Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Western Front: Mills can return to Western

Mills can return to Western
If Mills serves another suspension, he could resume teaching theater classes

By Ciara O’ Rourke

November 11, 2005

After a yearlong paid suspension and six meetings to assess the teaching eligibility of Perry Mills, a tenured Western theatre arts instructor, the controversial professor could return to Western.

First, however, he must serve a two-quarter unpaid suspension, according to the document containing the findings of the panel that reviewed the charges against Mills.

If Mills decides to continue teaching, he must also sign a statement agreeing to comply with Western’s code of faculty ethics.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Findings of WWU's Secret Hearing

All of this started over something about some kind of incident involving a pocketknife and, here, in this document, the panel members of a WWU secret hearing reveal that the panel could find "no credible testimony" that Mills engaged in "threatening conduct" or that anybody anywhere at all was "actually frightened" by whatever it was that Mills didn't do in the first place.

In other words, those charges were complete bullshit. Yet the vast usefulness of bullshit is herein once again proven, in that even though the initial justification for Mills' suspension has disintegrated into dust, the panel, now committed to action, simply shrugs and changes its focus. (After being a sweeping big-time hit, no doubt this "Weapons of Mass Destruction Tactic" is on the rise amongst our fine nation's more common scoundrels.) In Mills' case, even though there was no threat, no incident, no victim that anyone can find, a bunch of good solid hysteria about "safety" was useful for getting all the cattle to trample in the same direction. And now that there's momentum, WWU's secret hearing panel no doubt find it difficult to change course, let alone admit that there's no good reason in the first place for them to be clomping and mooing like a herd of beasts dumber than stone.

The entire document is fascinating. Building from a solid base of passive voice, the terse tone of paternal disappointment dissipates only in those places where the panel realizes it might look silly if it doesn't at least acknowledge that a few jackasses have made a power-play, cut a few corners, told a few yarns, and things didn't really work out as planned. Even though crude and inexpert in their deviance, and though Stalin would no doubt be embarrassed for them, their failures risk making the University look bad, or rather, worse than it does presently. But, of course, those moments when the panel appears to recognize that there is more tomfoolery to the case than they've heard, they quickly return to accounting anything Mills has said in the last twenty years that ever hurt anybody's feelings.

In short, what began as a move to subdue an alleged knife-wielding maniac has become, in the course of weeding out fantasy from fact, a very serious tribunal solemnly discussing what to do about Oscar the Grouch.

The panel's criticism of Professor Mills rests on one assumption: That a professor's method of teaching be palatable to all students. The weak, dumb, or slow must never encounter anything that frightens them. As best he can, the professor must insulate his philosophy with cotton-candy pillows, lest some unsuspecting suburbanite accidentally be stabbed in the head with an idea.

In any case, the panel has penned some small bits of brilliance for a herd of career educators, such as this logical howler tucked away in the course of some otherwise drab paragraph: "Verbal abuse is verbal abuse."

What fun! Let me try too! A kangaroo court is a kangaroo court.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Provost Bodman Off the Hook (For Now)

[Following is the text of the STIPULATED ORDER OF DISMISSAL filed on Nov. 9. Emphasis added by editor.]

Plaintiff Perry Mills, by and through his attorneys Carney Badley Spellman, P.S. and James E. Lobsenz, and defendant Andrew Bodman, by and through his attorneys Miller Nash LLP and Francis L. Van Dusen, Jr., stipulate to the entry of the subjoined order dismissing all claims against defendant Bodman with prejudice and without the award of fees or costs to either side, and expressly reserving the right to bring suit in the future against Western Washington University and officials of the University other than defendant Bodman.

Based on the parties’ stipulation as described above, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that: The plaintiff’s claims against defendant Bodman are dismissed with prejudice, and without the award of attorneys’ fees or costs to either side. Nothing in this order shall preclude the plaintiff from filing suit against Western Washington University, or against officials of the University other than defendant Bodman, challenging either his suspension, or any subsequently imposed discipline.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

If Dreams Came True

Excerpts from a Western Front article on Mark Kuntz' play "If Dreams Came True":

"The play," [Mark Kuntz] said, "is about six West Point cadets who banter and put on blackface makeup while preparing to perform a minstrel show in 1923."


