Friday, October 30, 2009


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?


  1. It has been incredible to see how poor the administration's judgment has been throughout this issue. The president destroyed any credibility he had by filing the lawsuit, comparing it with Virginia Tech, and then claiming he had no intention of suing Jess. I'm finding it increasingly hard to believe that he is still endorsing this same line which has been shown many times to be nothing short of libelous. Surely he has realized that for every person he sets against Jess with a lie like this, he sets many others against him?

    It makes me a bit suspicious. Is this better than some alternative? Is there some information he doesn't want to come out? Is he so afraid of the idea that his faculty could anonymously leak information to an anonymous blog that he is trying to scare everybody into silence by not being soft (honest) on this issue?

    This is getting to the point where I'm not sure a sincere apology will suffice. Repeatedly, intentionally, publicly slandering one of his own students to try to save his own ass has to be one of the worst things a university president could ever do.

    Bobby Fong needs to go.

  2. Let me begin by saying that this is a personal observation only.

    I continue to be amazed by what is happening here. I have shared this with my co-workers as a prime example of how not to handle criticism. No matter how this is resolved, short of the president being removed from office, Butler will suffer many times more than from their own behavior than anything Jesse said. I can only wonder how this is going to affect enrollment in the future . . . .

    I can only hope that the college gets its act together before it makes the situation any worse.

  3. Circling the wagons: This is a most unfortunate and discouraging development. It appears the Board of Trustees has decided to join forces with the Butler University president in a deliberate and calculated attempt to shift the focus away from the administrations dismal handling of the matter, and instead paint Jess as the villain. Shame!

    The trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the university. They appear to have abdicated it. That responsibility is NOT to run cover for apparent incompetence, but to protect the integrity and reputation of the University.

    Unfortunately, this action is neither surprising nor new. It is an age-old ploy of those who have no factual basis for their positions. First argue the case on the merits of established facts and truth. If the facts cannot support the position, then argue legalities. If a position cannot be defended with either of these ways, they then shift the focus away from their own misconduct, and instead personally attack and destroy the opponent using whatever verbal/rhetorical/communication/authority schemes available - even to the point of sacrificing the truth. Shame again!

    Such misconduct is remarkably easy to accomplish for individuals within an organization like a university since, as a part of their "official" position, they can, de facto, project an aura of impartiality, objectiveness, and benevolence. After all, if pressed to believe the words of a lowly college student or a university president, which is more likely to be granted the benefit of the doubt?

    But let's not lose sight of the facts. How does one realistically reconcile the president's repeated public claims that the university never intended to intimidate or sue Jess, when in fact, the University's attorney has, for the documented record, in his email to Jess' attorney, officially and unambiguously communicated the exact opposite? And now, after dropping the lawsuit (presumably, and rightly because it has no sustainable merits),they continue to officially and very publicly make broad unsupported defamatory accusations against Jess. Shameful AND irresponsible!

    Will Butler University be recognized in national academic circles as a genuine institution of higher education where established facts, truth, and candid open scholarship and discussion rule the day? Or will fear and intimidation reign? Based upon the events to date, the answer seems obvious, and positive resolution seems increasingly unlikely. Leaders of real bona-fide institutions of higher education simply do not conduct themselves in this manner.

    The stakes in all this should not be underestimated: What student, parent of a prospective student, or alumnus wants to be associated with an institution led by small-minded insecure individuals who seem more concerned with putting a student who voices criticism of their conduct in his place than honestly representing facts and taking responsibility for their own documented misconduct? Who is looking out for the best interests of the university in this case?

    I do not personally believe that Butler is a second-rate university, as the administration's actions are unfortunately broadcasting to the entire world each day they continue down this path. but perhaps I am wrong; for in the final analysis, a university must value truth above all else in its educational principles and practices. If those who possess the REAL ownership of Butler (Students, faculty, alumni, and trustees) remain silent as facts and truth are systematically distorted and/or abandoned; and while apparent intentional calculated tyranny is purposefully executed - and tolerated on campus, then perhaps president Fong's apparent pico-vision of Butler and higher education is an accurate reflection of Butler after all. We will see.

    What you allow, you teach...