Monday, October 26, 2009

More National News

There was another story about the actions of the Butler administration in The Huffington Post this afternoon (linked on the right). This time, the blogger discusses the internal disciplinary process: He describes it as a “kangaroo court” and compares the fact that I will be tried by Butler to the failed Guantanamo Bay policies of the Bush administration. When this ordeal started, I had no idea that we would be getting such consistent, and favorable, national news coverage, but it certainly has been refreshing to see that people around the country agree that the way the administration has handled this situation is crazy.

In a few days, I’ll be talking more widely about what the administration at Butler has been doing to me, and the effect their actions might have on freedom of speech nationally. On Wednesday, I’ll be on Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn. Culture Shocks is a national radio show that has a wide audience in a number of cities across the country and is also available online ( Lynn is the director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and is a well known commenter who has appeared on many political shows, running the gamut from The O’Reilly Factor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. According to his website, “The show examines issues and trends in today’s culture wars through conversations with and about some of the most fascinating figures of our times.” While the circumstances are certainly unfortunate, I am excited to talk about everything that has happened. I hope to touch on a range of topics: From my reasons for writing The True BU blog last year, to the administration aggressively threatening to sue me and discipline me on campus for the last six months, to the possibility of an unfair trial during internal disciplinary procedures. Additionally, I suspect we’ll talk about the impact that all of this will have on our campus and on other campuses.

An important development today: The Butler attorney dismissed the lawsuit in Marion County court. It may have taken them a week to do it, but I’m confident that this action was a direct reaction to the pressure being put on them by you. While it is a step in the right direction, and keeps Butler from being the first school to follow through on a lawsuit against a student for online speech (They’re still the first to file a suit against online speech…), our fight is nowhere near over. As mentioned in The Huffington Post, they still plan to try me on campus, in a manner that I suspect will have a similar chilling effect on free speech and dissent both at Butler and elsewhere. We need to be strong in our message to the administration, to the trustees, and to the community that we value the free flow of ideas that exists on college campuses. One way to do that, if you have not already, is to sign the petition ( that was created by Friends of Jess Zimmerman that calls for an apology to the community for filing the lawsuit and an apology to me for their threats and actions in the last few months. Though dropping the lawsuit is a good step, the administration has made no progress towards fulfilling the demands mentioned in the petition. If you have signed the petition, thank you for your support and I urge you to go back and look at what our friends from Butler and across the country have written. There are some really powerful things being said by many distinguished people.


  1. Jess-
    I am a Butler alumn and I have to say that I am not on your side. I am not saying that I am 100% behind Butler's decision either. I think that the drive you have is respectable and I admire that. However, you made a mistake and you are dealing with the consequences. The comparison to Virginia Tech offended you because it was blown out of proportion. Do you really think that comparing this situation to anything related to Guatanamo Bay is not blown out of proportion? I know you did not make this statement, but the fact that you printed it in your blog leads me to believe that you support it.

    I do not agree with the lawsuit that was filed-I was extremely pleased to hear that they dropped it. But you still made a mistake, Jess. You have admitted that you lied to LJ about a pretty serious situation you were in-and that alone would be worth an internal punishment for any other student. What makes you so different? What makes you so much better than everyone else that you believe you deserve an apology from the university when you put them in this situation? Their reaction was to your actions.

    You have previously stated that you love Butler. I find this hard to believe based on your recent actions. For me, Butler was and always will be a second home to me. The Faculty, Staff, and Administration were always available and ready to engage in open, respectful conversation on any topic with which I approached them. I had my issues with Butler at times. I believe every student runs into those and we all handle them differently.

    Jess, I believe that you have a great future ahead of you. I know that you will do wonderful things with your life and I truly hope that this situation does not have a negative impact on that. Please let me reiterate that I am not saying that Butler is right or you are right. I'm sure that this will continue to affect all involved for longer than it should considering it never should have happened at all.

    I am posting this anonymously knowing that I am a coward. I have many friends who have been swept up in this whole ordeal. Friends who previously "loved Butler, too" but now have nothing good to say about this wonderful University. These individuals have not reacted well to my comments that are not 100% the same as theirs. I believe this situation has encouraged the climate of fear that you speak of not because of the lawsuit but because of the divide you have created within the Butler Community. You have made people believe that they are either with you or against you. There can be no middle of the road or any semblence of understanding between the two sides as long as this attitude continues within both parties. There have been many mistakes made by all involved but it is time to put your focus back on the real reasons you are at Butler and the wonderful opportunities you have ahead of you rather than dwelling on the past mistakes of all involved.

