Jon Sanders

In short, what Scheffler wrote was no preamble to a blood-lusty explosion of violence. At worst it was crude criticism of the university administration combined with a stark assessment of the true risk of a concealed-carry society like Virginia Tech's: total defenselessness against a Columbine-inspired mass murderer. Regardless, it should have been protected by the university's stated policy guaranteeing free expression.

Nevertheless, on April 23 Scheffler received a hand-delivered letter from Dean of Students Alan Sickbert that informed him his e-mails were "deemed to be threatening and thus an alleged violation of the Hamline University Judicial Code" and that he was placed on "interim suspension" to be lifted only after he agreed to a psychological evaluation by a licensed mental health professional.

Scheffler contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, whose service in the cause of liberty in opposition to the petty tyrants populating American academe is invaluable. The history of the case, including the offending e-mails, are viewable on the FIRE's web site (www.thefire.org). Hamline officials say they moved to suspend after Scheffler failed to meet with university officials over his e-mails (he was given less than one full business day to do so) and that he is also the subject of "critical input from various members of the Hamline community" (which was news to Scheffler, nor has he been told of their identities nor given a chance to defend himself against their allegations, whatever they are – if those people exist at all).

The Soviet Union was notorious for psychiatric abuse, the use of psychiatric hospitals for the incarceration of political dissidents. Human Rights Watch accuses the government of China of psychiatric abuse of political activists, whistleblowers, various individuals and especially members of Falun Gong. Declaring dissidence a sign of mental instability is one of the lesser-known tools of the despot.

Psychiatric abuse is not something one expects in America, but it happens. For example, in June, the assistant director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, Joey Gardner, was suspended without pay and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after blowing the whistle on DMV Commissioner George Tatum for allegedly seeking help to get his friend a vintage vehicle title for a replica (Tatum later resigned). In 2001, a Temple University student, Michael Marcavage, was involuntarily committed by his university for protesting a campus production of "Corpus Christi," a play that depicts Jesus Christ as a homosexual having carnal relations with his disciples.

In his April 19 e-mail, Scheffler wrote pessimistically, "Im sure this plea of common sense will fall on deaf ears." While the fault wasn't with the ears, as he had predicted, Scheffler's plea did indeed fall on disabled faculties.


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.