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Ear to the Ground

Disgruntled Professor’s Murderous Past

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Posted on Feb 14, 2010
AP / Huntsville Police Dept.

Amy Bishop, shown here in her booking photo, was charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of three of her colleagues at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Adding to the sensationalism, reports are showing that accusations of lethal violence against Harvard-educated biology professor Amy Bishop, arrested Friday in the killing of three at the University of Alabama, are not new. In 1986, according to The New York Times, Bishop shot her brother to death, putting an additional twist on the Alabama carnage.

Bishop is accused of killing three of her colleagues and wounding several others at a faculty meeting Friday, a shooting that many believe was spurred by the fact that Bishop had been denied tenure at the University of Alabama. The tenure process in academia is notoriously cutthroat. Average Ph.D.s take five to seven years to acquire the degree, after which universities hire tenure-track candidates for a probationary period, during which professors are expected to publish and get research grants—especially in the natural sciences. —JCL

The New York Times:

The neurobiologist accused of killing three colleagues at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, on Friday fatally shot her brother in 1986 in suburban Boston, and the police there are now questioning whether their department mishandled that case when it let her go without filing charges.

Early Saturday, the police in Huntsville charged the neurobiologist, Amy Bishop, who they said was 45, with capital murder in the shootings Friday that also left three people wounded during a faculty meeting. Dr. Bishop, who appeared to have had a promising future in the biotechnology business, had recently been told she would not be granted tenure, university officials said.

On Saturday afternoon, the police in Braintree, Mass., announced that 24 years ago, Dr. Bishop had fatally wounded her brother, Seth Bishop, in an argument at their home, which The Boston Globe first reported on its Web site. The police were considering reopening the case, in which she was not charged and the report by the officer on duty at the time was no longer available, said Paul Frazier, the Braintree police chief.

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By Jim Yell, February 15, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is little of value in Christianity, or indeed any religion. Each has great chasms between belief and practice and the bad behavior is masked by the ritual.

But, saying that I have to recognize that most religions in certain areas have some good ideas. It is probably ironic that one of the best of ideas is redemption and yet the belief in redemption played a part in this tragedy.

This unbalanced woman apparently was able to mask her fury for great lengths of time. She had accomplished goals that many of us never do, in one aspect of her life she was an upright, responsible person, invested in a socially productive life.

There will be a hurry to make more restrictions to redemption, leaving many people who have displayed character flaws in a limbo from which any amount of constructive self control will not be enough to cleanse one episode of failed self-control. The temptation to anticipate a persons furture behavior will create more episodes of failed lives than it will protect. We are too quick to make one failure un-redeemable, one failure to make a villian. Is there an answer?

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By Night-Gaunt, February 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

No, that even with such intelligence and education there are other more powerful factors that dominate human behavior and activities.

Without tenure in this economic depression is an awful situation for anyone to endure. Not everyone reacts the same way. Probably other extenuating circumstances we aren’t aware of.

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By bmeisen, February 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

Is JCL suggesting that we chalk this bloodbath up to the tenure-granting process?

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By rodney, February 14, 2010 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just goes to show you. You can get away with murder

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