Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Workplace Violence Strikes Another University Campus

Less than one month after fatal shootings at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), workplace violence has struck on another campus.

Nathaniel Brown, a custodian at Ohio State University, shot and killed his supervisor early Tuesday morning and wounded another boss before turning the gun on himself.

The Ohio State incident did not involve any students or faculty members. It comes after three people were killed and three others wounded at UAH on February 12. Neuroscientist Amy Bishop has been charged in that case, and news reports indicate that the university's denial of Bishop's bid for tenure played a role in sparking the shootings.

Brown, 50, was hired at Ohio State last October, and he recently had been informed that he would not be retained beyond his probationary period. Brown shot and killed Larry Wallington, his immediate supervisor, and wounded Henry Butler Jr., Wallington's boss, before killing himself.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Brown recently had broken up with a female companion and faced possible foreclosure on his house. University records show that problems on the job started not long after he was hired:

Records released by the university show that Brown was hired as a custodian on Oct. 5. He was considered a probationary employee and was notified March 2 that he would not make probation.

"I regret to inform you that you are removed effective March 13," wrote David Simpson, a labor-relations manager for Ohio State.

Brown's evaluations in the past few months reflected an inability to follow instructions and a sometimes belligerent attitude when others pointed out his weaknesses.

Brown also apparently had not been truthful on his job application. Writes the Dispatch:

Records show Brown lied on his OSU job application by not disclosing that he spent five years in prison between 1979 and 1984 for receiving stolen property. He also said he had never been fired or asked to resign, though at least one former supervisor said he had planned to fire Brown in 2008 for issues similar to those reported by OSU supervisors. That supervisor, who had been listed as Brown's first reference, said he never received a call from OSU.

Brown reportedly had gotten along well with his original supervisor. But things changed when Wallington took over. Writes the Dispatch:

Tracey Gunter retired from OSU last year and was Brown's boss before Wallington.

Gunter said Brown had a learning disability that affected his short-term memory and made it difficult for him to remember from day to day how to operate the machinery they used for jobs such as waxing floors. He also had at least one conflict with Wallington before Gunter left.

"We sat down and talked about it, and Nate told me he didn't know how things were going to go with him and Larry when I left," Gunter said.

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