Sunday, December 6, 2009

The president Meets Dick the Butcher

Most of you probably know that Butler's president has a Ph.D. in English. It's fair, therefore, to suspect that he's familiar with Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare. Given some of the statements the president has been making lately, he seems to have taken to heart the line offered by Shakespeare's Dick the Butcher, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

This latest turn of events is somewhat surprising since Butler has long been enamored with their lawyers. Remember that Butler brought in their lawyer to meet with my father last December. At that time he was told that they had proof I was “Soodo Nym” and they threatened to sue me if The True BU was not shut down because the president was so angry about the negative publicity he thought The True BU was generating.

Although their power tactic worked and they intimidated me into closing The True BU, I never believed that they would actually sue me for expressing my opinions in a blog – especially when those opinions were the same as those voiced by many faculty members in the School of Music, and especially when I (thought I) was living in a world in which universities simply don’t sue students. But the president was angry enough that he set his lawyer to work, and his lawyer found two colleagues in his firm who also wanted to generate some billable hours, and a lawsuit was crafted. That lawsuit was filed four days AFTER The True BU was removed from the web and it was filed over the signatures of three attorneys.

As I’ve said before, I heard nothing about this lawsuit for six months – not until my father complained to the university about disparaging and absolutely untrue comments made in public by the provost about him. Then the lawyers were trotted out again to threaten me with this same lawsuit. And they threatened and they threatened. They threatened me throughout the months of June, July and August. They threatened me for the first 26 days in September. And then, at 10:05 p.m. on Sunday, September 27th, in an email, they stopped threatening and made a promise – they promised to substitute my name for that of “John Doe” in the lawsuit within the week. (“…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.”)

Throughout the summer months of threatening, the university’s main lawyer repeatedly said that he had to check with the president before committing himself to any specific course of action. And that’s how it should be when a lawyer is working for a client.

Which brings me back to the president. How often has he said that he never intended to sue a student? How often has he said that he only filed the original lawsuit to find out who “Soodo Nym” was, something he said he already knew before the suit was filed? Why the threats to sue me if he never intended to sue me?

One implication to be drawn from these statements is that the lawyer was running the show – apparently against the wishes of the president and in such a way that the president was completely ignorant of his actions. I’ll leave the alternative implication for you to discern and simply say that it certainly isn’t flattering to the president.

And then, on October 27th, exactly a month after I received the promise from the university’s attorney that my name would be added to the lawsuit, I learned from a Collegian reporter that the president explicitly stated that he had nothing to do with the promise. In the face of the national outcry over the outrageous lawsuit, the president decided to cut his losses and, metaphorically at least, kill his attorney. Shakespeare would be proud.

The attorney, however, like the president, doesn’t seem to want to take credit for the promise to put my name on the lawsuit. Take a look at what the attorney wrote to a Butler faculty member: You accused me in our phone conversation of threatening a student with his/her substitution for John Doe in the lawsuit. I immediately reacted to this by telling you that was untrue…. This amazing disclaimer was preceded by a threat: I repeat our caution to you that your concerns be voiced responsibly, especially before making such serious accusations against Butler and its attorneys.

So, according to Butler’s president and to Butler’s primary attorney, no one is responsible for the email promising to substitute my name for “John Doe’s” and even mentioning such a thing makes one susceptible to Butler’s wrath.

These are the people running the show – and these are the people complaining about my blog, a blog since October 14th I’ve taken credit for writing.

When are these people going to take responsibility for their actions?

1 comment:

  1. He has always tended to run when confronted.