A student shot and killed three faculty members in the College of Nursing here at the UA yesterday, and then killed himself. The shootings took place on the other side of campus, far from the Social Sciences Building, but the mood there was still one of tension and shock. Campus should be a safe place, not a place where people are afraid of their peers, students, or professors. Throughout the day, I wondered, "could I have disgruntled students?" Others were feeling the same -- both teaching assistants who sometimes give harsh grades, and faculty whose students may have a host of emotional and academic difficulties. According to the UA Daily Wildcat, the killer* expressed a great deal of anger with the professors before he killed them. I've been angry with students, and I'm sure that they have sometimes been angry or upset with me. But I have no idea what drives someone, a student or otherwise, to do this. That's very frightening, that we may not know what someone, whom we see nearly every day, is really capable of.
Add to that the fact that it's easier to buy handguns than get a dental plan, and we've got some problems here.
Kieran Healy has some good discussion of safety and social control on campus.
* The media always says "shooter." I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this term. It's technically true, but it's rather distant from the actual events and their repercussions.