UVA student expelled over class paper, guns in car
Also being discussed here, with posts by the student:
College paper has bad ending - Roanoke.com
College paper has bad ending
A UVa-Wise student said he has been expelled, but a college official wouldn't confirm it.
By Mike Allen
A student who turned in an "alarming" creative writing assignment referencing suicide and the Virginia Tech shooter was involuntarily committed, then expelled from the University of Virginia's College at Wise after campus police found loaded guns in his car.
The student, Steven Daniel Barber, 23, of Gate City, said his short story was meant to be taken as fiction exploring a topic relevant to current events.
"I didn't intend to threaten anybody with it," he wrote Friday in an e-mail in which he said he had been expelled from the school. Though he violated a campus firearms policy by having the guns in his car, he owned them legally, he said.
College Vice Chancellor Gary Juhan, who would not confirm the expulsion, said the school took seriously the concerns raised by the content of the student's paper.
"One of the most impossible things to do is predict human behavior," he said.
In Scott County, where Barber lives, Commonwealth's Attorney Marcus McClung petitioned Tuesday to suspend Barber's permit to carry a concealed weapon. Judge Tammy McElyea approved the suspension Wednesday, citing that Barber had been involuntarily committed.
McClung said Friday that based on Barber's story and the report from campus police, the petition appeared justified.
"We just thought it was the safe and prudent thing to do," he said. McClung also said that Barber can appeal the suspension.
Barber said he will appeal his expulsion from the college to the chancellor's office on Monday.
The vice chancellor said the college had procedures in place to handle similar situations long before the shootings at Virginia Tech last April.
"We're not rookies at this," he said.
The matter began in a creative writing class taught by assistant professor Christopher Scalia, Barber said. Barber turned in copies of the story Feb. 28 to Scalia and the other students.
Barber summarized his story as being about "a crazy drug addict who ponders killing a professor, decides not to, then considers suicide ... the character doesn't actually do anything other than think."
The story is written in first person. At one point the narrator describes how news of Sueng-Hui Cho's rampage at Virginia Tech causes him to sleep with a gun under his pillow. The professor who the narrator briefly contemplates killing is named "Mr. Christopher."
According to a report by campus police Sgt. Randy Wyatt, the story alarmed Scalia and the students.
"In the writing, he mentioned suicide, harming others, possessing a gun on campus, and other points that were alarming," Wyatt wrote.
College administrators contacted campus police about the professor's concerns, according to court documents. Scalia declined to comment Friday.
The day after the Barber turned in the paper, Wyatt confronted him.
Wyatt asked Barber about suicidal statements he made in the assignment. The student replied "he was sorry if he had caused any problems, but that it was just fiction and none of it was true."
Barber consented to a search of his person, his book bag and his dorm room, but at first balked at a search of his Chevrolet Cavalier. When Wyatt said he would get a search warrant, Barber relented and said he had three guns in the car.
Police found a loaded .45-caliber automatic pistol, a loaded .22-caliber rifle and an empty 9 mm pistol.
Wyatt took Barber to a mental health clinic in Big Stone Gap, where he was involuntarily committed for three days, according to the document.
The college barred him from the campus until an administrative hearing Thursday. Barber said that's when Juhan expelled him.
Barber acknowledged that he broke school policy by having the guns, but asserted that he had a right to have them under state law.
Rumors circulated around campus all week, he said.
"Some people are saying I had a hit list, or that I was gonna 'blow up the school,' " Barber wrote. "In truth, I had a 3.9 GPA last semester. I am an Iraq war vet with a good conduct medal. I legally had my guns in the car."
The administration at UVa-Wise did not make any public announcements about Barber.
Juhan said college administrators felt they had handled the situation quickly and judiciously, and that the student had violated no state laws.