Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Ironic Petition

Have any of you noticed that there’s a new Butler petition housed on the ipetition web site? If so, do you share my amusement in the irony of that petition?

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me bring you up to speed. Last fall, a group of my friends (creatively entitled “Friends of Jess Zimmerman”) began a petition demanding that the Butler administration apologize to me and to the Butler community for their crazy actions associated with the True BU blog. (That petition has grown very nicely and all the people who have signed it have been completely ignored by the Butler administration. Take a look and add your signature if you haven’t yet done so. It won’t help, but it can’t hurt!)

Now, the president of the faculty senate has created her own petition to the Butler administration! It seems that the administration, with virtually no input from faculty or students, has decided to do away with the science library. Faculty and students are not happy about the decision and, because meaningful communication on the Butler campus is virtually nonexistent, the president of the faculty senate has had to resort to creating a public petition to give people a voice. The petition is growing rapidly and must be a huge embarrassment to the administration. In a little over 24 hours, the petition garnered over 500 signatures.

But beyond the obvious embarrassment, what can anyone think about Butler when the only way for the faculty senate to be heard is for its president to have to go public with a petition. And I bet most faculty will be too frightened to add their names to the petition.

All I can say is that this is yet another example of the Butler Way!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FIRE assesses the Butler – Duke match-up

Like virtually everyone else on and near campus, and many around the world, I’ve been incredibly impressed by all the men’s basketball team has accomplished. The players and coaching staff handled themselves remarkably well and their efforts have elevated all of us. They are, however, only a part of Butler University and there are other members of the university community who also deserve high praise for their accomplishments. One of the exciting side effects of the men’s basketball success is that attention beyond the “Butler bubble” has been brought to others deserving of it.

But not all of the attention focused on Butler is good, however. FIRE ( Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), one of the country’s organizations most strongly fighting for free speech on university campuses, offered a head-to-head matchup of Butler and Duke – looking at free speech issues rather than basketball skills. Their conclusions are not pretty!

Their article ran with an interesting headline: “Butler vs. Duke: Who Wins in the Arena of Free Speech?” As they say, given the widely reported problems Duke has had with the way it trampled on the rights of falsely accused players on its lacrosse team and a major embarrassment with its Women’s Center, the contest shouldn’t be close.

But Butler’s actions, coupled with the needless and vindictive aggressiveness of its president, changed the complexion of the contest. As FIRE states, “Butler may be the underdog du jour, but it's shown that it can play with the big boys at more than just basketball.”

After presenting a good summary of my case, mostly from the original Inside Higher Education article and from an essay on Finding Dulcinea, FIRE called the contest a draw:

"Zimmerman said of the saga, "I would have hoped that we could have the trial first and the verdict second, but that isn’t the way Butler has decided to operate." The same, of course, could be said about Duke's handling of the lacrosse scandal. Neither school, then, gets away clean when it comes to respecting student rights. Whether you root for Butler or Duke tonight, know that the Latin saying caveat emptor--let the buyer beware--applies equally to them both."

Butler’s president, then, did what Butler’s fabulous basketball team was unable to do: he played Duke University completely even.

He has some important lessons to learn from Butler’s basketball program. All members of the program handled themselves quite wonderfully, spoke well of their adversaries, took credit for their own actions and looked to learn from their experiences. Butler’s president, on the other hand, continuously claimed ignorance of all actions, charged that his lawyers acted without either his knowledge or approval, and seems to have learned nothing from his brutish activities. He’s not even been willing to offer a simple apology to the campus community (let alone to me) for his actions, despite more than a thousand people calling for him to do so.

Butler has much to be proud of this spring, but, as FIRE has so clearly shown, the actions of its president and its record on freedom of speech issues don’t fall into that category. Instead, they tarnish spectacular accomplishments.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Under the Bus

Although I didn’t have the energy or the desire to attend last Thursday’s symposium on free speech, my father did go. He reported two interesting facts to me that are worth sharing with all of you.

First, although there was virtually no discussion at all about my situation, all three of the panelists made it clear that the type of actions Butler University engaged in was entirely inappropriate. Repeatedly, the panelists described what they thought were bad things to do under situations similar to our situation and repeatedly they almost perfectly described the actions the Butler administration took.

Second, John Hargrove, president of Butler’s Board of Trustees told my father after the event that Butler has made a change in its legal representation. They are no longer represented by Ice Miller and have moved to Baker and Daniels. While I think that this is a very good move, from my perspective, Ice Miller was belligerent and unhelpful throughout, I do not believe that they were the sole source of the problem. Attorneys don’t act unilaterally!

But it appears that Butler’s president may have managed to shift all blame away from himself and to Ice Miller. It appears that he may have managed to convince the Board of Trustees of his outrageous statements that he was completely unaware of the legal actions taken in the university’s name – from filing a lawsuit against a student to demanding that a student post a $100,000 bond to insure a fair on-campus disciplinary procedure.

It’s hard to believe that competent people could believe statements of this sort, but it appears that Butler’s president has been successful in throwing his attorney’s under the bus while walking away unscathed. Amazing.


On another note, for those of you who have asked, I can be reached via Email at jess.f.zimmerman(at)