"Kuntz said the script’s language is raw, and those offended by coarse language should not attend."

"The play is a safe excuse to be a guy," [actor] Emerick said. "It’s fun to discuss dicks and pussies, and to discover new things we can do with it."

Monday, October 10, 2005

Whatcom Independent, 7 October 2005

WWU Debates Firing Professor Mills
Meeting Closed to Public and Press
By Paul de Armond

BELLLINGHAM - Wednesday, Western Washington University's faculty hearing panel banned the public and all members of the press from a meeting called to debate whether to fire tenured WWU professor Perry Mills. If fired, Mills would not only lose his job, his pension benefits would be severely reduced.

Professor Mills' attorney James Lobsenz contended the Washington State Open Meetings Act and the state constitution promise citizens justice will be done openly.

After the hearing Lobsenz said, "There isn't a gag order. The hearing's procedure is clearly illegal. However, the panel has expressed their wish that the proceedings be private and out of politeness and deference to their feelings I will not say anything about what happens in the room until it is over."

At issue are the charges brought by the university against Professor Mills a year ago. The charges remained secret until last June. Last October, Professor Mills had been barred from campus and suspended with full pay for allegedly brandishing a pocketknife and speaking rudely to students and faculty. Mills contends he was suspended in retaliation for his exposure of what he alleges were financial irregularities in the theatre department.

In July, Professor Mills brought suit in federal court against Provost Andrew Bodman for violating his civil rights and ignoring the employment contract that spelled out the procedure for suspension. That case is currently in federal court in Seattle.

In September the university selected former King County Superior Court Judge Robert Alsdorf as its hearing officer and appointed five faculty members to the panel. "The hearing is not bound by strict legal rules of evidence and the panel may admit any evidence they find probative," Alsdorf said.

Mills' attorney James Lobsenz asked that the hearing be open to the public. "There are levels of authority regarding this hearing. First there is the faculty handbook, then there is state law and finally there is the state constitution," Lobsenz said. "Above the laws of the state is the constitution, which requires that justice be administered openly."

"Why should this hearing be secret?" he asked. "It would be a shame if the community is shut out."

University counsel Wendy Bohlke claimed the faculty senate had already decided the matter when they approved the handbook. She said, "The hearing is not secret. The proceedings are recorded and when the decision becomes final, the record of the decision becomes open." She noted the university already has a policy of closing quasi-judicial hearings by the Board of Trustees and the Associated Students.

Bohlke asked the panel to consider whose issues are at stake. "Witnesses' testimony could result in charges of slander or disparagement if they were open to the public," she said.

Lobsenz said, "The faculty senate cannot override the state constitution."

The panel retired for ten minutes to consider the issue. When the hearing reconvened, Hearing Officer Robert Alsdorf said the panel had decided to keep the hearing private. They then directed all members of the public to leave the hearing room, adding, "And that applies to the reporter present." This reporter was the only member of the public present.

Professor Mark Kuntz and Provost Bodman also left the hearing before it adjourned. It is not known if they left voluntarily or if they also were barred by a later decision of the panel. The hearing continued for another hour and a half, but the proceedings are now secret and as of the Independent's publication deadline no further information is available.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Witnesses to the "Knife"

Declaration of Michael Murphy

One day in October 2004, immediately after a class session, I discussed with another student, Nick McLeod, a play he was writing for the class. Mr. McLeod wanted me to play a part in the play for a scene to be performed in class. He told me that the character needed to use a knife onstage as a prop and asked me if I had a suitable knife. I did not, but I told him that Professor Mills had a folding knife we might be able to use, and I asked Professor Mills if he had the knife to show to Mr. McLeod. I knew that Professor Mills sometimes carried a pocket knife because I have seen him use a pocketknife in the past to cut holes in the ends of his cigars. Professor Mills said that he did have the knife, and he removed it from his pocket and opened it to show it to Mr. McLeod. Professor Mills said we could use the knife as a prop, and then he put it away. The knife was out of Professor Mills' pocket for less than 15 seconds, and at no time did Professor Mills brandish the knife in any remotely threatening manner. I was standing near Professor Mills and I was not at all frightened for my safety. There were other students in the area, but I saw no indication that any of them was afraid and certainly none were in any danger.

