SSRN’s LSN Legal Educator e-mail notice from today included an abstract for a new article by Carol Parker of U. of Tennessee-Knoxville College of Law, nursing professor Sandra Thomas (also of UTK), and Dr. Helen Smith of violentkids.com. This article is “Anger and Violence on Campus: Recommendations for Legal Educators.” It describes predictors of violent behavior in students and urges university administrations to enact violence prevention strategies. It touches on the almost-taboo topic of junior faculty members who have to choose whether they will press administration to take measures to keep professors safe or whether they will keep quiet so they don’t get labeled as a trouble-maker and hurt their chances of promotion. Choosing between livelihood and life is probably not a choice any of us thought we’d have to make.
I read the article this morning and, as I’ve reflected on it, I realized that every female law professor I know relatively well — except for one — has had a frightening experience with an unstable student. About half of the instances I’ve heard about involved administrations who seemed to have little, if any, knowledge of how to handle potentially volatile situations. This leaves law professors to their own devices in handling a situation that requires far more psychological expertise than most of us have, adding isolation to an already dicey situation. Sites like “AutoAdmit” only add to the concern: is the student with inappropriate boundaries the same one who discusses a gun fetish online?
Kudos to Professors Parker and Thomas and Dr. Smith for writing the article. I hope it stimulates conversation on law school faculties about how to meaningfully intervene before students in crisis take irrevocable action.