Revisiting the Past: Some Thoughts on the UNCC Shooting

Today is April 27, 2020. April 30 will mark one year since a gunman walked into my LBST 2213 class on the last day of the semester. I’ve written about the experience and ideas and insights in the subsequent months and was featured in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. This last year has been challenging in many ways. I started a PhD in anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio and so also moved halfway across the country. There’s also the whole pandemic issue. I continue to persist.

However, as I approach April 30 I feel I must reflect on one particular thing. For a little context, I completed my MA in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) in May 2017 and was employed as a faculty member from January 2017 until December of 2019 when my contract was not renewed due to what I was told was a budget crisis for part-time instructors (I was willing to continue to teach online courses from Texas as I did in the fall semester of 2019). While this was disappointing news, I persisted. I joined the teaching faculty at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio to teach their Physical Anthropology course.

Now we’re caught up (kind of) and UNCC is hosting (what is now) a digital remembrance service for the slain and injured students. I won’t pretend to be able to speak to the kind of trauma they and their families feel or how they feel about the service. However, since the video package advertising the event continues to pop up on my social media, I feel the need to share some of my thoughts on this.

First, the clips chosen for the video package includes some students during the incident, ambulances, and the scene, including some of students that were in the classroom and even at the tables that were targeted. This seems like a performance from the university with little regard to the trauma that reliving the incident through the footage causes. The university seems to be using this as a form of publicity.

Second, despite the fact that I was almost murder while in the employ of the university, I have not heard a peep from them apart from a half-hearted invitation to the remembrance service. The university even offered to waive the $25 entrance fee for me (how kind!). Evidently no one knew that I no longer lived in Charlotte. I am surely not in a position (at least when the event was still being held) to travel on my own dime to a service where a bunch of university administrators pat themselves on the back and talk about how resilient we all are.

The shooting was one kind of trauma. The feeling of abandonment that I feel from being completely forgotten and ignored by the university is something else altogether. Does this keep me up at night? Sometimes. Am I hurt? Very. But I persist.

This isn’t to say that everyone has abandoned me. I regularly talk to Jon Marks, my graduate advisor and confidant. Apart from my family, Jon and Peta Katz sustained me through this endeavor and continue to. Before the shooting, they were some of the most important influences in my life and I know that I can always rely on them. For that I am truly thankful.

This last year has taught me a lot. It’s taught me that I am expendable, even in extenuating circumstances. But has also taught me that I have the ability to persist and I do so with a huge network of support.

UPDATE 2021: I’ve been taken off the faculty website despite still teaching a course or two a year. I’m not even included as past graduate students despite earning my MA in the department.

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