Declaration of Nicholas McLeod

One day in October 2004, immediately after a class session, I discussed a play I was writing for the class with Professor Mills and Mike Murphy, another student in the class. The play was called "Bagels and Balrogs," and included a discussion among the patrons of a bagel shop, who were debating the relative merits of the film and novel versions of the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I had cast Mike Murphy to play one of the characters in the play. The character was intended to be reminiscent of a "Hell's Angel," and have a rough, surly persona. I had written a scene in the play which called for the character to slice a bagel while passionately arguing a point about the film version of the Lord of the Rings. For dramatic effect, and to deepen the development of the character, the script called for the character to use a knife to hack the bagel into several pieces. I believed that the knife would need to be fairly large in order to convey the dramatic intent and a smaller knife would not be appropriate for the scene.

I asked Mike Murphy if he had a suitable knife, and he said that he did not. Professor Mills then told us that he had a pocketknife that might be appropriate, and removed his knife from his belt. He opened it and showed it to us, asking if we thought it would serve as a prop for the scene. We agreed that it would be an appropriate prop, and asked Professor Mills if we could use it for the scene. Professor Mills said that we could use the pocketknife as a prop.

When Professor Mills took out and opened the pocketknife, Mr. Murphy and I were within approximately arm's length of Professor Mills. I did not feel at all threatened, and Mr. Murphy likewise gave no indication that he was made uncomfortable by Professor Mills' actions. Professor Mills did not brandish the knife, point it at anyone, or make any gestures with the knife of any kind. I considered the discussion to be related to my coursework.

During the discussion with Mr. Murphy and Professor Mills, there were several other students in the area, the class having not yet fully disbanded. None of the other students were as close to Professor Mills as I and Mr. Murphy, although other students were close enough to see that Professor Mills was showing us a pocketknife. No other students indicated any alarm or displeasure at the fact that Professor Mills showed us his pocketknife. I did not hear anyone say anything about the knife at all, and certainly no one seemed to be afraid.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I suspect the addition of a crate of PDF files on the side links will tempt only those familiar with Professor Mills, so here's some highlights:

The Syllabus

We will aspire rather than compromise, excell instead of settle-for and we will write the best piece of dramatic intensity the world has ever suffered through......and in doing, we will focus every ounce of intellectual and artistic energy we possess upon the work. If we do not, we are no better than a pack of animals and we deserve to die unread and unheard. Get busy.

Mills' Eval of Dept. Chair Mark Kuntz

(In which the Professor gives Kuntz a One-to-Five rating of Three for Scheduling; Zeros in most cases, and a Minus One in Handling Budget Resources. It could be that Professor Mills' unholy evaluation of Kuntz in April 2003 has something to do with Kuntz's unholy suspension of Mills presently.)

He will say ANYTHING in order to further his own selfish ends; I consider him a liar and worse (see section on the budget) and lament that such persons are deemed necessary to the running of an academic unit. He is flawlessly polite, oily to the point of extreme unction and untrustworthy in any situation....Fire this phony, now.

Kuntz' Memo After September 11th

Or: Mark Kuntz Implies That People Are Terrorists Who Aren't
Or: Mark McCarthy Knows a Good Angle When He Sees It

I am concerned about the safety of our students, staff, and faculty.

Last week our nation learned some tough lessons as we were aware of a potential terrorist threat, but were without the resolve to act on that threat. Our culture prefers to act after substantial damage has occurred, so that the removal of the threat is clearly defined and a call to action has substantial momentum.

Perry Mills represents that kind of threat on campus. The level of threat Perry represents is not clear, and a course of action is very difficult if not dangerous itself.

A Student Letter of Support for Mills

I'm writing this letter in order to recommend Perry Mills for whatever it is he wants to be recommended for....Getting along with Perry is often a chore. He is not easily impressed or easily endeared.

