A scary guy

More than a year before the Virginia Tech massacre, Cho Seung-Hui scared classmates and instructors. Professor Lucinda Roy, who teaches creative writing, was so afraid Cho would erupt she made up a code word to alert her assistant to call the police. This Is London reports:

One teacher even suggested today he was given A grades because he was so “intimidating and staff wanted to keep him happy.”

Nikki Giovanni, who teaches poetry, said she threatened to resign if Cho was not taken out of her class. She said: “I think he liked the idea he was a scary guy. Some people like that. That is how they define themselves. Kids write about murder and suicide all the time. But there was something that made us all pay attention closely.

“Students absolutely would not come into class. They said, ‘He is taking photographs of us. We don’t know what he is doing. It is very strange’.”

. . . “There was something mean about this boy. I’ve taught troubled youngsters, I’ve taught crazy people. It was the meanness that bothered me. It was a real mean streak.”

After female students complained of harassment and his parents worried he was suicidal, Cho was evaluated at a mental health facility in December, 2005. It’s not known how long he was there.

This goes back to Margaret Soltan’s question about what a university can do if a student shows symptoms of mental illness. In an earlier post, she wrote about a student who sued George Washington University for suspending him till he was treated for depression.

After Columbine, many more K-12 students are being suspended if they show signs of being angry or “troubled.” I’d hate to see that sort of zero tolerance spread to college campuses. But it’s worth asking whether Virginia Tech should have suspended Cho for harassment and required him to show proof he was capable of behaving properly before being allowed back on campus.

Update: After he killed two students in a dorm and before he killed another 30 people at Norris Hall, Cho sent NBC News a “multi-media manifesto” about his grievances. The network turned the written message, photos and video over to the FBI.

Update: In the package mailed to NBC, Cho called the Columbine killers “martyrs” and compared himself to Jesus Christ.

Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.

Was Cho schizophrenic? A shrink thinks so.

About Joanne


  1. Would suspending him or insisting on mental health care have provoked a similar violent response? There is no zero risk solution in this situation. All we know is doing nothing did not work.

  2. But it’s worth asking whether Virginia Tech should have suspended Cho for harassment

    I’m betting briefs are being filed as we speak. Only really question now is how many years of lawsuits will VT be facing.

  3. BadaBing says:

    Kudos to Nikki Giovanni for calling evil evil.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Now we know the price of a prime time commercial – 32 dead students.

  5. One thing that folks have said on other blogs concerning a hyothetical suspension: what good would it have done, really? Like other “fired” people, all he would need to do would be to walk back to his old stompin’ grounds, fully armed. Nothing would have stopped him–outcome the same in both scenarios.

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    Starting in the 1960s, we as a society somehow decided that we would not, for the most part, routinely lock away our crazies in asylums. And once again, as at Columbine, CO and Stockton, CA, and a few other places, we have paid a price for that warm and fuzzy liberal notion.

    And so it goes…

  7. Bill Leonard, is there evidence to suggest that the Columbine HS killers would have been institutionalized in a previous era?

  8. Bill Leonard says:

    There was perhaps not clinical evidence in the matter of the Columbine killers. But there was a fairly extensive (over two or three years) history of strange and erratic behavior. How the parents of the kids somehow missed both a bedroom and a garage full of firearms, ammunition and explosives also is beyond me, but that’s another matter.


  1. […] release” to NBC, the news of entering a mental institution, and stories of how teachers and students were very uncomfortable around him talk of Cho Seung-Hui being crazy will only multiply. I’ve watched the video clips enough to […]

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