The Lookout

University of Colorado officials defend handling of James Holmes withdrawal

Holmes in court, July 23, 2012. (AP/Pool)

AURORA, Colo.--University of Colorado-Denver officials said faculty in the neuroscience graduate program handled themselves appropriately in interactions with shooting suspect James Holmes. Holmes dropped out of the program a few days after he took his first-year oral exam, which he reportedly failed.

Graduate School Dean Barry Shur said he felt "very comfortable" saying that university members closely monitor students for signs of academic and emotional problems, and that Holmes was no exception. Reporters questioned

Shur and University of Colorado-Denver Chancellor Don Elliman closely about whether faculty noticed signs of mental illness in Holmes, but the university is declining to say anything specific about the former student. Shur said that graduate students are part of a "family" and generally see their advisers every single day.

[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Colorado theater shooting]

Holmes took his oral exam, which is designed to test students' foundational knowledge before they continue the program, on June 7. Holmes sent an email to faculty on June 10 asking to withdraw, and was given a form that requires his advisers' and the dean's signatures. Shur said that Holmes had not filled out the portion of the form that asks for a reason for withdrawal, even though he was encouraged to do so. The form never made it to Shur's desk, so Holmes was not formally withdrawn from the university when he allegedly went on a shooting spree last Friday in a local movie theater.

Shur said that students who fail oral exams are offered help to retake it. "The exam is not to throw students out," he said, adding that it's "very unusual" for a student to drop out of one of CU's graduate programs. Schur said Holmes had excellent academic credentials, and was among a handful of students chosen for a National Institutes of Health training grant in neuroscience.

Officials also confirmed that no dangerous chemicals were found missing from the labs where Holmes worked, and said he lost access to university buildings on June 10. Holmes received at least 50 packages to his home and school in the run-up to the attacks.

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