Another Student Letter of Support for Mills

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear Sir,

Perry Mills is of the old school, in the tradition of the Academy, Cambridge, and Gottingen. This means that he demands scholarship from self and students, and it is disheartening to see the majority (who are fools) attempt to wheedle out of the higher learning, or to see his administrative superiors discontinue his interdisciplinary studies program. He is the only force I have met at this university that insists that one engage the material. Among the priceless multitude of ideas introduced to me by Professor Mills, both in and out of class, are works by the following:

Paul Fussell, Richard Mitchell, Scott Buchanan, Ben Shahn, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aeschylus, Sophocles, H.L. Mencken, Arthur Koestler, Jean Anouilh, Jean Cocteau, J.P. Sartre, and Florence King.

If this list is recognized to be one composed of pessimistic and notorious nonconformists with anger management problems, so be it: this little note is not addressed to you. But if these names are friends, then consider this: Do you know how difficult it is now to free one's self from the mires of this technocratic disinformation age and get some real answers?...If it had not been for Professor Mills I would not have found these authors.

Let me make this little note perfectly clear: Professor Mills deserves a full professorship with all its attendant privileges and proper remunerations.

Thank you for your attention,

Max M. Strumia
Department of Mathematics

Mills' Tenure Eval

The strengths of the contributions that Mr. Mills makes to the Theatre Arts Department in the area of Teaching are as follows:

Generates large SCH numbers in GUR class
Is well read in 20th Century philosophy and theory
Often appeals to bright non-traditional students
Offers academically prepared and challenging classes
Promotes the importance of critical thinking and writing skills in theatre curriculum

The weaknesses of the contributions that Mr. Mills makes to the Theatre Arts Department in the area of Teaching are as follows:

Uses foul language with and, on occasion, toward students
Employs a combative style with students as a central part of methodology
Discusses other faculty members with students in a derogatory and demeaning manner
Enjoys his wit at the expense of students
Extremely high student complaint rate (formal and informal)
Berates and demeans students in the guise of humor

The Large Invisible Antique Screwdriver by Perry Mills, Auditioned by Dean Edwards

[In a meeting with Provost Bodman, Dean Edwards, and lawyers for Plaintiff and Defendant, Mills] indicated that he owned a large antique screwdriver with which he could easily kill someone by driving it into the victim's brain, and while he said this, he mimicked with his hands, while looking at his hands, how he would handle it, lifting his hand with the invisible screwdriver in it, and then hitting the table hard with his fist closed around the invisible screwdriver. He looked up at us from looking at his hand, and indicated he could probably kill anyone with anything that was available. His presentation was alarming....I personally felt fearful in his presence given what he said and how he behaved."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Interview with the Terribly Crazed and Dangerous Professor Perry Mills (Part 1)

When did you start teaching at Western?

I started teaching at Western in 1980, when I went back for a Masters degree after being crippled on my carpentry job. The Dean C.F.P.A. hired me on the spot to teach Interdisciplinary Arts, and from there I picked up theatre classes and became a "professor".

Why do you have a glass eye?

I do not have a glass eye. One sees; one does not, having an opaque lens due to an explosives mishap in the '70s. The glass eye syndrome comes from the insufficient tracking of the unseeing member—it "wanders" because it cannot focus. Tape up one eye and view the world as I do. Curbs become a great challenge, steps take on a whole new dimension, and then get on your motorcycle and follow me through some corners: you will notice that the world is one large two-dimensional postcard without any dimension or depth. Why be afraid of corners if they don't exist?

Our society generally considers art expendable, and often sees art culture as soft, indirect, impractical, and faggoty. However, you come at art more like a construction foreman than a theatre professor, with a ferocity foreign to many artists and instructors. You give the impression that art is as practical as a highway.

Art is not for sissies!

What are you trying to teach your students?

Just like "The Lost Tools of Learning" [by Dorothy Sayers] points out, they must learn to think for themselves; any energy disposed to any other purpose is effort wasted. On the way to this ideal, I twit the affected and expose the class system for its exploitation of the unprepared. As a previous hand-out noted, failure marks you: stating that it doesn't changes nothing and it eventually teaches the student that they cannot trust the teacher to do anything except play it safe. The young need stronger stuff, otherwise we are conditioning their failure.

