Everything you need to know about violence on college campuses can be learned by binge watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Every episode in which there’s been a sexual assault or murder (or both) on the show’s fictional Hudson University plays as such: the crime occurs and, as Benson or Richard Belzer or whomever, dig into the details, the school throws up resistance. Campus police refuse to discuss the incident, the Dean of Students fights to deal with the matter internally and the school’s counsellors and student aides claim doctor-patient confidentiality. Many subpoenas and crises of conscience later, the perpetrator is busted and Hudson’s reputation is tarnished.
Though the show is salacious and often silly, there is a grain of truth to this. Universities do have a desire to protect their reputation, preferring to arbitrate sexual assaults privately, in mediations wherein lacrosse players and fraternity students are given a slap on the wrist.
There are other crimes, however, that just can’t be covered up, particularly after the media gets ahold of the story. School shootings are unavoidably publicized, questions of mental health care and gun control are once again at the forefront of the political stage (though thanks to powerful lobbies and obstinate misreadings of the Second Amendment, nothing gets done). Sexual assaults bring about discussions of frat culture, as do hazing-related deaths.
The media tends to sensationalize, but there’s no shortage of awful occurrences on campus. Here are just 15 crimes that have left stains on the formative years of millions.
15. Guilford College Hate Crime
Hate crimes on college campuses are not uncommon. Stereotypes dictate that such crimes occur in more close-minded states and schools, however Guilford College stands out as an anomaly. Greensboro, North Carolina may not be the most progressive city in the South, but Guilford served as a haven for displaced liberals.
“I regard Guilford as a kind of sanctuary from the madness of the outside world,” one teacher told The New York Times, explaining that the campus was awash with the kind of dreadlocks, flannel shirts, and highly tolerant views better suited for a city like Portland.
That’s why it was such a shock when, in 2007, three Palestinian students were viciously beaten outside their dorm. Anywhere from five to fifteen football players were said to be responsible. The FBI labelled the incident a hate crime, citing the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim slurs shouted as the students were attacked. It serves as a sad reminder that even the most free-thinking, progressive organizations aren’t immune to barbarism, xenophobia, and politically-charged hatred.
14. Kent State Protest Shooting
The Vietnam War will forever be remembered as one of the most public blunders in American history – replete with war crimes, zippo raids, and a culture of distrust that nearly halved the country. One of the centrepieces of political miscalculation and the culture war that defined the era occurred on the campus of Ohio’s Kent State University. Anyone conscious on Mayday, 1970 will forever have the images of the carnage burned into their minds, as students gathered to protest the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. To quell the 120-some students who were growing more excitable, Governor James Rhodes called upon the Ohio National Guard – one of the few states at the time in which Guards carried live ammunition. Some 60 rounds were fired on the crowd of unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine. While it’s not the largest body count to occur on campus, what the deaths came to represent haunts the country to this day.
13. Montreal Polytechnique Massacre
Montreal is one of the most multicultural, diverse and exciting cities in North America – a cosmopolitan blend of Old Europe, New York, and a splash of Canada. Sadly, it’s also surprisingly prone to school violence – from a massacre at Concordia University in 1992 to shootings at Dawson College in 2006 and the Polytechnique massacre of 1989.
On December 6, after 4 p.m., 25-year-old Marc Lepine entered the Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife. He sat in the office of the registrar, not speaking, until 5:10. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, he shot 28 people, killing 14 women before exclaiming, “Aw $#!%” and turning the gun on himself.
His suicide note explained his motives – which were both political and mysogynistic. He blamed feminists for ruining his life. Authorities found a list of 19 Quebec women he branded feminists and wished to kill.
12. Murder Of Xin Yang
Virginia Tech will forever be remembered as the hunting ground of shooter Seung-Hui Cho, who over the course of a few hours, killed 32 people in April 2007. The nightmares of that day were still fresh in the minds of students when graduate student Haiyang Zhu walked into the Au Bon Pain restaurant with a knife. He stabbed fellow student Xin Yang 12 times, nearly decapitating her. It was later discovered Zhu had been nursing a crush that bordered on obsession with Yang. In a letter entitled “Will” he claimed Yang had broken his heart, and that he could no longer stand the pain. For a school that already suffered the horrific shootings less than two years earlier, this was a tough blow.
