No Right to Remain Silent: What We've Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech (Paperback)
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.
About 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.
Praise for No Right to Remain Silent: What We've Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech…
"NO RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT exposes gaping flaws in the system for dealing with dangerously troubled students....Lucinda Roy is frustrated. She has reason to be....[she] conveys the anguish of being caught up in one of these tragedies."
–The Washington Post
“NO RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT is a fine work. Roy is a good writer and a good person.”
“An important contribution to the literature of grieving. I am certain other books will be published exploring the many complex issues that pertain to the Cho incident, but none is likely to have the personal and intense connection to the killer as does this one….A touchstone for subsequent treatements of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.”
"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....Calm analysis only highlights the urgency of Roy's warning that fundamental problems in American culture need to be addressed lest similar tragedies recur."
"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....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."