    I truly wish you the best, Jess. I apologize that I am not a big enough person to include my name with this post.

    Class of 2008

  2. This "Class of 2008" commentary is a classic ploy: When someone takes a stand against injustice, and does it imperfectly, the perpetrators and their supporters shift the focus of the situation from the wrongs done by the esteemed leaders and instead attempt to create the illusion that the victim is the one fostering and perpetuating the damage.

    Let's keep our eye on the ball people. Everyone who has read Jess' blog knows that the criticisms he and other bloggers voiced were not defamatory or threatening: They were simply their dissenting views of the matter. He along with all other individuals have the right to express these views without being subjected to overt administrative threat, intimidation, and disparagement...yes, disparagement. (Does not the president's October 19 memo, in effect appear to be publicly proclaiming that Jess is not speaking the truth?) See Jess commentary in his response to this memo.

    Let us not lose sight of the fact that it is the administration that has initiated and perpetuated this debacle. They alone have the power to bring it to a resolution. Will they have the courage to admit they made mistakes and handled the situation inappropriately?

    As we all know, it is very hard for strong egos to admit mistakes or wrongdoing.

    The longer this situation continues, the more likely both side will express themselves imperfectly, and the collateral damage to the university will amplify. But let's keep our eye on the ball: Jess did not start or perpetuate this. He took the blog down a long time ago. It was the administration that pursued it over the summer and here into the fall. They alone have the power to end it. Will they? We will see.

  3. Dear "Class of 2008"

    Nice job dissenting with the mainstream views on this site. But I don't like what you have to say, so I have taken the liberty of reading all of your emails (and those of your family members) and filing a suit against you until you make your name public. (I just MUST know who you are.) After that point, I am going to bring you to my own court. Oh by the way, let me introduce you to the Judge and Jury- me.

    Try that hypothetical on for size.

    Thanks for loving Butler so much,
    Steven Ireneson

  4. My videoblog series, Sometimesdaily, has taken a great interest in this debate and has created a video on the matter. It appears your university has what I like to call "being a big baby" syndrome and doesn't seem to care for its students' 1st ammendment rights. Your posts on TrueBU about the admins were so ridiculously mild -- it's just laughable that they'd get their panties in such a twist over this!

  5. Jess

    It is over--please stop. Move on with your life and don't let the adults who guided you in this "blog" issue take over your life--please. They are in for revenge and hurt. Is that how you want to live your life? You can change the world, but don't do it by hurting people. It is over--move on. Try to find something worthwhile to take up your time--adults were using you. Shame on them.

  6. Another alumni here, class of '01, opining that suing a student is shameful. I've emailed alumni affairs to ask for clarification of exactly what is going on. Honestly, the author of this blog bugs me, he's rash and oversteps, his family connections make this complicated, and he has made mistakes. Of course, part of the reason he bugs me is because this is exactly the same kind of crap I might have pulled as an undergrad and learned was a bad idea as I got older (note: do not write a letter to the editor of the Butler paper when you are drunk).

    Still, I read the whole original blog (I'm an academic, so I read insidehighered normally) and I don't see what merited the law suit. It seemed to me that you were doing what I would have done as a Butler student, caring passionately about your education and the professors in your community who deliver it, and feeling like you have a right to talk to the deans and provosts.

    I admit to being bewildered, because when I was at Butler the deans and the administration were largely terrific. They came to my shows and events and wrote me notes to tell me their thoughts. The chair of liberal arts had a student committee to get feedback. None of this sounds familiar to me.

    Regardless, suing a kid for expressing their opinion in a largely reasonable fashion (the emails were TACKY and a terrible idea) and then not letting it go is not Butler as I know it and I am appalled. I have let my alumni friends know.

  7. to anonymous

    you ask jess to "stop" and "move on". i assume that you write this addressing the university's dropping of the lawsuit. while they may no longer hold legal power over jess the university still will be dealing with jess through their own internal disciplinary process. is this justified? to what extent will they discipline him? i know that if i was in this situation i would be absolutely terrified. jess needs all the defense and support he can get, especially now.

    Nicholas R. Meyers

  8. And who will step up to discipline the president for his serious lack of judgment and the dysfunctional climate of fear at all levels of the university?