DENVER (AP) — Professors at an Alabama university described James Holmes as an excellent candidate for their neuroscience program in February 2011, but rejected him anyway after his behavior raised concerns.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham on Thursday released the application of the man accused of the Colorado movie theater shooting rampage, including interview forms from his visit to the school.
Professors described him as a top-notch student and shy. One professor doubted whether he wanted Holmes in his lab, noting that “he may be extremely smart, but difficult to engage.”
Another wrote: “His personality may not be as engaging as some applicants, but he is going to be a leader.”
A message left for Scott Wilson at the school’s neurobiology program was not immediately returned.
The application was obtained from the school. According to admissions experts, federal privacy laws do not cover graduate student applications.
Holmes later enrolled as a first-year Ph.D. student in a neuroscience program at the University of Colorado Denver. He withdrew about six weeks before the July 20 attack in Aurora, a Denver suburb.
Prosecutors say the 24-year-old opened fire during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.
Holmes also raised concerns at CU where university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton said she contacted police in June after a meeting with Holmes.
Defense attorneys claim Holmes is mentally ill and sought help from Fenton, while prosecutors paint a picture of a man angry at the failure of a once-promising academic career.
Prosecutors say Holmes had failed a key oral exam in June at about the same time he was stockpiling guns, ammunition and body armor.
The University of Iowa also rejected Holmes’ application.
According to university records released last week, he was interviewed, but neuroscience program director Daniel Tranel wrote a strongly worded email urging the admissions committee not to accept Holmes.
“James Holmes: Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances,” wrote Tranel, a professor of neurology.
Psychology professor Mark Blumberg followed up with a separate email to say he agreed. Blumberg recommended admission for the other two.
Neither official elaborated on their reasoning in the emails.
University of Iowa President Sally Mason said Thursday she had “no idea” whether Holmes raised red flags or why he was rejected.
But she said the case illustrates the critical significance that interviews play in evaluating prospective graduate students, and how candidates who appear strong on paper might not measure up in person.
“Getting to know someone, hearing them, meeting them face-to-face can tell you a lot about an individual,” she said.
Michael Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said graduate applicants are not covered by federal student privacy laws and there are no reporting requirements if somebody raises a concern.
Reilly said the graduate candidate interviews are more detailed because the programs involve working with a research professor in a close lab setting for a number of years.
“They want to read a little more closely the responses of applicants that this is somebody who is not just bright, but sane and focused,” Reilly said.
He said screening applicants who are intelligent but socially awkward could be a topic for a study session at the organization’s convention. Members of the organization include most of the major not-for-profit and public universities that include the University of Iowa, University of Colorado and the University of Alabama.
Associated Press writer Ryan Foley contributed to this report from Iowa City, Iowa.
More Related Stories
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
- Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements
- Obama to all-male university graduates: Be the best husband to "your boyfriend or partner"
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- GOP attorney general candidate tried to force women to report miscarriages to police
- Chinese hackers resume attacks against U.S.
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11