What characterizes professors you've had run-ins with over the years?

You're [presently] documenting the sort of thing that professors "do" in the free exchange of diverse ideas in the academy. They lie, cheat, and back-stab in order to make sure that the corporate ponzi-scheme stays in their control. Hitler found the universities the first to capitulate to the new brutality: nothing has changed. Between the political correctness "movement" and the removal of constitutional guarantees via the "Faculty Handbuch", the Amerikan Proffessoriate has trussed and gelded itself as it awaits the advent of Hitler's avatar. Can you wait?

As one of your terrified students, I found that your stingy praise was meaningful(1), precisely because it was seldom dispensed(2). Is there some intent of manipulation in this(3), or do you call it as you see it every time(4)? In other words(5), if you see that praise will drive a particular student to better work(6), will you offer it despite the facts(7)? Comment on white lies(8).

1. Good. Your native intelligence is emerging.
2. Dispensation follows deserved action! Schmooziness is for the timid and the lost. Get tough!
3. Yes.
4. Yes. I have the strength of ten because I know something that the young do not. They don't need praise, they need strong opposition to test their ideas against. If an idea breaks in school-practice, imagine what it could do to you in life!
5. That's easy for you to say...
6. Has praise ever driven you to better work? Isn't praise a cue to "back off" and not show up the retarded? What drives you to better things?
7. No. There is some shit I will not eat.
8. What's "white" about lies? Is racism inexorably tied to our ethics? Tell the truth, it's a rare thing to do and will please those who know a lie when they are being bought-off with one. I can help students, but I can't do it by lying about what they have done. That would advocate idiocy.

Your contempt for students is legendary. Likewise for faculty and administrators. Yet I get the impression that you’re continually open to revising your judgments. What traits tend to salvage an individual from the onslaught of your black misanthropy?

My "contempt for students" reputation comes from the fact that I brook no phonys. My "Black Misanthropy" is derived from those students who have not yet learned that it is the swine who pass them year after year for little or no real work; they are lazy and it is easier to denounce me than to admit that we are all stupid and need good solid feedback on what we have just said, not another Gold Star for being inoffensive.

Your detractors say you’re mean and nasty or that you’re “not nice”. Pretend I’m one of those people, and that I’ll never in a million years change my opinion of you. Why do you torture me so?

In order that you may become a viable intellectual presence in your world. It does you no good at all to pet you for your cuteness and the beauty of youth when you are being denied the tools of learning. You are a fluke of creation, and whether you can hear it or not the universe is laughing at you behind your back. Get smart or die.

Reading the list of charges against you (such as that you called a fat guy “a 400-lb canary who warbles nothingness”, and that you apparently weren’t very sensitive concerning a cancer patient’s reluctance to show her art in her delicate condition, and that you lambast conservatives and liberals alike) gives the impression of lunacy, unpredictability, or rabble-rousing, but beneath it all I find the common thread that you’re quickly sizing up someone’s chosen social identity and ripping it apart to get to the individual inside. Why do you do this? What are the dangers of identity?

The "dangers of identity" are that you are responsible (read Scott Buchanan) for your future. No one can save you, save yourself (study that statement for ambiguity, I dare you...). Read Tom Wolfe's The Worship of Art for a second opinion: if you don't know what you think and feel, the experts will do it for you. This is a deeper-than-usual topic and is the subject of many of the books on my reading list. It's known as "The History of Ideas" and comprises my central curriculum. [John Taylor] Gatto's book ["Dumbing Us Down"] is a fine example.

Why cigars?

Cigars are a memory of past smokes and a building of future pleasure, they drive away the insipid and peurile, and insure that only friends remain. Since it takes two hours to smoke a handmade cigar of substance, cigar smokers are possessed of Leisure time and earthy taste, and command respect from the gentility and Loathing from Vermine. A cigar is a symbol of freedom, and a marque of nobility, and points up the difference between Churchill and Nixon.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Horrifying Tale of the Vile and Hideous Professor Mills Making Entirely Inappropriate Remarks

(Another letter of complaint from a student regarding Perry Mills.)

