Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leadership?

I suspect that you’ll be as blown away by what I have to say today as I was when I first heard about it.


The Butler Collegian reporter who has been covering this story interviewed me late yesterday afternoon. During the course of that interview, she asked me to comment on two things the president said to her during his interview. Both items literally left me speechless. First, she told me that he claimed that he had nothing to do with the school’s attorney writing to my attorney on September 27th and saying, “we will proceed to substitute Jess Zimmerman for John Doe in the pending lawsuit. I anticipate that these actions will occur by the end of the week. Please let me know whether you will accept service for Jess Zimmerman.” She indicated that the president said that the attorney was acting on his own and without the president’s knowledge or permission. If that’s the case, Butler should immediately fire the attorney and file charges against him with the state bar association for malpractice.


It is odd, though, that the attorney would act in such a fashion since, throughout the summer, his responses were consistently very much delayed because he kept writing that he had to check with the president before saying anything and the president was out of the country and unable to be contacted for various periods of time. Additionally, the threats to substitute my name for “John Doe” were regularly made from the middle of June through this last firm commitment to do so at the end of September – and the president knew nothing about it? If what he said is the truth, Butler might well have an even larger problem with their administration than I thought.


The second thing that the reporter asked me to comment about was the president’s claim that it was my father who first raised the idea of tying my situation in with his desire to gain a retraction from the provost for the terribly disparaging comments she made publicly about him when he was removed as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For the second time, I was speechless due to the absolutely bizarre nature of the charge. In fact, when my father’s attorney first contacted Butler looking for a retraction from the provost, we had no idea that a lawsuit had been filed. In fact, at that time, the last contact with anyone about The True BU blog was over five months earlier. Rather than releasing any confidential documents, I directed the reporter to my attorney to be certain that the information she received was accurate. Here’s what he had to say to her last night in an e-mail:


“On June 16, 2009, I received a letter from Butler’s attorney, Michael Blickman, informing me that a lawsuit actually had been filed against the TrueBU Blog and that Jess Zimmerman would be substituted as the defendant in that lawsuit. June 16th was the first time the Zimmermans and I learned that a lawsuit had been filed.


“The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to Michael Zimmerman on June 16, 2009:


‘One other thing. In early January there actually was a lawsuit filed regarding the TrueBU blog. It appears this may be something we now have to deal with. Keep in mind, the main goal of the lawsuit was to shut down the blog. I doubt there are any provable damages even if liability could be shown (which is doubtful). That being said, they will use this as leverage in negotiations on your matter.’”


So, the president distances himself from the actions of his attorney and claims that my father raised the issue of a lawsuit he knew nothing about. And, perhaps worst of all, the president thinks he can pass all of this off as leadership.


Throughout this entire affair, I’ve asked for people to form their own opinions but to be certain that those opinions are consistent with the facts. The president, however, seems to want to change the facts to suit his often-changing explanations. But, as Alain RenĂ© Le Sage said in 1735 in book X of his novel Gil Blas (L'Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane), “Facts are stubborn things.”


A quick piece of information: Today, I was on Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn, a national radio show. I've linked to the show on the right, but you can also find it here: http://63.139.221.170/qtmedia/mp3/1522.mp3


Additionally, I will also be on an NPR station next weekend to discuss this situation. I will give more specific details about that show as it gets closer.

23 comments:

  1. incredible. Fong's actions just get stranger every day...a thing that I wouldn't have thought possible a week ago.

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  2. I'm so glad that you are not allowing Bobby Fong's lies, intimidation, harassment, and vindictiveness to slow you down one bit. It feels as if you are gaining momentum and strength. The university will become a better place because of you.

    Lies, intimidation, harassment--aren't those actionable through the university disciplinary system? When will he face these charges?

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  3. Its interesting to see the statement made in the emails.

    "Keep in mind the main goal of the lawsuit was to shut down the blog."

    "That being said, they will use this as leverage..."

    That does leave me speechless. It seems unbelievable. Either Fong is the bully or he knowingly hired one to do his dirty work. Either way its really disturbing. Can there be an explanation? Will Dr. Fong please respond to these allegations?

