No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech

No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech

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by Lucinda Roy
     
 

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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.

Former Virginia Tech English department chair and distinguished professor Lucinda Roy saw the tragedy unfold on the TV screen in her home and had a…  See more details below

Overview

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.

Former 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 know–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, Roy’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 them–a startling discovery Roy learned about after Cho’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 Cho’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 students’ 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 teacher’s cri de coeur–her dire warning that given the same situation today, two years later, the ending would be no less terrifying and no less tragic.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Dave Cullen
Roy conveys the anguish of being caught up in one of these tragedies, and that is the chief contribution of her book.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In the fall of 2005, Roy, then chair of Virginia Tech's English department, began a year of one-on-one work with a student whose professor found his affect and work content disturbing. No one knew just how disturbed he was, however, until he opened fire on faculty and students in April 2007, committing the "largest mass murder by a single shooter" in American history. Roy's book takes an unflinching look at Seung-Hui Cho, the day's horrific events, and the University's role in warning students and recovering afterward. Despite personal risk (her book will probably "oblige me to move on" from a home she loves), Roy is driven by a responsibility to tear down the Tech administration's "wall of silence." The book raises important issues regarding the limits of privacy, where a family's duties end and a school's begin, and how likely it is that more rigorous attention could lead to unnecessary suspensions and expulsions. Roy's book makes a difficult read not just because of the subject matter but also because, two years later, much seems unresolved; that Roy needs to expose petty academic politics (at an institution for which she has obvious affection) in order to make the case for more conscientious student care is dismaying.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A Virginia Tech faculty member somberly narrates her fruitless attempts to secure counseling for Seung-Hui Cho and examines the implications of his subsequent rampage. Poet-novelist Roy (The Hotel Alleluia, 2001, etc.) first met Cho in a poetry class in the spring of 2004. A year and a half later, his bizarre writing samples, harangues against other students and harassment of co-eds so alarmed poet Nikki Giovanni that she requested his removal from her class. Roy, at that time the chair of the school's English Department, met Cho for independent study through the rest of the semester. Written in the present tense and filled with a poet's mastery of tactile details, her description of these sessions is riveting, balancing sympathy for an anguished soul with horror over his presence. Wearing reflective sunglasses and a baseball cap as if for camouflage, waiting an agonizingly long time to speak, Cho drained energy from the room. Despite her e-mails alerting several Virginia Tech departments to his fragile mental state, and Cho's attempts to contact the school's counseling service, the student fell through the cracks. Roy was bewildered by the reaction of Virginia Tech's administration to the massacre on April 16, 2007, which killed 32 and wounded 26. Overly strict adherence to student privacy laws, she stresses, hindered its response to both the threat posed by Cho and to the commission formed by the governor to investigate the crime. The author also carefully weighs the larger ramifications of the killings. Sorting through recommendations made after the calamity, Roy finds some helpful-for example, the suggestion that threat-assessment teams should be allowed to call high schools to tracetroubled students' histories-and others wanting. Gun prohibitions would not work, she argues, because weapons are ubiquitous. Federal and state budget cuts, the author warns, may further limit the attention school administrations can devote to student well-being. Calm analysis only highlights the urgency of Roy's warning that fundamental problems in American culture need to be addressed lest similar tragedies recur. Agent: Jean V. Naggar/Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307451705
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
03/31/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,242,578
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

LUCINDA ROY is an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1985. Author of the novels Lady Moses and The Hotel Alleluia and two poetry collections, she is the recipient of numerous writing and teaching awards, including a statewide Outstanding Faculty Award in 2005. From 2002—2006, she served as chair of Virginia Tech’s Department of English.


From the Hardcover edition.

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No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book to my husband on a drive across country. I thought this book was a story about the Virginia Tech shootings, but as I read it to my husband we realized it was a book about the author.  Fewer I's and more story would have been much better. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"No Right to Remain Silent" It is seldom that a writer of serious fiction transfers those skills to a serious incident in real life. "In Cold Blood" might be an example. Lucinda Roy's "No Right to Remain Silent" explores the academic, bureaucratic, causal and deterministic matters surrounding the "Cho" massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. It is written from her own personal contacts with Cho and her experiences with the principal player and the society in which he lived and died. Given the recent (July 2009) amazing discovery of Cho's records from his triage interviews with the University's Counseling Center, her book reveals the anatomy of a moment surrounded by "nacht und nebel". Her book blows away the dark and mist. It is written with the courage and insight that the French writer, Zola, had in his famous series, "J'accuse". "Emile Zola, a French writer, risked his career in 1898, when his "J'accuse" was published on the front page of the Paris daily, L'Aurore. The newspaper was run by Georges Clemenceau, who decided that the controversial story would be in the form of an open letter to the President. (Clemenceau became Prime Minister in 1917) Zola's "J'accuse" accused the highest bureaucratic levels of obstruction of justice regarding the controversial handling of a situation. As Zola was a leading French thinker, his letter formed a major turning-point in the affair. Zola was brought to trial for criminal libel in 1898, and was convicted, sentenced, and removed from the Legion of Honor. Zola fled to England. He was allowed to return in time to see the government's fall when public sentiment forced a change in the bureacratic cover-up." (adapted from Wikipedia)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I appreciate that the author was put in an awkward position dealing with her knowledge of the killer, and an uncooperative administration, but I'm not interested in reading about it. The book was more about her and the confusion she seemed to suffer over the administration's response to the tragedy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago