July 23, 2003

One Sure Test of a Security System

is whether someone can get past the guards and the metal detectors with a loaded gun on his person. Unfortunately, this afternoon the security system at NYC's City Hall failed that test, and one City Council member is now dead and another seriously wounded.


This AP story reports that "The shooter was a political opponent of the councilman, and had accompanied him into the building before the shooting, a police source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The gunman's ties to the councilman apparently allowed him to bypass security."

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at July 23, 2003 04:58 PM


Posted by: Rana at July 23, 2003 05:00 PM

I've always wondered why we don't see people going postal at universities. Like other neoliberal workplaces, the exercise of power is very personalised. People know who's screwing them over. For that reason, i'd expect somebody somewhere to try and take out "so and so and his little cabal". Maybe ack!ademics aren't that type, but what about when they're deranged?

Posted by: che at July 23, 2003 11:40 PM

In fact, there have been at least a couple of horrendous incidents where deranged doctoral candidates have gone postal and shot their dissertation directors. If I mistake not, in mathematics and/or the sciences?

But now that you've mentioned it on my weblog, the next thing I know I'll be charged with inciting violence against tenured faculty and administrators.
PLEASE NOTE: The management at invisibleadjunct.com do not endorse violence of any kind.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at July 23, 2003 11:52 PM

There are a number of tales of people going "postal" in academe. The most recent (I believe) was the econ. prof. at McGill who was passed over for promotion and took out a number of faculty for it.

My surprise is that nothing has happened at an MLA conference.

Posted by: Chris at July 24, 2003 10:50 AM

Nasty incident at Harvard few years back, fall 1998 or thereabouts. Chemistry, I believe. It was all over the CHE.

I'm not sure "deranged" is a fair or useful label to use, but that may be my personal bias speaking. I'm quite aware that I have a breaking point, though fortunately for the rest of the world I don't commit violence against others when I've broken.

My sense is that most, if not all, people can break. It's valuable to know who's most prone to breakage, and what happens when people break -- but it also strikes me as worthwhile to take a look at the kinds of situations that break them.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at July 24, 2003 10:59 AM

This reminds me a 1998 essay from _Salon_ called "Going Adjunct":


I remember a few people who were driven to the point of emotional breakdown by the escalating demands of the job "market" in conflict with the need to earn a living. I suspect that after the first couple years a significant percentage of grad students and adjuncts are taking SSRIs just to cope. Of course, academic life is by no means unique in this regard--there is a kind of indirect relevance in tragic events such as this one.

Posted by: William Pannapacker at July 24, 2003 03:33 PM

SSRIs? Try tranqs. The heavy-duty stuff.

Not me, but people I knew, oh yeah... one of the women I took MA exams with I'm dead sure was addicted.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at July 24, 2003 04:09 PM

Anecdotally, as a grad student it was my impression that a significant proportion of grad students, both male and female, along with a not insignificant proportion of female faculty, were on SSRIs. I don't know about the male faculty.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at July 24, 2003 09:18 PM

chris --

As far as I know, the only shootings on Montreal campuses have been at UdM, not Mcgill. Marc Lepine massacred 14 women and injured many more on 6 Dec 1989 because "they were all a bunch of feminists." This was what you'd call a hate crime, no doubt about it.

A few years later, Valery Fabrikant, a mechanical engineering prof, took out 3 or 4 of his colleagues because he was afraid of losing his job. This one seems to fit the "going postal" bill a little more. Oddly enough, from what I've heard, McGill is a far worse place to work than UdM, so McGill was not a bad guess at all.

Definitely agree with Dorothea Salo about the need for talking about the conditions that cause people to lose it.

Posted by: che at July 25, 2003 12:32 PM

oops... Fabrikant was at Concordia.


Posted by: che at July 25, 2003 12:39 PM

Che: Oooh, you're right. I remember now that the case I'm recalling was at Concordia, not McGill. My bad.

(I think it was an Econ. prof. who had been passed over for promotion to full prof)

Posted by: Chris at July 25, 2003 12:40 PM

Oh, you are right: Mechanical Engineering.

Jeez, I knew it had an 'e' in it. :)

Posted by: Chris at July 25, 2003 12:41 PM

The incident I'm thinking of was the Jason Altom suicide. Google is your friend, or try this page:


Posted by: Dorothea Salo at July 26, 2003 05:24 PM