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  4. There appears to be blatant misrepresentation going on here by the administrators. If this is the case, is it not time to raise the issue of resignations of those administrators involved in initiating and fostering this fiasco? This embarrassing saga grows increasingly obscene with each passing day.

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  5. They are grasping at straws.

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  6. I learned early on that Bobby Fong does not openly face issues. He tends to run, hide, dissemble. His stubborn inflexibility and aggressive stances are protective masks of cowardice. Keep calling him out so that our university can finally be its best.

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  7. I am glad that the lawsuit has been dismissed. It should never have been filed in the first place. The administration has a lot of repair work to do with the Butler community. As do you. After all you are on record for lying to the administration and by extension to your readers. I hope that you will take some responsibility here as well.

    Increasingly your blog sounds like it represents your father's voice and agenda. I am curious about this. Your father was fired for being a bully and for being unable to work with women (the subtext of his anonymous evaluations). At the town hall, he was rude and dismissive of women speakers (he interrupted the Provost and was rude and insufferable to one of the staff women. There is some irony here given that the event sought to promote free speech, but the only person free to speak was your father lest they be shouted down.) Your blog sounds increasingly dogmatic and self-righteous. Is this you or your father?

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  8. To previous poster.
    Here we go again: Assertion without evidence - this time against Jess' father. Shameful! Is this the modus operendi for Butler admininistration and its supporters? Disparage and call into question anyone who disagrees? This gets uglier by the day.

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  9. I've seen Michael's review and it was wonderful. Yes, some people who want to make EVERYTHING a gender based issue complained when he didn't give them what they wanted, and that's too bad: Every time a woman is involved in a conflict, it is not because she is a woman. Making a claim like that sets women back to a time before suffrage and is absolutely embarrassing for those making it. The provost deserved to be interrupted and I'm confident that Michael would have interrupted her if she was a male, a female, or a donkey. He was trying to set the record straight and she was trying to mislead everyone there. The staff woman you were talking about, I assume, is the woman who stood up and basically said, "Hey, I haven't read anything about this case, but I'm going to have a strong opinion anyway" and then she quoted from an Email that even the president has admitted Jess did not write. Michael, along with most of the room, asked her to read the material before forming an opinion and succumbing to the president's rhetorical devices and scare tactics.

    In short: Your gender-based comments do far more damage to your argument than help. Sometimes women do bad things and sometimes people will be upset with them. Claiming it is BECAUSE they are a woman is the most ridiculously sexist and saddest argument I have heard in years.

    I truly hope you're not an academic, or you are putting all of us to shame.

    Additionally: This blog seems to catalog Jess's struggle with the administration trying to ruin his future. The idea that he's not bright enough to run it himself is ludicrous. Again, if you're an academic, I wouldn't want you teaching my children because I'm pretty confident that they're smart and well-written enough that you would assume that they couldn't be doing their own work. And, before you jump all over me for being sexist, I don't think you'd make that assumption because you're a woman, but because you've proven yourself to be pretty thick-skulled, a trait that exists,unfortunately, in both sexes.

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  10. To Anonymous who blogged "Your father was fired for being a bully and for being unable to work with women (the subtext of his anonymous evaluations)."

    I was at the town hall meeting/open forum and Dr. Zimmerman was passionate and eloquent about getting the truth out and ending the rumors that had been proven unfounded (one being that the "threatening" email from the Butler Brigade was from Jess, which it wasn't.) But Dr. Zimmerman was in no way dismissive of any of the speakers. He did thankfully interrupt the Provost because she continued to fein legal ignornance about the case's disposition and kept repeating the company line: "There is more to the story. We can't tell you everything, but if you knew . . ."

    And blogger, how in the world can you make a judgment about the subtext of Zimmerman's anonymous evaluations?? I know that Zimmerman's overall ratings were very positive because he sent out the results of his evaluation to all the Liberal Arts Faculty prior to the meeting where the Provost announced that she was asking him to step down as Dean because of his low evaluations.

