Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Introducing "John Doe"

Today was not a normal day. This week has not been a normal week. Recently, my university filed a lawsuit against “John Doe” alleging defamation, libel, and harassment. I am “John Doe.”

I’m really Jess Zimmerman, and I’m a junior at Butler University in Indianapolis. What’s my offense? Last school year I wrote a blog that was critical of Butler’s upper administration. In my blog, The True BU, I used documents provided to me by members of the university community as the basis on which I formed my opinions. I don’t believe that anything I said was offensive, threatening, or otherwise wrong. What I wrote were simply my opinions but they happened to be opinions with which the Butler Administration did not agree.

Apparently, the opinions of a 20-year-old college sophomore, written in a blog, were too much for the University to handle. Now they’re throwing the full weight of their lawyers and their pocketbook at me.

I believe my story deserves to be told. Not just because it is interesting, and not just because I think the University is wrong, but because it could easily be you, too. Have you ever disagreed with an authority figure? Have you ever witnessed an abuse of power? Have you ever wanted to stand up for something, even if you knew it would be hard? While they serve to make my point, these questions are not simply rhetorical: I invite you to answer them in the comments section. I’m just as interested in your stories, at Butler, a different school, or in any other setting, as I am in mine.

I have been asked for a full description of what happened last year, why I wrote The True BU blog, and for accounts of each of the events that led to the lawsuit and the ongoing publicity. This blog will serve to answer those questions. Since it is far too long to tell in one post, I’m going to do it in installments. I’ll try my best to do things chronologically, but sometimes there may be a day when something important has happened that I feel needs to be addressed immediately. Tomorrow will be one of those days.

Yesterday, when I woke up, I was alerted to the fact that a local television station was carrying a story saying that Butler University had filed a libel lawsuit against an anonymous blogger. Later in the morning, I found out that the president of the school had met with the faculty senate and discussed that same lawsuit. He then sent a memo to the full faculty detailing the institution’s justification for spending an exceptional amount of time and money to persecute a student blogger: me. Unfortunately, his presentation and memo were riddled with inaccuracies.

Tomorrow, I will address those inaccuracies.


  1. Jess!
    Thank you so much for writing this. The entire student body and I are behind you. This lawsuit is ridiculous. We spent a whole class of American Visions talking about this. Please know I am here for you always. I'm sorry all of this is happening to you when you did nothing wrong. Apparently the administration has nothing else better to do.

  2. Hey, while I do support your position, I wonder if it's wise to discuss about an on-going lawsuit? If you've already discussed about this blog with a lawyer or such and got the OK, then awesome. Go on.

    Otherwise, I'd hold off a bit because it'd, for lack of better words, suck if this blog somehow became a liability in court if it goes that far.

  3. Jess,
    Keep the faith brother. Don't worry, we're all standing with you. You're not alone.


  4. I am so, so proud of you for being so brave. Having been in a similar (albeit far less outrageous) situation at BU, I know you must have guts like no one's business.

    Stay strong! You have no idea how much I'm rooting for you!!!

  5. Stay strong, I am praying for you. Many have been bullied at Butler. Unfortunately, Butler has bullied faculty/staff for years using attorneys, I am sorry that they are now targeting students.

    You and your family will be in my prayers daily!!!!!!

  6. Hats off to Bill Watts for have the integrity, and guts to speak out.