged shooter was carrying a weapon at the time. If this turns out to be correct, then that would indicate the alleged shooter had some reason to be carrying a weapon prior to the shooting. Based on that, it is likely that this is not going to be a simple story of unpremeditated rage.

    John

  23. I would think that people at this website would support tenure – since it allows a faculty member to swim against the ideological tide without fear of losing his/her position.

    In the case of climate research, a faculty member who questioned the prevailing orthodoxy would do so at risk of his or her position – given what we have gleaned from the CRU e-mails and other sources. Do you think that academic colleagues would go for that person’s job – given what we know about the firewall on publication?

    As with any institution, the ideal and the real can be quite different. Yes, there are some people who just sit around once they get tenure – but it protects people who have the courage to speak out against the worst excesses. And we will always need people like that.

  24. “””””John Coleman (16:54:33) : . . . he was at television station WAAY being interviewed via satellite by me for my second global warming special which will be telecast Thursday evening. . . ””””’

    John C,

    Thanks for some good news! We need it.

    John

  25. So sad.
    I was just wishing this morning that somehow the press could be restrained from publicizing, at least on a national scale, these mass shootings. It’s just so contagious.
    I guess this is our version of the suicide bomber.
    “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
    So sorry for those who lost loved ones.

  26. Guns don’t kill people. Biology kills people.

    What… you’d prefer a joke about measuring college air temperature?

  27. “”””John Egan (17:07:51) : I would think that people at this website would support tenure . . . In the case of climate research, a faculty member who questioned the prevailing orthodoxy would do so at risk of his or her position – given what we have gleaned from the CRU e-mails and other sources. . . . ””””

    John E,

    I recognize that the tenure idea is firmly entrenched in academia. However, in the actual functioning world (industry and business) there is no tenure. It functions freely and voluntarily without it. If someone disagrees with someone and one of them no longer supports the goals of the particular organization then they simply go to a more suitable organization or create their own. It appears to me that on the face of it, tenure could be viewed as a kind of unionizing for academics, that shelters them from a more open culture of the functioning competitive world.

    John

  28. I’m glad Christy and Spencer are fine.

    My condolences and prayers go to the friends and families involved.

    This type of thing has to stop in America.

  29. I would suspect that the shooter’s denial of tenure had been advised privately to her beforehand, and that she had come to the department meeting prepared (carrying a concealed firearm) with premeditation of homicide.

    I can realistically think of no other reason for her to have attended that conference so equipped. Can anyone else?

    This understood, I would observe that a trained biologist should – and apparently did – know precisely where to place her shots for maximum wounding effectiveness and lethality.

    Shows what an Ivy League education can do for you.

  30. Poptech (16:23:26) :

    This is why all university staff members should be allowed to conceal carry. If someone else was armed maybe three people would not be dead. Tragic.

    =================================================

    Poptech,

    I can understand why you say this. But is seems uncivilized, even barbaric, for faculty to have to carry a gun to work. Most people are not emotionally ready to carry a gun with them all the time. Some people will shoot when shooting is not needed. And others will freeze and not act when they need to.

    There has to be a better way.

    But I agree that people should be able to carry a gun if they feel they need to. More importantly society has to change. These shootings have to come to an end in America. And unfortunately I don’t have any idea right now what we can do to stop it.

  31. This is also the Anniversary of the NIU shootings. When my son started there my mate and I suggested that all the faculty be armed. The other parents were aghast. Heh.

    But you know waiting for armed personnel to arrive can mean waiting a lifetime.

    So sad.

  32. It’s always Marcia, Marcia (17:39:03) :

    There is nothing uncivilized about being prepared to defend yourself. I am not saying it should be mandatory just allowed so those who do not wish to be victims can protect themselves.

    The only way the shootings will come to an end is when those who think about doing these things realize that they will be killed if they try something like this. People like this do not prey on those that can defend themselves. Nothing else will stop it.