    Do your homework before you talk! Shame on you!

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  11. I think you all need to be reminded who is on trial here. it is Jess and his right to voice his opinion that is being tried-no one else. Yes, there are underlying influences and factors in what got him here but let's leave the facts as they stand. Making inferences from what you THINK you know damages everyone-and makes you look like an idiot-whoever you are!
    Fong is nothing short of pathological and has clearly exhibited he is not fit to run this school. That also needs to be dealt with. He lies repeatedly when everyone knows the truth, appears to actually believe what he says, he lies to save his butt (and others), changes his story all the time, and is a legend in his own mind (all signs of a pathological liar)!

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  12. Something's up: Trustee meeting yesterday (they sealed the doors to the University Club with duct tape) and an emergency meeting of BU vice presidents today.

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  13. if they have any sense, they're fire the president for gross incompetence.

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  14. I was wondering how long responsible clear-thinking members of the board of trustees would allow this pathology to continue to fester without calling their administrators to task for their poor handling of the matter. Dare I say incompetence?!

    Surely some of them must recognized that it is THEY (the board members) who are ultimately responsible for upholding the reputation and integrity of the university. They cannot allow small-minded rogue administrators to ruin the school's reputation. If they do, how could one conclude anything other than that they themselves are party to the deception?

    They must do the right thing: step up to the plate and direct the president to action and resolution - a public apology, dismissal of all charges against Jess, AND the university pay for all legal fees. If the president is unwilling to acknowledge his misconduct, they should offer him the opportunity to resign immediately - for the sake of the university's integrity, and most importantly, the truth.

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  15. Unfortunately, the Vice-Presidents need to to go with him. The senior staff should have stood up for the integrity of the institution, as well as it's student. Many good faculty/staff have been forced to leave for this type of insanity. Butler University set the standard for SLAPP suits.

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  16. Jess on Culture Shock.

    http://www.cultureshocks.com/

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  17. Uh oh I sense some libel and slander in the anonymous comment against Dr. Zimmerman. How about we file a lawsuit against the anonymous commentor who said that Dr. Zimmerman:

    "was fired for being a bully and for being unable to work with women (the subtext of his anonymous evaluations)."

    I see no difference between this comment and those made during the tenure of the Butler Underground.

    You could just as easily make a lawsuit claiming that it hurts Dr. Zimmerman's reputation by calling him
    "a bully" and saying he is "unable to work with women." In fact, anonymous, what else have you said anonymously?? Could we perhaps attribute more anonymous statements to you even though we have no proof it is you? Maybe an anonymous "threat" that you never wrote, but don't worry! We'll just file a lawsuit and imply your guilt in all anonymous statements made on this blog.


    - former Senior Class VP at Butler-

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  18. Just listened to the radio interview on culture shock. Great job, Jess - articulate, concise and level-headed!

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  19. I've read Michael Zimmerman's review too and it's not "wonderful" as some anonymous comments asserted. Some of the written comments clearly pointed to conflict in certain areas, everyone has things they need to work on.

    But this blog is not about the review, its about stifling dissent. The exact thing that happened to the anonymous commenter noting the tone of AKA John Doe. It's easy to get caught up in all the ridiculousness of this situation, something I am surely guilty of, especially as present and former students. However, the sub-header of The Underground mentions the different REALITIES of Butler. Realities is not meant to be binary. The most heated debate swirls between admin and students, a climate where its easy to take sides, as I have. But there are more shrouded issues, deeper politics which students never hear about, and definitely social experiences which some can never escape and which no one should dismiss.

    Shame on the anonymous responders here, who would stifle dissent in their own right.

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  20. "Wonderful" may be too strong a word, but Michael Zimmerman's evaluation as dean from the faculty he oversaw was certainly good. I will give a copy of the evaluation to anyone who wants it.

    For those trying to make sense of this puzzling exchange, it is important to know that this whole issue is now infused with gender politics. It is important to a set of faculty members at Butler to proclaim Michael Zimmerman a bad dean. This pronouncement depends, in part, on the perception that he did not provide sufficient support to the expansion of Butler's Gender Studies program, and, in part, on the perception that he was not supportive of certain female faculty members.

