If reports out of Alabama are accurate, the professor accused of killing three of her colleagues had been denied tenure, and this is being cited as a motive. It was also reportedly Valery Fabrikant's motive for an almost identical crime at Concordia University in 1992. Katherine van Wormer sympathizes:
As one who was denied tenure at a previous university, I would describe the denial of tenure as an end to one's career, to one's livelihood, sense of personal disgrace, loss of home, friendships, and community. Especially if your academic performance has been noteworthy, being denied tenure, in effect, fired by your peers is the ultimate rejection of the person. Uniquely, in academia the fired professor stays on for a "terminal" year, attending faculty meetings with the same people that have struck these final blows. If there are appeal processes going on as was true in my, like Bishop's case, relationships are extremely adversarial.
Another fact about the tenure process is that it comes after five years of apparently successful reviews of one's work. Personal investment in the job and friendships that have developed, therefore, are quite strong. Also consider the fact that academics are usually highly specialized and only qualified for university teaching and research. Because of the stigma of being terminated from an academic job, faculty who do not anticipate receiving tenure typically leave after several years. At this time, they can still get good references and leave without hard feelings. Those who expect to get tenure as I did must endure a grueling process that includes submitting lengthy documents including student evaluations, proof of university service, and research accomplishments. Then behind closed doors, one's tenured colleagues, who often have less qualifications themselves as they were tenured when standards were lower, decide whether or not to accept the candidate to membership.
Although a pacifist, when I heard the news of the shootings, I instinctively grasped the pain that had driven this apparently violence-prone woman to take her revenge. I could imagine how she felt sitting in meetings as her colleagues drew up plans for future teaching assignments. A recent interview with one of the victims confirms that the discussion leading up to the shootings indeed concerned departmental plans for the next year. I can well identify with the rage and sense of rejection that would consume someone whose future was so methodically taken away. In my case, I took my anger out by doing everything I was advised not to do: filing formal complaints, organizing students, and going to the press. Finally, when every avenue was closed, I returned to graduate school and started over in a related discipline.
From Psychology Today.