Lucinda Roy of Virginia Tech

This will be my only post about the Virginia Tech massacre, because it is such an unspeakable atrocity.

Poet and novelist Lucinda Roy, as the chair of the creative writing program at Virginia Tech, evidently removed Cho Seung-Hui from a colleague's creative writing class for his distressingly violent and inappropriate stories he was writing; this was a year and a half before the shooting. She duly reported the incident to police and to the university's counseling service, but little could be done because there were no concrete or direct threats. As it is, students volunteer for counseling (as it should be), and so there was no institutional alternative available in dealing with this student.

Roy, rather than expose students to this venom and to take the weight off her colleague's shoulders, instructed Cho in one-on-one tutorials for the remainder of the semester. What an awful situation for her, and it's clear she was trying to do all she could. I know, too, that student services are often caught in these kind of impossible situations, where they cannot expel a student and cannot force him or her into counseling. That an administrator tried to go the extra mile with this very disturbed man, encouraging him to seek counseling, encouraging him to find another voice, and telling him what is and isn't proper self-expression, essentially not giving up on him, is both frightening and admirable.

On a few occasions, very few, I've had to guide a student to seek counseling--always for revealing signs of depression. By the way, this has happened only in my composition courses, where students do have opportunities for journaling and free writing. In creative writing classes, typically, students often adopt "poetic" voices and follow scripts (from emo, to beat, to goth, to urban, to thug, to whatever), and so even when they are writing something "personal," it's filtered through this posing. Anyway, I've never received work as vile as what Cho apparently wrote.

Back to Roy, no doubt she is spending time with her family, students, and close friends and colleagues, and I'm hoping she is finding comfort, having done the right thing--it's impossible if the heart and mind you're trying to open, to let breathe, is mangled, ossified. I am wishing Lucinda Roy peace tonight.


January said…
There are so many victims in the tragedy. I, too, feel for Roy. What a tough position for an administrator to be in.

As a result, my college is examining its procedures and policies. But it’s just too bad that nothing could be done for this troubled student, or to protect those who were in the line of fire.