11. Jeanne Clery Murder In Her Own Dorm
Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old student at LeHigh University in Pennsylvania, might still be alive today had the Act named after her had already been in effect. Congress passed the Act based on her death, which demands universities release their crime statistics to the public. Had the information been available, Clery and her parents may have been aware that there had been 181 instances of students propping open the auto-locking doors of her dormitory. Clery awoke to find Josoph Henry robbing her. Henry then beat, raped, and murdered her. Henry was executed via electric chair.
10. Richard Speck Broke Into Student Housing
The Richard Speck murders have become the stuff of gruesome notoriety, inspiring a number of films, referenced in shows like Mad Men, and a song from Simon and Garfunkel. Speck had a criminal history since high school, and by 1966 he had wound up in Chicago working odd jobs while applying to get his seamen’s union card. After being passed over several times for a place on a ship, he spent his time day-drinking in various taverns.
On June 13, Speck broke into a townhouse that served as a dormitory for student nurses. Armed only with a knife and drunk and high on drugs, he attacked the eight women living there – either strangling or stabbing them. A ninth woman managed to survive by hiding under a bed and fleeing the scene.
9. Orangeburg Massacre Over Segregation
Kent State may be remembered due to the photographs taken that day, but two years prior, another incident occurred that received less attention but was equally brutal. In South Carolina, students gathered to protest segregation at a bowling alley. Police gathered around the protesters, already on edge. Granted, the students were throwing fire-bombs and other items. A stray piece of wood hit a state trooper. The police fired “riot guns” – supposedly non-lethal weapons – into the crowd. The guns, however, were mistakenly loaded with buckshot. Three students were killed and 28 wounded. Most of the students were shot in the back.
8. Michael Davis Hazing Death
The concept of hazing is meant to promote brotherhood among fraternities – the idea being that if each member goes through the same horrific incident, it forms an unshakable bond. Hazing rituals are highly secretive among members of fraternities, primarily because they mostly involve butt stuff.
There’s no shortage of deaths that occur during hazing rituals. Most of them are due to alcohol poisoning or some horrific accident. Michael Davis’ death in 1994, however, sheds light on just how dangerous and foolish such rituals can be. Davis was pledging Kappa Alpha Psi at Southeast Missouri State when frat brothers began kicking him after he fell to the ground. They then took Davis back to his dorm room, leaving him there to die from his injuries.
7. Cornell Student Stalked And Assaulted For Being Asian
Cornell University is known as one of the major Ivy League schools in North America. Located in upstate New York, the school has generated 46 Nobel Laureates. The last thing any school with such prestige wants or expects are its students brutally attacking one another based on race. That’s hardly behaviour befitting a future Nobel-winner.
While riding his bike around campus, four strangers pulled up alongside an anonymous student. They began shouting racial slurs based on the student’s Asian heritage. The student rode on, ignoring them. Eventually, two of them exited their vehicle and began accosting the young man.
This is one of the more clear cut cases of a hate crime, fueled entirely based on racial hatred. It would be impossible to prove otherwise, given the constant stream of Wahlbergian racial slurs spewed. Nevertheless, the student chose to remain anonymous, which displays the kind of fear a hate crime can incite inside a victim.
6. Cal State Fullerton Shooting
School shootings are often perpetrated by disgruntled students, feeling dejected or unable to handle the stress of academia. However, the shooting at Cal State in 1976 was a custodian. Edward Charles Allaway was said to have been suffering hallucinations. He had a history of mental illness and after the incident was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Not long after learning his wife filed for divorce, Allaway bought a .22-caliber rifle from a local K-Mart and walked into the Cal State library.
When he walked out, seven people were dead and two others wounded. He then went to the hotel where his wife worked and called the police. “I went berserk at Cal State Fullerton,” he told authorities. “I’d appreciate it if you people would come down and pick me up. I’m unarmed and I’m giving myself up to you.”
According to Allaway, he believed a ring of pornographers were forcing his wife to appear in movies. Allegedly, library staff used to run pornographic films after hours, though Allaway’s wife was not in them.