  33. 300 Million people have ‘very’ infinite personalities coupled with finite personal histories…

    Don’t feel bed America… You didn’t hear about this… http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/03/06/mb-greyhound-killing.html

    Don’t worry, your border executioners do a fine job keeping the filth out of your Country…

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/737536–a-sense-of-insecurity-on-the-border

    Guns are just physics experiments made rugged… The best course, is to endeavor to Resolute Conflicts, even if by force…

    What is tenure?
    http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/gee/

  34. Tragic and senseless. My prayers go out to the victims and their families, and to the UAH community as a whole.

    My husband has a former student who works in Huntsville, and he has visited there several times for the NASA Moonbuggy competition. Oddly enough, the topic of Huntsville came up during dinner tonight, but we were completely unaware of the unfolding tragedy.

    Education, scholarship, research, these are not blood sports. The metaphor is flawed.

    Peace to all.

  35. “””” It’s always Marcia, Marcia (17:30:45) : This type of thing has to stop in America. . . . ””””’

    Marcia Marcia,

    Look deeply into the public education system itself. It is a candidate for being the root cause of “this type of thing”.

    In many cases the public school systems are in poor health. There are those that argue that it is a temporary malady that can be healed. Others point out that there is a fatal flaw inherent to any educational system being public.

    John

  36. What a tragic waste of life.

    I’m sorry but I disagree with Poptech above… The only way these shootings will come to an end is if you ban guns.

    One moment of madness + a gun = people dead
    One moment of madness + no gun = a moment quickly passed

    That is just my opinion, and I know many have a different view. It just seems so blatantly obvious to me that more guns = more shootings.

  37. Lots of people don’t get promoted.Lots don’t even get hired to start with.Most of us have been in those 2 places sometime. Some have been hired and got promoted and received acculades. Thats life. To take the step this person took is not normal. There will never be a good explantion for events like this so I am as perplexed as everyone. Blaming it on guns or what else is no answer-that’s the easy way out. This person was not normal.

  38. There is no excuse or justification for what Amy Bishop has done.

    That said, tenure is not a promise to be employed forever and ever amen. In fact, tenured faculty can be let go under numerous circumstances– closure of a department, gross misconduct, etc.

    What many people fail to understand about the tenure track is that if you do not receive tenure, you are generally fired. Period. You have applied to keep your job, and if your application is denied, you’re done (unless you are able to successfully appeal). You may receive a terminal contract for one more year, but your career at that university is essentially over. No tenure=no job.

    So, this story is not about a woman who failed to get respect or a guaranteed job forever. It is about a woman who was fired and chose to commit murder as a result. That does not make the situation any different or better, but it’s important to get the facts straight. It does make the situation more common– termination results in workplace violence.

    I am also inclined to agree strongly with the commenter who doubted that Dr. Bishop would have learned about this decision during a faculty meeting. Like most terminations, a denial of tenure is a complicated HR process and most likely, the news would be delivered confidentially via registered mail (although conceivably a supervisor or sympathetic colleague might have tipped her off in advance). It’s not the kind of news you would expect to get in front of an audience, and if that’s the UAH way of doing things, they need to rethink it. I agree, too, that she likely already knew about the decision via official or unofficial channels and therefore went armed to this faculty meeting.

    The fact that she shot her colleagues also suggested that she was denied tenure at the department level, which is essentially step 1 of what can be a 5 or 6 step process (level 2 being the chair, etc, etc). This means that she would likely have had little grounds for appeal–and also that either her performance was generally held to be sub-par or that departmental politics played a major role. Departmental politics can get very ugly, and faculty meetings can be very nasty, but this is obviously an insane extreme.

  39. As soon as I saw this on the morning news I felt worried… Certainly hope they are all right.

    My sympathies for the injured and the families of the dead.

  40. Deny tenure? Wow, life is over.

    My sympathy goes to the family and friends of the victims. It’s such a pathetically small sounding statement but very heartfelt.

