Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Big Ten, Big Voices

From the beginning, I have said that this issue has the potential to affect not only students at Butler, but at other schools as well. It seems that these other students, the ones who are afraid of what this might mean for them, at their schools, are taking notice and standing up to say that the actions taken by Butler’s administration run counter to the goals of higher education.

The Indiana Daily Student, a student newspaper at Indiana University, published an editorial along with an editorial cartoon about my situation at Butler. The editorial, which ran under the headline “Bulldog Bullies” says that the course of action charted by the Butler administration “sets an alarming precedent – one that we, as students, have a duty to protest” and questions how this entire ordeal fits within the scope of Butler’s mission statement, which promises open dialogue and support for inquiry. The editorial is linked on the right and can be found here. The editorial cartoon from The Indiana Daily Student is below.

Michigan State also ran an editorial about Butler. In a piece titled “Student blogger lawsuit sends dangerous message,” The State News editorial board warns, “Butler’s administration appears to have acted recklessly. It suppressed a student’s thoughts at the interest of a valued reputation. This probably isn’t the first case of criticism that has surfaced at a university. Butler should develop a thicker skin and realize universities across the country are criticized every day — through many different mediums.” Indeed, at the end of the editorial, the editorial board points out what should have been clear to the Butler administrators who charted this course: “Sorry Butler, suing your students doesn’t shush harsh statements. If anything, it just makes them more deafening.” The Michigan State editorial, while linked on the right, can also be found here.

I’ve heard from students and student newspapers from around the country who are interested in covering this case to ensure that something similar doesn’t happen at their university. While we work to protect our rights at Butler, we are working alongside colleagues from other schools to protect, broadly, the rights of students everywhere. I’m proud that so many students from so many schools are interested and engaged enough to stand up to power and protect the values that are instilled in us by our educations: To ask questions, find answers, form opinions, and share those opinions with others.

Instead of cultivating these ideals, the Butler administration seems to want to stifle them and, with their actions, they are modeling the antithesis of what higher education is supposed to be about. This whole thing started with my blog. I encourage you to go back and read everything that I wrote. In it, I promise you, you will not find any threats to the “safety” and/or “welfare” of anyone, which is what the president, the public relations department, and the chair of the board of trustees continually say was in jeopardy. You will also not find “racial and sexual epithets,” even though the president implied I had written such things (his first memo, linked on the right). What you will find, however, are the opinions of people who are still too afraid of our administration to speak publicly. (Remember, a significant percentage of the School of Music faculty endorsed what I wrote but only through the confidentiality of a priest – see this post.) Additionally, you will find my opinions in the blog, opinions that I believe are well supported by the documentary evidence that I provided at the time. Butler administrators and public relations people, on the other hand, have chosen to make unsubstantiated and defamatory claims about me and to use rhetorical devices to make you believe things that even they know are untrue. It is this kind of anti-intellectual behavior, continually perpetrated by Butler administrators, and the desire of those administrators for retribution against people who disagree with them that has created the culture of fear at Butler. These behaviors have scared students of other institutions into action, hoping to keep their schools’ administrations from following the same undesirable and sad path Butler has opted to take.

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