To whom [it] may concern,

Fall of 2003 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to leave Western for immediate treatment including surgery and chemotherapy. I returned to Western spring of 2004 excited and ready to work. Although my [health] was not at its prime and I still had not grown back any hair, it was something I wanted to do. As you can imagine I was very sensitive to the fact that I was bald and faced my insecurities everyday. During the fall quarter when I left school and the spring quarter when I cam back I was enrolled in Mr. Mill's dramatic writing coure, [a] requirement for my major. Mr. Mills was fully aware of my sickness and how I felt about it. One day in class I was preparing to put up a piece for [work-shopping] in front of the class. It was the first time that I had put something up so I was nervous. When Mr. Mills asked if anyone had something for class that day I put my hand up tentatively. Then when called upon I explained that I wasn't sure if I wanted to put it up...that I was nervous. And Mr. Mills responded "Caitlin, if you can't even put up your piece for class then you should have just died of cancer." As my eyes welled up with tears and the class stared on I cast my work and put it up for the class. Although he succeeded in getting me to put up my work (which was not a requirement of the course) it was entirely inappropriate.

Concerned Student



Professor Mills' account:

At the beginning of one class I asked, "Who has something to put up?" meaning, "Who has a piece they are ready to cast and perform?" [Caitlin] raised her hand. I called on her and told her to [go] ahead, cast it and perform it. She began to hand out scripts to other students, but then after a minute or two she said she was not sure she wanted to go ahead and do it.

In her complaint letter [Caitlin] wrote that I told her "Caitlin, if you can't even put your piece up for class then you should have just died of cancer." While that does not sound exactly right, I did say something to that effect. I did say something like, "If you don't put the play up, it's the same as if you had died." The point I was making was that while we live, we can create. When we are dead, we can no longer create. And if we stop creating while we are alive, it's the same as if we had never lived.

My remark had its desired effect. I succeeded in goading her into getting up the courage to cast and perform her piece. She went ahead and the piece was performed and critiqued. She acknowledges in her complaint letter that I succeeded in getting her to do her piece for the class.

I can see why other people might find my remark to [Caitlin] to be offensive or cruel. I disagree. I believe that [if] I had not said this, I would have been failing her as a teacher. The goals of any discipline, including theater arts, must be to produce an observable change of behavior in the person studying that discipline. A performance piece must be performed, even if it causes pain to do so. Artistic strength comes only through action. My statement to [Caitlin] was designed to induce that action, and it did so.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

An article regarding Perry Mills in the Whatcom Independent, 26 August 2005 issue:


WWU moves to fire tenured prof

Drama revolves around whistle-blowing
over lab fees


BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University (WWU) is pursuing legal action against one of its tenured faculty members, which may result in the loss of his job and pension. Perry Mills, a tenured professor in the Drama Department, has been charged with making remarks to students and other faculty members, which some listeners found offensive. Mills contends the charges are retaliation for his objection to student lab fees being spent inappropriately.

Mills has been suspended since October 2004. According to WWU administration, the suspension is due to complaints by faculty and staff concerning Mills' behavior. WWU delayed filing written charges until June 2005, even though the university's procedure specifies that charges should be filed before any suspension is imposed. During the intervening time, Mills has been on paid leave, but has not been allowed on campus nor allowed to teach any classes.

Mills contends the charges are trumped up, and brought about because he objected to student lab fees being spent inappropriately. The intended use of the lab fees, totaling over $20,000, was to purchase instructional videos. Instead, Drama Department Chair Mark Kuntz used the funds for general purposes, Mills stated in court documents.

Mills has been on the faculty since 1980 and tenured since 1994. The charges for his suspension are based on testimony involving three incidents in 2004, and others stem from incidents several years ago.

On August 12, the WWU Board of Trustees moved to indemnify Provost Andrew Bodman in his individual and official capacities in this lawsuit. A hearing in the case is set for September 9 before the U.S District Court in Seattle. The hearing will address Bodman's request for a dismissal of Mill's suit. Neither of the principals nor their attorneys could be reached for comment as of press time.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Strange Case of the George Bush Sticker in the Faculty Parking Lot

(A letter of complaint to Provost Bodman by one of Professor Mills' students)

Dear Vice President Bodman,

I am writing to you in hopes that I may have some influence in a change that I believe needs to occur here at Western Washington University. My incident today has pushed me to further my complaint on to you.

