Noted poet and Virginia Tech professor Nikki Giovanni was one of several professors alarmed by the violent writing and bizarre behavior of 23-year-old English major Cho Seung-Hui. In fact, the renowned Black poet says she was not shocked to learn that her former student was identified as the gunman behind the classroom massacre that claimed 32 lives.
“I knew when it happened that that’s probably who it was. I would have been shocked if it wasn’t,” Giovanni told CNN referring to Cho. “I’ve taught troubled youngsters I’ve taught crazy people. It was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really, mean streak.”
In “Richard McBeef,” a disturbing play Cho wrote while at Virginia Tech, he stated: “I hate him. Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Must see him die.”
Giovanni told then chairwoman of the English department, Lucinda Roy, she would quit if he was not removed from her class. The poet said his “intimidating” and violent writing prompted some of her students to stop coming to class and caused her to get security to check her classroom. Professor Roy, now co-director of the creative writing program, taught Cho one-on-one after he was removed from the classroom. She told Today’s Matt Lauer that in her 22 years of teaching “I realized that this was one of the most disturbed students I had ever seen. That’s why I contacted the police” and referred him to counseling. While officials quickly responded to her warnings, Roy says they told her that their hands were tied because Cho had not made a direct threat.
On Tuesday, Virginia Tech held a special convocation ceremony that was attended by President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Giovanni also spoke to the crowd at the Cassell Coliseum and delivered a poem. “We are Virginia Tech,” she said. “We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it. No one deserves a tragedy.”.
School officials have cancelled classes for the remainder of the week at Virginia Tech as law enforcement officials investigate and students and staff continue to sort through the tragedy.
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