Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Correcting the Record, Again

Amazingly, Butler’s president today distributed his third memo (linked on the right) about me to the faculty in 15 days. It appears that he’s having a hard time finding much to say since a good deal of what he wrote is simply recycled from his earlier memos. Unfortunately, what is new isn’t consistent with the facts – not opinions, facts. And, unfortunately, the memo does what the other two attempted to do – use rhetorical devises to have readers believe things about me for which there is absolutely no evidence.

Even though his memo is only four short paragraphs and 262 words long, I don’t have the space to deal with all of its problems. Let me focus on the highlights. He writes, “The University complaint against ‘John Doe’ had been filed on 8 January, with notice given to ‘Soodo Nym’ at the blog’s email address. Thereafter the personal emails and the blog ceased.”

In fact, the very last post that ever appeared on The True BU blog went up on New Year’s Day, a full week before the president said an e-mail announcing the lawsuit was sent. In fact, The True BU blog was removed from the web on January 4, 2009, four days prior to the lawsuit. I’ll admit it: the university and its lawyers intimidated me into silence by threatening action in early January. I’m not proud of the fact that I backed down, but it’s true; they intimidated me. But it wasn’t the presence of the lawsuit that accomplished the intimidation – it was the president’s anger over the bad publicity he thought the blog was bringing to campus.

It’s worth sharing with you a portion of those last comments that appeared on The True BU blog because they are probably even more pertinent today than they were so long back when they first appeared. “Well, though the holidays have come and gone, I'm certain this incident will still be fresh in the minds of music students and faculty/staff as we begin the new semester. What should also be thought about, as I've said repeatedly, is what all of this says about our leadership. As students, we need to be clear in demanding and expecting that members of the Butler community act with integrity, are accountable for their actions, and embrace what it means to be at an institution of higher education.”

The president also claimed that the lawsuit halted “the personal emails.” His use of the plural is interesting since he knows full well that I wrote only ONE personal e-mail, on December 25. His use of the plural is there to remind you that another e-mail, one that he has repeatedly quoted from, was also sent. He omits to mention, though, what he said in his last memo; there is absolutely no evidence linking that e-mail to me in any way, shape or form. So, how exactly did the lawsuit accomplish any of the things he claims it did?

He also, in the memo and in his response to numerous people who wrote to him, says “No suit was ever brought against Mr. Zimmerman.” Well, no, they never did get around to substituting my name for “John Doe,” but, as I reported in my post on October 19th titled “Who’s the Bully?,” on September 27, the university’s attorney wrote to mine, “we will proceed to substitute Jess Zimmerman for John Doe in the pending lawsuit. I anticipate that these actions will occur by the end of the week. Please let me know whether you will accept service for Jess Zimmerman.” Is this the way people of high integrity should be acting?

Finally, the president says that once he was informed that internal disciplinary proceedings were to commence, he asked that the lawsuit be dropped. Well, there are problems with this as well. First, I was informed of those disciplinary proceedings on Thursday and the lawsuit wasn’t dropped until Monday. According to the time lines provided, it appears that it took the university just about as long to drop the suit as it did for them to craft the 50 page suit in the first place! All I can say is, it’s unbelievable. Second, I also can’t believe that I heard about the start of internal disciplinary proceedings before the president did! Third, and more importantly, though, last Tuesday at the open forum, the provost publicly had a very different story to tell. When she was pressed about why the lawsuit had not yet been dropped, she responded to the group that it was a legal issue and the university didn’t want to drop the suit for legal reasons. I guess it’s possible that the provost and the president never conferred on the strategy for moving forward so their inconsistent stories could both be truthful.

What is accurate in the president’s statement is that internal disciplinary proceedings have begun. I worry about them since the president, on numerous occasions, has seen fit to pronounce me guilty. I would have hoped that we could have the trial first and the verdict second, but that isn’t the way Butler has decided to operate.

The rules for student disciplinary proceedings require confidentiality about most issues. The president has already and repeatedly seen fit to violate these rules. I will not follow his lead. Because my defense is simple, though, what I wrote was the truth and was widely known to be the truth, I need your help. So, I will share with you the charges against me and simply ask you to volunteer information about the charges if you have any such information. Some of the anonymous people who provided me information for The True BU may want to consider coming forward (though I will respect your anonymity if you choose not to).

I have been accused of violating the following three “Rules of Conduct:”

#4) Attempted or actual theft, unauthorized possession of another's property, dishonesty, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University.

#6) Physical, mental, or verbal abuse of any person or any conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any such person on University-owned or related property, or at any University-sponsored and/or supervised functions.

#8) Disorderly conduct, or reckless, intimidating, lewd, indecent, or obscene conduct or expression on University-owned or related property, or at University-sponsored or supervised functions or against a representative of the University.

Thank you for your continued support and for your help in combating these charges.

By the way, Amanda Congdon posted a great video about this crazy situation on her website, Sometimesdaily.com. It’s linked on the right.


  1. Why does the president INSIST on stretching the truth? I'm surprised he hasn't learned by now that he will be called out on it every time. He is only prolonging the issue and digging himself and Butler's reputation deeper. I'm really surprised he doesn't seem to have learned that.

    From the president's memo:
    "In my meeting with the Senate on 13 October, there was the stated hope from faculty that this situation would stimulate thoughtful discussion of what civil discourse means at Butler University. That is still my hope."

    This line looks to me like a red herring, meant to distract from the real issue at hand. The ongoing debate is not about whether Jess's discourse was civil, but about whether the university's actions were civil. The anger is directed at the university's administration, and they are using one of their students as a scapegoat.

    Bobby Fong, quit dodging the issue with rhetorical devices. We need an apology.

  2. Question:
    What disciplinary hearing will the president be subjected to for his dishonesty for leading the faculty, student body, and public to believe that the university never intended to sue Jess? Is it not abundantly clear from the university attorney's note to Jess' attorney that the university's intent was indeed to sue Jess - or at least to make sure Jess believed it to be true? Why is the president given a pass on this unjust and unwarranted intimidation?

    And have the president's memos not suggested that Jess is being untruthful when the actual facts support Jess?

    The larger question is this: Is the president subject to the same ethical standards and university codes of conduct as the students? Apparently not. Or is it impossible for a university president to mislead?

  3. It seems to me that the president is guilty of each of the charges leveled at Jess.

  4. Yes--"It seems to be that the president is guilty of each of the charges leveled at Jess."

    Who will hold him to account? What are the disciplinary channels that he must go through?

  5. For the sake of a fine university, its faculty and staff, its students and alumni, Dr. Fong should resign. At this point, only a thorough house-cleaning can make things right.