Yesterday afternoon at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, a suspect was detained on a capital murder charge after a shooting that left three dead and three injured: Dr. Amy Bishop. A portrait of her is emerging. Update: Bishop's violent past.
Our J-School Embed, Gawker contributor Hunter Walker, did some digging around, and found the following on Dr. Amy Bishop:
- Bishop's a Harvard-educated biologist who's an assistant professor at UAH. The three dead victims were all working in the Biology department, including the department's chairman. Via the New York Times, Bishop's denial of tenure is what supposedly triggered her violent rampage:
"She began to talk about her problems getting tenure in a very forceful and animated way, saying it was unfair," the associate said, referring to a conversation in which she blamed specific colleagues for her problems. "She seemed to be one of these persons who was just very open with her feelings," he said. "A very smart, intense person who had a variety of opinions on issues."
- Her profile on the university's site shows that she specialized in "Molecular Biology of Oxidative Stress, Neurobiology, Neuroengineering, and Induced Adaptive Resistance." Her most notable achievement in her field was the invention of InQ, a "cell growth incubator," which was assisted by her husband, Jim Anderson. She was profiled by the Huntsville Times in 2006, to whom she boasted that her colleagues think the InQ will "change the face of tissue culture."
- Whether or not it did is far less notable than the fact, that, as the teacher of "Anatomy and Physiology," she wasn't necessarily notable.
- Walker checked out her Rate My Professors profile, and found the following:
RateMyProfessors.com has 34 reviews of Bishop's class dating back to April, 2004. On a scale of one to five, Bishop received ratings of 2.3 for "average easiness," 3.7 for "average helpfulness," 3.4 for "average clarity," and a "hotness total" of 0. Her "overall quality" was a 3.6. None of the postings describe Bishop as the kind of angry or mean person from whom we might have expected some sort of violent outburst. Several of the online reviews of her class say Bishop was "fair," however not all of her students seem to have enjoyed her class. Multiple reviewers described Bishop as "brilliant" a smart teacher, who was eager to help out with extra study sessions, and taught an excellent class. There are also several reviews indicating that she is a "boring" teacher who "reads straight from the book" and "highlight[s] the book word for word."
- Even more, Walker notes that she might have been a "fish out of water" on the UAH campus given her Ivy-League roots and her fairly liberal ideologies. More from her students:
After classes ended last spring, a RateMyProfessors.com user said Bishop "is hot but she tries to hide it.And she is a socalist but she only talks about it after class." In 2008, someone described her on the site by saying: "she's a liberal from ‘Hahvahd' and let's you know exactly how she feels about particular subjects."
- Finally, Walker found that she was a member of the "Clergy Letter Project," which is devoted to connecting scientists with clergy members who "have questions about the science associated with all aspects of evolution."
For what it's worth, Walker also recorded her outgoing voicemail message. Meanwhile, over at Media Elites, Steve Huff found that right-wing groups have already jumped on Bishop and her husband—who has also been detained, but not charged—and are using political views as put on display by Rate My Professors to fuel their rhetoric. Huff notes:
Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, pointed this RateMyProfessors comment out and it was immediately picked up by other historically conservative bloggers. Because you know all the comments on "Rate My Professor" are true and valid reflections of a teacher's personality, style and ability to do their job and not student perceptions and biases, right?
Huff also dug up a complaint to the FTC by Bishop's husband, which ends:
"By the people … for the people …"
"Buy the people … for the Corporations …"
Does a liberal ideology, an Ivy League education, and a husband who writes letters to the FTC make a rage-prone shooter? Not necessarily, but as we've learned, extremities of any kind almost always definitely do. The extent of Bishop's politics, ideas behind them, and the lifestyle to which Bishop and her husband inhibited them have yet to be fully fleshed out, but one thing—as each instance of breaking violence of this stripe happens proves without fail—is for sure: the pictures that can come together from aggregated information is hitting people faster and is colored deeper than each time before it, every time, as are the assumptions and projections they yield.
Update: Whether or not certain political ideologies are factors in determining any remote possibility of Bishop being a violent person probably now look a little different in light of the fact that she fatally shot her brother in 1986. Via the Boston Globe:
Amy Bishop had shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth M. Bishop, an accomplished violinist who had won a number of science awards. John Polio, chief of police at the time, said Amy Bishop, who was 20 at the time, had asked her mother, Judith, in the presence of her brother how to unload a round from the chamber of a 12-gauge shotgun.
Polio told the Globe that while Amy Bishop was handling the weapon, it fired, wounding Seth Bishop in the abdomen. He was pronounced dead at a hospital 46 minutes after the Dec. 6, 1986 shooting. "Every indication at this point in time leads us to believe it was an accidental shooting," Polio said at the time.