The Virginia Tech creative writing department has created guidelines for faculty on how they should deal with “disturbing” creative writing in response to work done by Seung Hui Cho. Cho’s writings were a potential warning sign of his mental health issues, but as shown in the report last week, were not discussed broadly enough among the campus faculty and staff to indicate that any action should take place.
The guidelines rely heavily on instructors to deem what they consider to be dangerous writing or simply literary licence. They provide questions, however, that the instructors should ask themselves when qualifying written work into either the safe or dangerous category.
Ed Falco, director of creative writing at Virginia Tech, said that “informal” guidelines like those presented in this document were already in place before the April shootings. That incident created a need for more detailed recommendations on how instructors should deal with these situations.
They want to emphasize a balance of freedom of expression with vigilance, said Falco in an article written for Inside Higher Ed. “The danger,” Falco says of the Virginia Tech document (which has received approvals from the university’s counseling center, legal counsel and provost’s office) “is that written guidelines can be misused….that a situation would come about where you hamper creative freedom because students are afraid to write something because they’re afraid it will get them thrown into a system.”