Thursday, May 22, 2008


It pays to be bland.

Exhibit A: Steven Barber, former student at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. He turned in a short story for a creative-writing class. His instructor freaked out at the story's violent tone. Barber, 23, was forced into a psych bin, then expelled.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
"It had to be acted on immediately," says Christopher Scalia, the instructor. He alerted administrators, who reacted swiftly, searching Mr. Barber's dorm room and car. Upon discovering three guns, they had him committed to a psychiatric institution for a weekend. Then they expelled him.

Yet the psychiatrists who evaluated Mr. Barber during his hospitalization determined he was no threat to himself or others. Mr. Barber says the guns were for protection from threats such as school shootings. He maintains that his story, titled "Sh---y First Drafts," was merely a fictional attempt to address school shootings such as the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 dead, including the gunman. The story "was supposed to show how disturbed people are who do that," Mr. Barber says. ...

The problem for Mr. Scalia, the instructor, was the story's references to the class and its assignments and to the murder of a professor called Mr. Christopher, a name identical to his own first name. Mr. Barber, a Navy veteran who served in the Iraq war, wrote of stockpiling alcohol and drugs for a binge and sleeping with the "cold and heavy steel" of a gun under his pillow. "I knew I had a choice," he wrote. "Murder or suicide. Either way, death was imminent."
Scalia is the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He believes Barber's story was about him.

Barber gave the school enough ammo to shoot him. He was already on school probation for booze and for possession a nightstick-like weapon. He also had a 3.9 GPA and was on the dean's list. He says he'd write about "butterflies and rainbows" if he had a second chance at Wise.

The WSJ hed: Schools Struggle With Dark Writings. The real struggle seems to be with common sense.

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