No Right To Remain Silent
The Tragedy At Virginia Tech
On Sale: March 24, 2009
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The world watched in horror in April 2007 when Virginia Tech
student Seung-Hui Cho went on a killing rampage that
resulted in the deaths of thirty-two students and faculty
members before he ended his own life.
Virginia Tech English department chair and distinguished
professor Lucinda Roy saw the tragedy unfold on the TV
screen in her home and had a terrible realization. Cho was
the student she had struggled to get to knowâ€“the loner who
found speech torturous. After he had been formally asked to
leave a poetry class in which he had shared incendiary work
that seemed directed at his classmates and teacher, Roy
began the difficult task of working one-on-one with him in a
poetry tutorial. During those months, a year and a half
before the massacre, Roy came to realize that Cho was more
than just a disgruntled young adult experimenting with
poetic license; he was, in her opinion, seriously depressed
and in urgent need of intervention.
But when Roy
approached campus counseling as well as others in the
university about Cho, she was repeatedly told that they
could not intervene unless a student sought counseling
voluntarily. Eventually, Royâ€™s efforts to persuade Cho to
seek help worked. Unbelievably, on the three occasions he
contacted the counseling center staff, he did not receive a
comprehensive evaluation by themâ€“a startling discovery Roy
learned about after Choâ€™s death. More revelations were to
follow. After responding to questions from the media and
handing over information to law enforcement as instructed by
Virginia Tech, Roy was shunned by the administration. Papers
documenting Choâ€™s interactions with campus counseling were
lost. The university was suddenly on the defensive.
Was the university, in fact, partially responsible
for the tragedy because of the bureaucratic red tape
involved in obtaining assistance for students with mental
illness, or was it just, like many colleges, woefully
underfunded and therefore underequipped to respond to such
cases? Who was Seung-Hui Cho? Was he fully protected under
the constitutional right to freedom of speech, or did his
writing and behavior present serious potential threats that
should have resulted in immediate intervention? How can we
balance studentsâ€™ individual freedom with the need to
protect the community? These are the questions that have
haunted Roy since that terrible day.
No Right to
Remain Silent is one teacherâ€™s cri de coeurâ€“her dire
warning that given the same situation today, two years
later, the ending would be no less terrifying and no less
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