    Moreover, in proclaiming Michael Zimmerman a bad dean, some are indirectly expressing support for the Provost who fired him. In some cases, this support seems to lead them so far as to suspend sound critical thinking in order to accept the far-fetched notion that Soodo Nym's blog and his one email message posed a threat to the Provost's physical safety.

    All of this is, in my view, entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand. Whatever you might think of Michael Zimmerman's person or his deanship, Jess Zimmerman should be judged as his own person and for what he himself did. It is simply not right to visit the sins of the father on the son.

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  21. I have heard from a colleague whom I respect that the crtiticism of Michael Zimmerman's deanship is more complicated than I have suggested--that some questioned his priorities, vision and essential fairness, quite apart from issues relating to Gender Studies.

    Let me grant that this is true. Leading an academic enterprise is a complicated affair, and one is bound to be criticized from many quarters and on many different grounds. I continue to think that the evaluation he received from faculty was a good one, but I have not and never would argue that his deanship was beyond criticism.

    But, again, the point I want to make is that none of this is relevant to an evaluation of the lawsuit and its effects on free speech at Butler University. Michael Zimmerman could have been the very devil as dean, and it would still have been wrong to sue Jess Zimmerman for his blog. The lawsuit has damaged our community, and cotinuing efforts to defend the lawsuit are compounding the damage. That is the point I am trying to get across.

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  22. An excerpt from above: "...The staff woman you were talking about, I assume, is the woman who stood up and basically said, "Hey, I haven't read anything about this case, but I'm going to have a strong opinion anyway" and then she quoted from an Email that even the president has admitted Jess did not write. Michael, along with most of the room, asked her to read the material before forming an opinion and succumbing to the president's rhetorical devices and scare tactics."

    Hey...I'm the staff woman from the town hall meeting--Deb Smith, from the History and Anthropology department. It's crazy how much I feel invalidated by the response to my remarks the other night. First, was the chastising from the meeting. Then,I think I was indirectly referred to in a Collegian opinion written about my disqualifications for having an opinion. And, then, the entry above. But, in all the dismissing of my statements, I'm really wondering if the points I made were even actually heard. Yes...I admitted I hadn't read "all the documents". What I had read was only from things I could get my hands on that day. I unknowingly came unprepared. But...since the meeting was portayed as one that would address questions about civil discourse on our campus...and since much about my remarks addressed that exact subject...to be, I think the word is "unilaterally", disqualified
    seems glaringly unfair. Why were my comments given zero respect? Maybe...I can't be certain...but, maybe, it's related to my confession at the outset that my opinions were not going to be popular with 99% of the people in that room. For me...the sound of closing ears and minds was deafening. For anyone who cares...here are the two points that I made. One focused on defining civil discourse. That two people with differing opinions can speak side by side...but when one, or both, puts energy into their comments...energy that sends the message of hate toward the other, it becomes arrows being "thrown" at the other. At that point it becomes something else. And, get ready, it can become scary. PERIOD. The second point I made was that I don't think constant critisism against the leaders of any institution is healthy. I speak that opinion...not based on this recent issue, but on the last five years of watching destructive criticism against BU leadership. Come on folks. Why such harshness? That comment above about me was ridiculously mean.

    Enough said. Final note: I'm not apologizing...but I know you'll be able to pick this post apart at the seems for the inaccuracies in spelling, and/or the grammer and/or using the correct word. I hope that doesn't invalidate me and my comments.

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  23. Thank you so much for excpressing your views, Deb, and for doing so in such a clear way. I don't agree with everything you say, but disagereement is a vital part of university life. It took courage to speak up at the teach-in, where so many people were supportive of Jess and his cause, and it took courage to speak in your own voice in this forum. I admire this courage, and I am sorry that the response you received made you feel invalidated.

    My own opinion is that people make better decisions and understand their own thinking more fully when they engage views that oppose their own. In this sense, I think you have done a service both to this discussion and to the University.

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