Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chalk Up One For The Good Guys

About a week ago I posted something regarding the negative consequences for faculty that run afoul of their university's administrative powers-that-be. Today I am thrilled to report that, at least in one case, the smug bureaucrats are dining on a heaping helping of crow.
(The) University of Wisconsin-Stout (Stout) has reversed its censorship of theater professor James Miller...

Miller's troubles at Stout began on September 12, 2011, when he posted outside his office door an image of Fillion in Joss Whedon's sci-fi series Firefly and a line from an episode: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed." On September 16, Stout Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter notified Miller that she had removed the poster because it "refer[s] to killing." After Miller replied, "respect my first amendment rights," Walter wrote that "the poster can be interpreted as a threat." Walter also threatened Miller with criminal charges of "disorderly conduct" if he posted any similar poster.

In response to Walter's censorship, Miller placed a new poster on his office door on the 16th. The poster read, "Warning: Fascism" and mocked, "Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets."

Astoundingly, Walter escalated the absurdity. On September 20, she wrote that this poster, too, had been censored as a "threat" because it "depicts violence and mentions violence and death."
As part of this debacle, Professor Miller was reported to the university's "threat assessment team." Stout's 'leadership' troika (the chancellor, vice-chancellor, and provost) issued a letter to all faculty, staff, and students, in which they defended their actions and claimed "This was not an act of censorship. This was an act of sensitivity..."

Stout's actions prompted a number of articles in the national media ridiculing the administration and generated a slew of protest letters. One of the letters pointed out that earlier this year Stout apparently had no problem with "Kill the Bill" posters based on the film Kill Bill, which depicted Uma Thurman with a sword and advocated against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget bill.

No double standard here.

Finally, proving once again that these administrative creatures have no principles or conscience, but only respond to external stimuli like any other bacteria, "the three senior administrators announced that Stout had reversed its decision, is developing a new protocol for handling such cases, and 'will schedule workshops and/or forums during this academic year on First Amendment rights and responsibilities in higher education.' "

Having sat through innumerable 'workshops and/or forums' on diversity, sensitivity, sexual harassment, and the like, I can only imagine what sort of indoctrination will be crammed down attendees throats in Stout's First Amendment workshops.

As for Professor Miller, I fear he may have won the battle but lost the war. I can guaran-damn-tee you that his career at Stout has just come to a screeching halt. Oh, he won't get fired or laid off or anything like that. That would be too obvious. Rather, he'll suffer death by a thousand cuts. It'll be subtle things, like unfavorable class assignments and teaching schedules, getting assigned to the committees no one wants to be on (grievance committees are notorious no-win black holes) and the like.

Trust me - I've been there...

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