HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Students say they complained to administrators about an Alabama professor accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others in a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting.
The students upset with biology professor Amy Bishop told The Associated Press they went to University of Alabama in Huntsville administrators at least three times, complaining she was ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways. [emphasis added]
A petition signed by dozens of students was sent to the department head. But students said the complaints made a year ago didn't result in any changes in the classroom.
Bishop was denied tenure last year and was in her final semester when she was accused of shooting her colleagues to death Friday.
Ring any bells? Didn't a bunch of people in the Army raise flags about Nidal Hasan? Didn't coworkers basically say he was ineffective and had odd, unsettling ways? Didn't the people in charge blow off those alarms because they were afraid of being "politically incorrect?"
Everything that has come out in the news makes it seem like Bishop was using Huntsville as a place to hide. Lots of people are saying the administration of UAH should have known Bishop's history before they hired her. I disagree. Lots of people have come to Huntsville to escape the weather and the rat race of the Northeast; Bishop wouldn't have been the first. And, since Bishop managed to escape even being charged for most of her crimes, no reasonable records check would have revealed them. Still, someone should have started digging before this happened.
The article says "dozens of students" approached UAH administrators "at least three times." This wasn't just a few disgruntled kids who flunked a badly written exam. When I was at Purdue, we had a physics professor who just could not teach. The guy didn't have any "odd, unsettling ways." He was probably a genius. He just couldn't teach. A bunch of us were flunking his class, and we petitioned the department. He was replaced within days. It's not like these students at UAH were asking for anything out of the ordinary - just someone who could teach. Being good in your field doesn't mean you can teach.
As one news commenter posted, what was a Harvard-educated scientist doing at UAH, anyway? The poster didn't mean that as an insult, and I'm not trying to twist it into one. But, you have to wonder - if Bishop was everything she obviously thought herself to be - why she wasn't hired by a much more prestigious institution. Sure, Huntsville is arguably still a nice place to live, but a PhD from Harvard doesn't usually end up at a relatively unknown regional campus like UAH - unless her career elsewhere is over for some reason.
Look, we all have our quirks. Lots of brilliant folks are known to be downright flaky. But, they're still effective at whatever it is they do. When flakiness and ineffectiveness collide, it's probably time to dig a little deeper. I'm not suggesting that we start spying on the weird dude in the next cubicle because he wears sandals with socks. But, if he's not getting any work done, it might be time to notify higher authority. If they don't act, it might be a good idea to start working from home - with or without your supervisor's approval.
On a final note, it seems to me that the people who blew off alarm bells about Nidal Hasan and Amy Bishop are the same sorts of "authorities" who have told us not to spank our kids. . . So, when her childhood history comes out, are we going to hear that Amy Bishop was abused? Or, that she never learned the meaning of the word "discipline?" (Or the word "no," for that matter.)