Thursday, October 29, 2009

Faculty Confirm The True BU, 'Culture of Fear'

The powerful, and terribly sad, statement below speaks for itself – I don’t think I need to add any of my own comments other than one sentence of explanation. As Reverend Allen notes, he delivered the statement to the Butler administration; they’ve opted not to respond and thus I’m making it public at this time. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Over ten faculty members in the School of Music have indicated to me that they endorse the appended statement. Because they fear retaliation if they come forward as individuals, they are unwilling to sign the statement. I have agreed to certify that these people are, in fact, faculty members in the School of Music. I have further agreed, in accordance with my solemn vows as a priest, to keep their identities absolutely confidential. And I have agreed to deliver this to appropriate members of Butler’s administration. That is all I have agreed to do at this point.

I cannot verify that this fear of retaliation is accurate, only that the fear exists. That in itself concerns me. And I cannot verify the contents of the statement, only that I have spoken to faculty members who endorse it and can report that they did so without hesitation.

Since the statement is not my property, I cannot guarantee that it will not become public. That, I’m told, depends on whether or not this new information helps to defuse some of the public controversy around Jess Zimmerman. I hope it does.

I believe this is crucial information about one of several aspects to the controversy surrounding TruBU. It is equally crucial to know that there are faculty members who fear speaking publicly about events as they observed them. That is what finally moved me to act on their behalf.

I hope I am also acting for the good of everyone in the Butler community, especially those who are most vulnerable, but also members of the administration, whom I esteem highly as well. I am hoping that the appended statement will help people on all sides do a better job of sorting truth from falsehood. And I will keep everyone, on all sides, in my prayers.

The Rev. Dr. Charles W. Allen
Grace Unlimited
Indianapolis Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry
Indianapolis, IN

Here is the statement:

We are a collection of faculty members in the School of Music at Butler University and as such we affirm the following:

Some or all of us provided The TruBU, via e-mail contact with Soodo Nym, the documents related to Andrea Gullickson’s departure as chair of the School of Music;

Some or all of us provided The TruBU, via e-mail contact with Soodo Nym, with our impressions of various meetings that took place related to Andrea Gullickson’s departure as chair of the School of Music;

The characterizations of people and events presented in The TruBU are consistent with our understandings and interpretations;

The information that appeared in The TruBU that we shared with Soodo Nym was presented in a manner that was a fair reflection of what we said and believed;

All of us did not know who Soodo Nym was at the time we interacted with Soodo Nym; and

Some of us had conversations with Jess Zimmerman around the time of Andrea Gullickson’s departure as chair of the School of Music but none of us knew that Jess Zimmerman was Soodo Nym.

Furthermore, all or some of us opted to share information with Soodo Nym because we believed that an injustice was being committed at Butler University and that it was important for others to learn of that injustice. Because we were worried about retaliation, we did not have a faculty outlet for this information. When Soodo Nym came to some or all of us, via e-mail, to ask for information and documentation of actions, some or all of us willingly responded in the hopes that the injustice would be corrected.

Finally, although we still feel it necessary to remain anonymous, we are troubled that Jess Zimmerman risks university sanctions for fairly and accurately publishing the information, impressions and quotations we provided him. TruBU was a medium for faculty to share concerns without the fear of retaliation they would face if they spoke in their own voices.


  1. I got a response from Alumni relations today. It was unsatisfying. They maintain that your blog contained "defamation, threats, harassment, and intimidation, directly harming the honesty, integrity, and professional reputation of Butler University and several of its administrators – including Peter Alexander." I read the blog, and I just don't see it. You have the right to say you think the dean is doing a bad job. That's your first amendment right. I really wish you hadn't sent that email and then lied about it. That's when you made yourself vulnerable to the "threatening and harassing" charges. Still, at the end of the day, Butler looks like the villain, and you should have been given a stern talking to about the appropriate use of email and that should have been that.

  2. It is great that the faculty have come to defend you, despite the fact that they risk their jobs and must do so as though they are underground.

    I hope this proves two things to Bobby Fong and Student affairs and the rest of the admin: 1. that their allegations are ludicrous and unfounded. 2. that the have managed to scare the shit out of their faculty. Both are disturbing.

  3. Jess has apologized for his one instance of untruthfulness, but I wonder if I am the only person that found his apology unnecessary. Dr. Levester Johnson told Jess that he had to meet with him, refused to let Jess bring a lawyer, and refused to let Jess tape record their conversation. In the real world--the criminal justice system--we have the 5th Amendment. In the real world, Jess could not have been forced to incriminate himself as he was in that circumstance, and had Levester Johnson been a police officer and acted the way he had, any statement made by Jess would have been excluded in a court of law.

    The school intended to scare Jess in an effort to get him to remove the blog. They accomplished this, and then tried to have their cake and eat it too by suing him. I'm tired of everyone harping on him for not being truthful about being Soodo Nym. His actions as Soodo Nym were not illegal, and the email he sent was not threatening. He had no duty to reveal that he was Soodo Nym (anonymous free speech is protected), and he did not tell the truth when asked, probably because he knew what the consequences would be--a frivolousness and expensive lawsuit and a kangaroo court on campus, run by none other than Irene Stevens, the consummate obsequious lackey of Bobby Fong and Levester Johnson.

    From my experience, the school administration has tried multiple times to pull stunts over school breaks so that students forget about them. My freshman year, they extended Butler's contract with Aramark for 10 years without informing the Student Body President or the SGA Vice President of Administration. They did this over winter break, probably so that it would be forgotten by the spring semester. Telling Jamie Comstock and Peter Alexander that the way they treated Andrea Gullickson would not be forgotten wasn't threatening and, quite frankly, it needed to be said.

    My question to all of you is: Which untruths have been more damaging to our school--Jess initially denying that he was Soodo Nym, or Bobby Fong and Jamie Comstock's weekly waffles on the school's justification for filing and pursuing the lawsuit? This is a credibility crisis--Bobby Fong and Jamie Comstock have been nothing but consistently inconsistent. We must demand that the school end any on-campus proceedings against Jess and that Bobby Fong and Jamie Comstock apologize, resign, or be relieved of their duties as President and Provost.

    Andrew Beare Jones
    Butler University, Class of 2008

  4. Well said Andrew!

  5. Has Dr. Allen shared this letter with the Board of Trustees directly? As stewards of the university the Board should be acting on correcting this serious problem of intimidation between upper administrators and the faculty and students.
    Bill Swanson
    Butler University, class of 1978

  6. On December 19, 2008, I wrote a message to Soodo Nym which contained the following statement, and ended up on the TrueBU blog. It seems to me at least as true today as it was then:

    "First, I want to say that I think there is way too much fear at Butler. Yes, this is a perilous environment in which people have been fired and punished. And, yes, some people truly are vulnerable. But tyranny
    flourishes when conscientious and thoughtful people decline to stand up and be counted. I wish more people would identify themselves, and speak in their own voice. In my view, that’s the only way to put a stop to the nonsense that is going on at Butler."