Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rhetorical Gymnastics: A presidential Sport

Two pieces appeared in the latest edition of Butler’s student newspaper that I want to bring to your attention. The first was a news report about the settlement I reached with Butler. The second was an opinion piece written by Professor Bill Watts.

I very much hope that you read both pieces because, in very different ways, they are both amazing.

The news story addressed the fact that Butler demanded that I post a $100,000 bond to delay the disciplinary proceedings against me. Remember, I filed suit asking for a temporary restraining order against Butler because they had demonstrated that they were not prepared to undertake a fair
disciplinary process. The judge agreed with me.

The newspaper story broke some absolutely astounding news: “When asked about the bond amount, Fong said he had no knowledge that the action had been taken.” The president of Butler University claimed he didn’t know that his institution had demanded that one of its students post a bond of $100,000? Can anyone actually believe this

The president has a pattern of denying any knowledge of the most important actions taken by the university in this case. As I’ve pointed out before
, he also claimed he knew nothing about the decision to replace “John Doe’s” name with my name in the original lawsuit. Really? I don’t think anyone believed him last time and I doubt that anyone believes him now.

Frankly, though, I don’t know which is worse: that he is so out of touch that he doesn’t know what’s going on in the university in his own name, or that he authorized such an outrageous action and then opted to lie about it. Both options are shameful and embarrassing.

That wasn’t the only amazing piece of news in the newspaper story though. The sentence immediately following the one I just quoted in which the president denied knowing about the bond is also bizarre: “After speaking with university attorneys, Fong said in an e-mail that the bond was merely a legal formality that had to be added to the document for the restraining order to stand.”

Apparently the president is claiming that first
he heard of the bond demand was from the reporter, about two months after it was filed with the court, and, upon hearing about it, he immediately contacted the university attorneys (again, note the use of the plural – the university is certainly willing to spare no expense to attack their undergraduates) to ask about it. His response, as reported, is also beyond belief: “the bond was merely a legal formality that had to be added to the document for the restraining order to stand.”

As I’ve done with so many of the president’s earlier statements (see my posts on Oct. 15
, Oct. 19, and Oct 27, for example), let me explain the absurdity in what he has said. First, as I noted on Feb. 12, the request for a temporary restraining order that my attorney filed had a place for the judge to fill in the amount of money to be posted as a bond. The judge, as is his legal right, opted not to require any bond at all, for the simple reason that postponing a kangaroo court was not going to cost Butler University any money.

Second, if you read the document
submitted to the court in response to my request for a temporary restraining order (a document, by the way, submitted in the president’s name, even though he claims not to have been aware of the most important point in it), you’ll see that the last thing the university wanted to do was to have the restraining order stand; indeed the title of that document begins by calling itself an “Emergency Motion to Dissolve Restraining Order.” Nonetheless, what the president is claiming, is that their demand for me to post a bond of $100,000 was actually their way of doing me a favor. After all, according to his statement, had they not asked for the bond in that amount, my request for a temporary restraining order would have been thrown out and I would have been forced to participate in their kangaroo court.

If you’re as confused by the president’s rhetorical gymnastics as I am, I can’t say I’m surprised. As has been his pattern in every aspect of this case, he refuses to take any responsibility for any action, he refuses to acknowledge any possible errors or misjudgments, and he weaves stories that make absolutely no sense in the belief that people will simply accept them because he is, after all, the president.

This is all simply ridiculous.

As I said above, there were two pieces in the student newspaper about my case. The second
was an opinion piece written by Professor Watts. As he has done throughout, Professor Watts asks probing questions in his attempt to hold the university responsible for its actions. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of his efforts on a campus where faculty are so afraid of what the president will do to them if they disagree with him, that they have to take confession with a priest to get their opinions to the public.

While I recommend his entire article to you, I want to focus on one part because he perfectly captured
one of the things that has been bothering me. He noted that “a high university official” explained the “aggressive campaign” against me because that administrator believed that my father was ultimately the force behind The TruBU. Professor Watts went on to say that this is “just another way in which the university has denied Jess his autonomy and personhood.”


The Butler administration seems to have such a low regard for Butler students that no administrator could believe that a student could possibly be responsible for bringing to light all that The True BU brought to light. They simply dismissed my competence and, by extension, the competence of all of my fellow students. Not surprisingly, I have felt incredibly demeaned by their position. Beyond that, why would these people want to be in charge of a university that, in their minds, enrolls such pliable students who are incapable of acting on their own? And why would the University want administrators who clearly hold their students in such low regard?

Let me, again
, say as clearly as I can: the information in The True BU came from faculty and staff members who were willing to provide information to me anonymously because they were too scared of administrative retaliation to speak openly. And let me make it clear that my father did not know that I was Soodo Nym.

Let me conclude today by asking why was “a high university official” discussing such incredible things with a faculty member? Isn’t this simply yet another way of defaming another member of my family, something that “high university officials” have felt comfortable doing regularly?

To be completely honest, I think it's about time the University got new "high university officials."


  1. The link to Professor Watts' article won't work for me; I get a 404 error message whenever I try to read his column. The news story link works.

  2. Sorry about that! I've just fixed the link. I think the Collegian website is in the process of updating for a new issue so I can't find their copy. Instead, Dr. Watts was kind enough to send me his original and I have hosted it on Google Documents.

    Again, the links should now work.

    Have a wonderful day.

  3. How can the lies and intimidation continue? Don't these people have any decency? What a disgrace self-serving administrators have brought to the school they're supposed to be leading.