By Devin Simmons
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday December 5, 2002
Staff and faculty saw Robert S. Flores as a problem student for seven years before he killed three teachers and himself in October, but he remained a student in the nursing college despite academic problems and faculty complaints.
The UA recently released 331 pages dating back to 1995 that documented the nursing faculty's interactions with Flores. One staff member wrote five years ago that she had a conversation with Flores where he appeared to be "clearly on the edge," and spoke of killing himself.
Celeste Pardee, then-director of the Office of Academic Services, wrote in a report of her conversation with Flores that he appeared to be under extreme stress from his marriage, family, full-time job, and full course load when he spoke of killing himself. He refused to withdraw from school, where he struggled academically, was chronically absent and did not complete assignments, saying that leaving the nursing college would be "another form of death," Pardee stated in the reports released last week.
In emails that slain nursing professor Cheryl McGaffic sent to assistant dean of student affairs for the college of nursing Vickie Radoye before McGaffic was killed, McGaffic pushed college administrators to allow Flores to withdraw from her Ethics and Ethical Decision Making in Health Care class after the class drop deadline. The administration had previously refused Flores' request to be withdrawn from McGaffic's class.
McGaffic stated she was "not a big fan of this student."
"The other issue, which is more serious, and is a ╬heads-up' for you, is that this student has significant behavioral problems," McGaffic's email said.
McGaffic told Flores that his behavior was unacceptable, to which he replied, "I am doing better than I used to, in the past I would have bashed someone's head against a curb."
A student encounter form filled out by McGaffic in March stated that Flores was disrespectful to several students in class, would not listen, walked out of group activities, interrupted others when they were talking, and was very confrontational.
But the spokesman for Arizona Health Sciences said medical staff could not have possibly known what Flores' intentions were.
"The problem with statements that were made by Flores is that nothing he said was a direct threat," said George Humphrey, director of public affairs for the Arizona Health Sciences Center. "Yes, he said a number of disturbing, angry things, but at the time, none of it could possibly have been conceived as a threat."
Humphrey said the documents and correspondence on Flores reveal that professors did everything that they could to help Flores. The problem is, no one could have forced Flores to go to counseling, or to help himself, Humphrey added.
After determining that Flores was "on the edge," Pardee sent a report of the meeting to Guillermo Uribe, the coordinator of systems support at the University of Arizona Learning Center, which specializes in test preparation and academic help. The center does not specialize in psychological or emotional counseling.
Uribe had an hour-long session with Flores the same day he met with Pardee, where Uribe wrote that Flores was stressed about getting financial aid and registering. Director of the learning center Sylvia Mioduski said the learning center's primary expertise was academic, but that learning center staff also sometimes refers students to counselors at the Counseling and Psychological Services at campus health.
"Flores was certainly helped by our staff to the best of our abilities. The problem is that not everybody that came into contact with him was able to know the deep level of his personal issues."
Slain nursing professor Barbara Monroe stated in class progress reports that Flores was routinely criticized for unsafe clinical practice, was unprepared for his clinicals and missed scheduled meetings. He was failing her course.
Carol Feingold, a clinical associate nursing professor who taught Flores's Nursing Processes I course, said in a written evaluation that Flores possessed above average knowledge but that he needed to consider the consequences of remarks and communication with staff and peers. Later evaluations state that Flores did show progress in this area.
"I knew he had problems from the very first moment I saw him," Feingold said. "But no, I never thought that he would be a murderer."