On Friday, Ms. Bishop presided over her regular neuroscience class before going to a biology faculty meeting, where she sat quietly for about 30 or 40 minutes, said one University of Alabama faculty member who had spoken to people who were in the room. Then she pulled out a gun and began shooting, firing several rounds before her gun either jammed or ran out of bullets, the faculty member said.People will say that this is the result of a crazy woman. And they are right. But it is also the result of a crazy system, one that is by definition unfair, secretive, and not directly related to the quality of research, writing or teaching. I've been in academe for almost all of my adult life. I have two decades of experience watching people go through the tenure process, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. It may seem incomprehensibly cushy that some of us ever get "a lifetime guarantee" for our jobs, but academe is a not exactly the same on the inside as it looks from the outside. First and foremost, getting one's doctorate is a torturous process that involves a huge amount of work and sacrifice (as do many careers), but the decade or so a person spends on their doctorate does not necessarily produce a job or even marketable job skills at the other end. The US university system overproduces PHDs and underproduces tenure-track jobs. In other words, there's a surplus of labor, about half of whom will find tenure lines and the others will labor away as underpaid and uninsured adjunct professors or be forced to go out into the "real world" where their doctorates will probably be useless. If someone is lucky enough, as Dr. Bishop was, to find a tenure-track job, they'll need a strong stomach and some serious good luck. Books, research grants, scholarly articles, conference presentations, and good teaching reviews help, but they hardly make a successful tenure review a done deal. Academic promotion committees are closed and the nature of their decision-making is between them and their gods. Offend a college president, as Dr. Bishop seems to have done, and all of a sudden all that "success" in your field can mean nothing among the promotion committee members (on the other hand, make the college president happy, and you might get tenure without the large research grants that Dr. Bishop had). But here's the thing: lots of people get denied tenure and don't pick up a gun and shoot their senior colleagues. After all, you can, if you're lucky, maybe, find another job in academe and if not, well, there's always working in the "private sector" except, let's be honest, who wants someone who failed in academe? In fact, when people don't get tenure at highly prestigious places like Harvard they can sink down a tier or two and get tenure somewhere else. But Dr. Bishop might not have had that many places to go after University of Alabama. I have seen some people who, after getting their doctorates from places like Harvard and landing jobs at top schools, cannot bear the idea of going to a lesser school. Some of these people have literally lost their minds, at least for a while, while they figure out "what else to do." I have also seen people say "whatever" and move on with their lives. I myself, after an unsuccessful tenure review, found myself in need of almost daily therapy sessions and developed a strange twitch in my left eye when I had to show up to teach for a semester while I (successfully) appealed the decision. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, and couldn't really imagine what the hell else I would do to support my two kids and myself. I'm not suggesting that people should feel sorry for academics. I am suggesting, however, that this shooting might move universities to take a long hard look at how many PHDs they're producing, how much adjunct labor they're using, and what the costs and benefits of tenure are. Given that universities have been set "free" in the market to make a profit (or at least amass as large an endowment as possible), it might be time to "rationalize" the system. That might mean doing away with tenure and actually giving us long-term contracts that are based on clearly stated performance expectations. I would rather be judged on my publications, research, and ability to teach than the intangible and unknowable judgments of a committee that doesn't have to tell me why they're making the decision they're making. Dr. Bishop is a seriously disturbed person. Shooting your senior people is not the solution to not getting tenure. But the stress of working for a decade to get your doctorate, then working for another 6 or 7 years to get tenure, then being denied tenure cannot be underestimated. Not getting tenure may not make you crazy, but it is certainly a crazy system and it's time to start thinking about whether we need it.