If it weren’t so sad, and if it didn’t have the potential to really negatively impact my life, the action of Butler’s public relations department would be incredibly funny. Apparently, when people write to the president or to a member of the Board of Trustees at Butler questioning their actions in The True BU fiasco, a form letter is immediately dispatched. That form letter, according to my attorney, is a textbook case of defamation.
Marcia Dowell, executive director of university relations, is comfortable making the following statement: “Please know that in the fall of 2008, an internet web blog – True BU - published communications that included defamation, threats, harassment, and intimidation, directly harming the honesty, integrity, and professional reputation of Butler University and several of its administrators.”
I challenge anyone to find anything I wrote in The True BU that could even be remotely construed as a threat. Indeed, when raising the specter of a threat, the only words the president keeps citing come from a fragment of a sentence which he acknowledges he has no evidence I wrote. And I keep assuring everyone that I didn’t write it.
But Butler University is apparently comfortable telling everyone that my blog made threats. And they’re comfortable saying that my words harmed the reputation of Butler University and several of its administrators. As Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, noted on his radio show on Wednesday, there’s certainly no evidence that anyone was harmed by what I had to say in The True BU. Did I make them uncomfortable by bringing their actions to the public? Did it annoy them that I demonstrated the repeated inconsistencies with what the administration said and what they did? Absolutely – but all of that falls well within the bounds of acceptable speech. My blog was not defamatory: They couldn’t prove it in court, and now they’re trying to tell anyone who asks about it that it was. As I said, every lawyer I have asked has been certain that the only defamation in this entire ordeal is what Butler is saying about me.
Even this afternoon, the chair of the board of trustees issued a statement about the case in which he said that "The Trustees also reaffirm Butler’s pledge to provide for the safety and welfare of its students, administration, faculty and staff." What do my concerns about administrative abuses of power have to do with the safety and welfare of anyone on campus? Why does everyone associated with the Butler administration want to turn every criticism into a physical threat? Could it be that they have no credible response to the criticism itself?