On April 16, 2007, the calculated and deadly rampage of a lone student shocked and outraged students, parents, and faculty across the nation. A senior, Seung Hui Cho, shot a total of 50 students and faculty, killing 32, before killing himself. Cho's actions stemmed from years of pent-up frustration with his peers and professors (Davies, 2008). This senseless act of violence also unleashed a myriad of questions and accusations leveled at school administrators and faculty. Indeed, Lake (2007) maintains that the Virginia Tech shootings "will change higher-education law significantly and permanently, much as the shootings at Kent State did nearly 40 years ago" (p.B6).
The public and official debate that ensued following the tragic Virginia Tech murders surfaced a number of issues concerning higher education's legal liabilities and its limitations. The role and responsibilities of the faculty and administrators is of particular concern as it was revealed that there were many warning signs leading up to this tragic event.
Some professors sought administrative protection and action while others merely refused to deal further with Cho. In hindsight, there was even more evidence of Cho's psychopathology but privacy considerations and a fragmentary communication system prevented effective coordination of this information (Davies, 2008).
With the Virginia Tech tragedy still a raw and resonating memory, consider that student-faculty discourse continues across the nation's campuses while experts restructure both individual and institutional responsibilities. Consider, also, that this dynamic student-faculty relationship is a fundamental element of the learning experience. Against the backdrop of Virginia Tech, Lake (2007) warns that both students and faculty are active players in this process and both assume certain responsibilities for their actions. The following case demonstrates the legal repercussions of decisions made and actions taken by faculty and administrators when faced with the potential of student violence. While this...