Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am Still "John Doe"

Two days ago, I reported that the president had announced that the school did not, has not, and will not sue me. Unfortunately, the actions of the University again don’t match up with president’s words. The “John Doe” suit remains active in Marion County court.

Since the lawsuit is still open, the school can substitute my name for that of “John Doe” whenever they want to. Are they going to add my name later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Four months from now? Is the president making promises now that he can break once he feels enough people have forgotten? These are questions that I find myself debating almost constantly. The president has said that the school will not sue me. If he intends to make good on that promise, then the school should dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice. Given how often and how forcefully I’ve been threatened with this lawsuit, I won’t believe that they don’t intend to sue me until it is dismissed.

Yet the lawsuit sits, open, ready, and waiting. I believe it is not just a threat to me, but to each one of you who might ever dare to question authority. When you check the court dockets for the status of the Butler v. “John Doe” case, it is hard to imagine what the university wants you to think. Could it be that they want you to believe that “John Doe” might be you? I think, in a very public way, the Butler University administration has decided to say, “Do you want this to happen to you?”

This is simply not right. To date, nearly 600 people have signed a petition calling for the administration to apologize for filing the lawsuit and to apologize for the accusations made against me. Many of those who have signed have also left very strong comments:

“It is inconceivable that a University would operate in a climate of fear and that it would sue a student for a blog, anonymous or not. What are Butler students learning about honor and settling differences and free speech?”

-Reverend James F. Mulcahy

“Too many colleges and universities are using their resources to bully and intimidate their faculties and students. This case appears to be an egregious example that is a disgrace to Butler University and the whole of the Academy.

-Bruce A Voyles, Ph.D.

Grinnell College

“I would think that the brightest scholars in the world could handle a little lively on-line candor better than this. I think I can scratch Butler off the list of possible colleges for my three kids if this is the way they resolve things with students. I sure would not want one of my kids treated this way.”

-Reverend Max Ramsey

“As a lifelong academic I am appalled that a student's freedom of expression is being curtailed and threatened. This defies basic human goodness and decency.”

-Steve A. Wiggins, Ph.D.

If you have not signed the petition, I urge you to consider doing so. If you have signed it, go back and read what our friends on campus and around the country are saying. Their statements are very moving and provide a markedly different perspective than the one Butler administration is promoting. The petition can be found by going to

Right now, I am “John Doe.” The president seems to want you to believe that you too can be “John Doe.”

Don’t let the administration scare you: They scared me once and I sat down, silenced. Now, I’m standing again and I don’t intend to go anywhere. I appreciate those of you who are standing with me and I’m confident and hopeful that together we will make a difference.


  1. Are the Butler Trustees ever going to get involved? What is it going to take? By not acting, they are letting the school's credibility bleed out like a stuck pig. I hope they are taking notice of the petition and the club (both with 600+ individuals involved). Students are frustrated, afraid, angry and confused; academics outside of the school are consistently pointing out how fast these administrators are making Butler a joke of an academic institution. All of these clergy members from across the nation are signing the petition. What do you think they would tell a parishioner that is considering attending Butler?

    Are the Trustees asleep at the wheel at this place? I would hope they haven't accepted Bobby Fong's incredible and contradictory explanations for his actions. I can’t even imagine the damage this is doing to student recruitment and alumni donations. Butler's senior administrators are turning the school into a laughing stock. Fix it.

  2. I think Jess has hit an important point in this post today, and that is that the administration wants to scare us away, and hope that they forget, just as they did with Dr Gullickson (which began this whole issue). I think it is important that we all stand up as one united John Doe; that we all stand together as Soodo Nym, and I hope that we can band together not only in the online community but also in the public view of the administration.
    Do not let yourself be scared into submission, but instead stand together and have our voices heard.
    I wish Jess the best, but I also believe that we cannot give up the opportunity we have here to make a true difference. This expands beyond Jess and into the administration and its failing relationship with its students.

  3. Comments on an earlier post hinted at the idea that the faculty live under the climate as fear alongside the student body. Our combined influence is nothing something truly respected by the university. The way I see it there are three options to explore in order to ensure that the university can be held accountable.

    The first Anonymous hit and is the board of trustees. They have oversight and if they have spines they can pull out all the stops. Persistent letters and emails to them could make a dramatic difference.

    The next two hit the university in the way I think matters most to them; their pockets. If we can get information on the endowment and find a way to contact donors or influential alumni through the alumni association we could employ a boycott strategy of donors refusing to fund the lawsuit.

    Finally, student recruitment. Butler is painted as idyllic, all too clear if you overhear the tour guides or read the Butler bloggers, with the exception of Ms. Lear, who, though commendable, still could not tear herself away from the portrait which got her that job. I suggest a sort of pamphlet that could be distributed to tours passing through Starbucks and other popular destinations. Perhaps we could work with the admissions staff as we do with the faculty. These last two are bold, but bold is what is needed right now if we are not to forget and move on. Bold is what we need to continue rising from apathy and to guide the university on our terms.


  4. Butler has an administration that has little experience other than Butler. Your situation is just another poor decsion made by the administators. Not just the president needs to be held accountable, but the vice-presidents as well. They should have stopped this even if it meant going to the Chairman of the Board. I read in one of the comments about good people just one day not showing up. An insitution ran managed by an attorney firm will never be in the best interest of the students. Unfortunately, people are afraid to be the next person to disappear. Butler Universities administration has done a very good job of hiding their wrong doings four years. As a former employee and alumnus, I am hanging my head in shame. I will also not give Butler University another dime until some new administrators are brought in to move the university in the right direction. I have twins, and they have choosen not to attend Butler next year because of trust issues with the administrations. Maybe the university needs to take a vote on how much confidence they have in the administraiton. Also maybe the Board of Trustees needs to find some of those vansihing employess and talk them. Jess keep your head up.

  5. Who will call the present to account for his lying, for his creation of an atmosphere of fear, for his incredibly bad judgment in handling this issue, and for bringing shame upon Butler University?

    Will the faculty have the courage, after so many years of muttering against him, to call him to account? Will they have the courage? Or do years of bowing and scraping while waiting for tenure produce not fearless proponents of free inquiry but only bowers and scapers? Will they have the courage? Or will they just leave it to a 21-year-old student?

    Will they have the courage?

  6. above should read:
    Who will call the PRESIDENT to account for his lying . . .