Friday, February 12, 2010

Secrecy and Discipline: The Butler Way – Part 3

In the first two parts of this post, I pointed all of you to public documents available to any and all, that summarized the struggle I was having with the Butler administration. In the first two parts of this post, because of Butler’s incessant and unfair demand for secrecy, I told you nothing more than what was present in those public documents.

Now, in part three, I will bring this part of the story to a conclusion, but, unfortunately, I will do so in a way that is particularly unsatisfying, at least to me. The overall outcome is certainly not unsatisfying, at least to me, in that Butler and I reached an agreement. But what makes it less than fully satisfying is that I can’t tell you any of the details. As before, I am limited to being able to point you to publicly available documents.

Let me recap briefly. As you can see from my request for a
restraining order against Butler, I was forced to go to court to ask that any internal disciplinary procedure be put on hold until the university could guarantee that it the procedure would be handled fairly. Butler’s attorneys responded by ignoring the substance of what my request was all about, instead opting to demand that I put up a bond of $100,000. They claimed that this was the amount of money Butler would lose if they could not discipline me in a secret hearing on campus. Ridiculous! My lawyer replied by further explaining the inappropriate actions Butler administrators had undertaken.

The resolution, except for the secrecy, was a wonderful one for me – and perhaps Butler administrators feel similarly. Upon reaching an agreement with Butler I immediately sent in applications to law schools. And, as I said, within days of filing my applications, I was admitted to one of my top choices.

There are three points that I want to make about all of this. First, my experience has convinced me that it is possible to fight abuses of power – and to win. In my mind, I clearly won, but as I’ll note in my second point, I didn’t win everything. I won not only because I was right; I won because I was able to generate a huge amount of support from people around campus and around the world who saw an injustice and were willing to support me. That support came in many forms, some public and lots private, and all of it was incredibly important to me.

Second, although I believe I was able to win,
I feel I lost a great deal in the process. Butler administrators from the president on down, on a regular basis, on campus and off, in public and in private, defamed me. They regularly said that I was guilty of actions they couldn’t prove and actions they knew they had no evidence to link to me. They used innuendo to accuse me of making racially and sexually intolerant statements. They used those same tactics to accuse me of threatening violent acts. And they abused their positions of power by telling anyone who would listen that they knew things about me they couldn’t share – things that were really terrible. The reality is, however, that none of those things ever existed, but it didn’t keep unscrupulous people from implying that they did in their misguided attempt to further their own ambitions.

Third, even though my victory is very real for me, it has to be an incredibly hollow one for the Butler community and for the broader community composed of people who care about civil rights. I believe that it's clear that Butler administrators abused their power and the university’s financial resources in their attempt to stifle criticism. Members of those communities have demanded an apology
from Butler’s administrators for their unconscionable actions, but none has been forthcoming. The same administrators who did all of this are hoping that their veil of secrecy will protect them. If we, you and I, let them refuse to take responsibility for their actions, they will never apologize, and they will likely abuse others in the future. I hope you do at least two things to help prevent this from happening. I hope those of you who have not yet signed the petition asking for an apology sign it now. And I hope that some of you begin asking the Butler administration just how much money they spent in legal fees in their persecution of me. At a time when Butler is cutting budgets related to teaching, if not related to the provost’s remodeling schemes, don’t you think that this money could have been more profitably spent?

Again, I want to thank you for your support.


  1. Jess, I am happy that you are resolving this issue; however the bigger issue is that the current adminsitration is still in power. You are not the first and you will certainly not be the last to suffer from the administration. Butler University has a long history of such behavior. It is my opinion that the administration cares little for its facutly/staff, student and alumni. The adminstration must go, inorder for the instituion to heal.

  2. Keep it up Jess. The Butler Administration looks like it's on its way out. At least that's what the word on the street is anyway. The students and faculty have lost trust in them, and it is only a matter of time before the Board of Trustees start to entertain the idea that a different direction is needed.

    Actually, I hear in some cases it is typical for University trustees to give disgraced administration members their walking papers at a certain point in the year- letting them finish out the year in order to minimize embarrassment to the school (not that this whole debacle has been anything but a complete embarrassment for them.)

    Hopefully the sun sets on the three headed Fong-Johnson-Stevens monster soon.

  3. I would agree; however I agree with the first comment as well. I do not believe that Butler University can totally heal until all the senior management has been replaced. Honestly, some of them have been there way to long. It is time for them to leave the univeristy and new blood brought in. If they were worth much they would have stood up for what is right.

  4. I am pleased to learn that you will be able to move on in your life, Jess, and deeply saddened to learn that the harrassment continues.

  5. little pete is gone; now it's bofo's turn

  6. The failure of university administrators to take responsibility for their mistakes and bad decisions is a chronic plague on academia. In a profession in which one might hope that truth and enlightenment will be the principles that guide the actions and utterances of academic institutions, the motivation seems all too often to be a reflexive "cover your ass." It may be that the demands of students, staff, faculty, parents, donors, and politicians appear to require this approach, but it is wrong-headed, and in the end, futile, to stifle the free exchange of opinions and ideas by the academic community as a whole.

    Michael Manson
    Professor of Biology
    Texas A&M University
    College Station, TX 77843