>I’m completely conflicted about this story. Steven Barber was in a creative writing course at Wise College. He was asked to write a short story. He did, and it was full of talk of suicide and murder, with some Virginia Tech references sprinkled in there. Oh, and the dude who got murdered in his story had a name that was eerily similar to that of the professor. Not very smart, Steven, not very smart at all.
This raised an alarm, and they searched his room and found three guns, he was committed to the psych ward for the weekend, and he was expelled.
Ok, I understand the raising of alarms. I think that’s completely normal. But can we start with sitting him down and having a talk? I can even understand committing him to a psych ward because the name was so similar, and especially after they found the weapons in his room, even though he says he has a permit to carry concealed weapons…but did he need 3? Two of them semiautomatic? Without the guns and the professor’s name similarity, I wouldn’t have even agreed with them about the psych ward.
Where I get weirded out is the part about expulsion from the school. They can say all they want that they’re protecting the rest of the students by kicking him out, but unless they bar him from living in or visiting the city, he could still come back to campus and shoot people. I don’t see how expelling him is helping anybody, and I totally see how it’s hurting freedom of speech. Ever since Virginia Tech, there have been cases where students have said something that was politically unpopular, and they have been treated as a clear and present danger on mental health grounds.
Add to that the fact that there has been this desire to scrutinize everyone’s blogs and facebook pages for signs of people coming unglued. I know the pages are up there for all to see, but the idea of a committee in place whose sole purpose is to be internet Big Brother gives me the creeps.
I know people are trying to learn from Virginia Tech. But spotting trouble isn’t as easy as reading one piece of writing. It has to be over time, and it has to show up in lots of ways, not just in writing. And people have to realize that if enough people get punished for publishing such things, they won’t write things like that anymore, and someone who might have broadcast signs of trouble before just won’t give us any warning. Now,is that any better?
We have to strike a balance somehow, or free speech will be a thing of the past, even more so than it already is.
On the other hand, if he were the teacher, none of this would have happened.