    Life is shorter than any of us plan and the end is often a surprise.

    Do what you can with it.

    It looks like the decision on tenure was the right one.

  41. Dr. Christy: “We’re OK. Evidently a biology professor essentially shot the entire department at a faculty meeting after learning she was denied tenure.”

    Gun free zone?*

    (Somebody had to ask)

    * Lest anyone think I’m heartless: Heartfelt sympathy for those who lost a friend, loved one, colleague or acquaintance in this tragic event.

    .
    .

  42. Jeff Id writes:

    “It looks like the decision on tenure [for Doctor Bishop] was the right one.

    There’s another thought, though. With three fatalities and some several more severe and potentially permanently disabling woundings, there are now a number of tenure-track openings in the UAH Biology Department.

    It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow good for somebody.


  43. Ross M (18:43:30) :

    That is just my opinion, and I know many have a different view. It just seems so blatantly obvious to me that more guns = more shootings.

    Hasn’t worked that way in Texas; in fact, just the opposite (we are a conceal and carry state thanks to Suzanne Hupp who has a story to tell: “A DAUGHTER’S REGRET – SUZANNA HUPP”)

    Likewise my aged aunt defended herself against an attacker in Muskegon using her late husband’s 357 … he had cut the phone lines, was INTENT on doing her great bodily harm …

    .
    .

  44. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Streleski
    Theodore Streleski was a graduate student in mathematics at Stanford University who murdered his former faculty adviser, professor Karel de Leeuw, with a small sledge hammer on August 18, 1978. Shortly after the murder, Streleski turned himself in to the authorities, claiming he felt the murder was justifiable homicide because de Leeuw had withheld departmental awards from him, demeaned Streleski in front of his peers, and refused his requests for financial support. Streleski was in his 19th year pursuing his doctorate in the mathematics department, alternating with low-paying jobs to support himself.
    During his trial Streleski told the court he felt the murder was “logically and morally correct” and “a political statement” about the department’s treatment of its graduate students, and he forced his court-appointed lawyer to enter a plea of “not guilty” rather than “not guilty by reason of insanity” as the lawyer had urged. Streleski was convicted of second degree murder and he served seven years in prison for his actions.

  45. I wonder if Dr Bishop was taking SSRIs or some combination of pharmaceuticals. These things are often the common denominator in this type of situation.

    it’s a sad and unhappy occurrence for everyone involved.

  46. Dr. G.K. Podila, Dr. Maria Ragland Davis and Dr. Adriel Johnson, all three faculty members at the university, died shortly after the afternoon shooting at the Shelby Center.

    Dr. Joseph Leahy is in critical condition at Huntsville Hospital. Stephanie Monticciolo, a staff assistant and Dr. Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera are now stable, officials said.

  47. @RossM

    More shootings perhaps (though it’s highly debatable) but not more murders. That is the sleight of hand that gun ban advocates tend to use. The overall murder rate has skyrocketed in the UK since they instituted the strictest gun control laws in the western world while in the United States the murder rate has fallen over the same time period. This despite skyrocketing gun ownership rates as well as policy changes such as the expiry of the “assault weapons ban” and wide spread adoption of Concealed Carry and Castle Doctrine legislation. I realize this is a science blog and correlation does not equal causation etc. etc. but it is by no means “blindingly obvious” that restricting gun ownership is beneficial to society. The science ain’t settled.

  48. Ross M (18:43:30) :

    “I’m sorry but I disagree with Poptech above… The only way these shootings will come to an end is if you ban guns.”

    Yes of course people wishing to commit violent acts always obey gun laws! Why do you want to create more victims? It is a myth that gun control reduces crime, you only punish law abiding citizens.

    Myth: Gun Control Reduces Crime (Video) (4min) (ABC News)

    REPLY: OK that’s the end of this thread. I’m not going to have WUWT turn into a gun control argument. I posted this only to notify people who were concerned about Dr.’s Christy and Spencer. – A

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