5. Gay Swarthmore Teen Beaten
College campuses are meant to be places that breed radical thought, new experiences, and perhaps even meaningful romantic entanglements. For one anonymous Swarthmore student in Pennsylvania, the latter occurred. After exchanging affections with his male partner on the campus’ Mertz Field, the student and his friend were attacked by students who witnessed the encounter. It’s not a terribly unfamiliar scenario. In and of itself, it doesn’t stand out among other hate crimes.
What does make it unique is the way the community handled it, which exemplifies SVU territory. Dean Liz Braun believed homophobia was the cause, but that “there were a number of factors involved.” The police obfuscated the matter, claiming that it may have been a matter of the students refusing to buy their underage assailants booze. If it was homophobia, police said, it “would be out of character for this community.”
Thus, like so many other hate crimes occurring across campuses, the vague motivations for the crime prevent campuses from further promoting tolerance. Rather, communities prefer to wash their hands of it.
4. Marissa Pagli Strangling
It’s been said that parents have a preternatural impetus to protect their offspring. Except for all those who don’t. The latter would certainly apply to 18-year-old Marissa Pagli. Pagli was a student at Manhattanville College in Westchester County, New York. And, according to her mother, Stacy, was “disrespectful all the time.” Stacey strangled her daughter in her on-campus apartment, then tried to kill herself by opening up a wrist and tried to hang herself on a doorknob.
The incident arose from an argument, during which Stacey said, “That’s the last time you talk to me this way.” She was charged with second degree manslaughter after experts concluded she was under extreme emotional distress.
3. University Of Texas Massacre
The Tower shootings at the University of Texas is one of the most well-known shootings pre-Columbine in American history. By all accounts, Charles Whitman was an extremely intelligent 25-year-old. An Eagle Scout, he joined the marines out of high school and excelled at sharp shooting. During his service, he earned three medals – one for shooting, one for good conduct, and a Marine Corps Expedition medal.
He enrolled at Austin’s University of Texas in 1961 on a Naval scholarship, but soon suffered from bad grades, exacerbated by a gambling problem. Though never confirmed, a small brain tumour may have been in part responsible for his increasingly impulsive and violent tendencies.
Early that fateful April 1, Whitman killed his wife and her mother before heading to the UT tower and began picking off anyone in his sights. In the end, fifteen people lay dead and 31 injured. Whitman was shot by officers who climbed the tower.
2. Virginia Tech Massacre
Though we’ve mentioned this in a previous entry, the mayhem and terror of that day deserves a little more discussion. Seung-Hui Cho was a senior at Virginia Tech. In his high school years, he had been diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. He had undergone therapy and special education support.
At around seven in the morning, Cho entered West Ambler Johnston Hall – a co-ed dormitory – and opened fire. Cho left the scene and went back to his dormitory, leaving first responders and police dumbfounded. He changed out of his blood-stained clothes and walked to a mailbox two hours later, where he dropped videotapes and letters addressed to NBC news. Then he returned, this time to Norris Hall, placing a note on the door claiming that a bomb would go off if anyone tried to enter.
In the end, Cho shot himself in the left temple. His manifesto likened himself to Jesus, claiming that he had been backed into a corner. Those who have seen excerpts shown on the news see the ramblings of a madman, sometimes coherent but then tangential before devolving into nonsensical ramblings.
1. Northern Illinois University Shooting
Steven Kazmierczak was fascinated by Cho and the Columbine shootings – almost to an obsessive extent. However, his girlfriend and best friend never could have expected just how far he’d take it. On February 14, 2008, they learned. Driven forth by mental illness, a cocktail of Xanax, Ambien, and Prozac and other, frightening motives that perhaps we’ll never understand, Steven entered Cole Hall on NIU campus and opened fire, killing five people and wounding 21 before turning the gun on himself.
One campus massacre led to another, just as one hate crime could inspire more hate; one man who believes he’s entitled to a woman’s body despite objections could convince another he is, too. Violence begets violence, whether motives be political, maniacal, resentful, or vengeful. It happens even on the hallowed grounds where beliefs are meant to flourish, not be met with senseless destruction.