Today at approximately 12:15pm I drove into the Faculty Lot in order to park and purchase a manual from the University Bookstore on Campus. Little did I know that as soon as I stepped out of my car I would be harassed about a Bush Cheney sticker on my bumper. To my surprise though, I was not being talked to by a fellow student but by a professor, Mr. Perry Mills, who I have this quarter as the professor of my Theatre 201 class. He told the students surrounding him that by voting for Bush I wanted to the world to die and that I probably wanted to put him to death. He even stated as I was walking away that he might get arrested for starting something. I tried to ignore these comments that seemed to by flying out of his mouth without thought but he had gotten the students to stare and laugh while he stood there judging me.

I understand that this may seem like a small incident in this chaotic world but I was embarrassed, appalled and very offended by Professor Mills. With his position and
stature it is hard to believe he could say these things. I am a very quiet and non-confrontational person and I usually would 'consider the source' and not worry about what people say, nor have I ever complained about anything like this to such an extent as to write a letter to you. After hearing Professor Mill's remarks of geographic areas of 'white trash' during lectures and his shouting 'shut up girl!' to another student in class and finally after having him ridicule me in front of others in order to force his opinion upon them, while downgrading me in the process, has brought me to the conclusion that enough is enough.

I believe that you should be encouraged to have your beliefs and opinions but also believe that there is an appropriate time and place to speak your mind, especially in the manner Professor Mills has. I have always felt comfortable and at home here at Western, I love it here, but today I felt uncomfortable, put-down, discouraged and scared for the first time. I should never have to feel this way because of a professor who is suppose to act with a certain degree of respect just as we students are expected to act towards them. Professor Mill's has stated that if we have a problem with what he says in his lectures he does not care, we should drop the class immediately. I can not afford to drop this class.

There must be some ethical code of conduct that Western Washington University has in regards to professors and students. I do believe President Karen Morse quotes in her Fall 2002 State of the University Address that "whatever our place of origin, it is clear that our fundamental attitudes and perspectives come from different places in time, and have been formed by different events. Our students will bring perspectives and backgrounds different from ours and those need to be considered and respected as well". I respect Professor Mill's view and so should he respect mine. This presidential election has been a close one and has been the cause of many arguments but it is not right when it has to come down to belittling a student who works so hard and looks up to the faculty so much. I could not quote all of what he said since I was trying hard to ignore it and walk away with my head high but he degraded me and I will never forget the feelings caused by Professor Mills.

I believe no one other than God should pass judgment on people and so I will not pass judgment on him nor am I wishing for an apology for myself. I am writing, as I stated in the beginning, in hopes for some kind of change, any kind of change, so that no other student may be subjected to what I had to go through today. I thought that this university is supposed to be a place of diversity and equal opportunities. I thought that Western is a place to learn and grow. Professor Mills is a man with power and the influence to help others but I feel that he has used it to amuse himself. Although incidents like this occur all the time, I would hope that it would not be because of a man who is expected to be somewhat of a role model to us all.

Thank you so much for your time and your concern. I truly appreciate it.


Shareen Julieta Faleafine
[Student at Western Washington University]


Professor Mills' account:

Student Shareen Julieta Faleafine complained to defendant Bodman that on October 7, 2004 I made some remark to other students about the Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on her car. She claims that I told them that by voting for Bush she wanted the world to die and that she probably wanted to put me to death.

My recollection of the incident is somewhat different. I recall that I was on the porch of the Performing Arts Center discussing a play that I had been acting with some of my students, when a woman drove up and parked in the faculty parking lot. There was a man in the car with her. They both got out of the car. The car had a Bush political bumper sticker on it.

I did not recognize her. I did not think that she was a faculty member. This is partly because I did not recognize her, and partly because she did not display a faculty parking sticker when she left her car parked illegally.

I recall that I make some kind of a joking remark to her to the effect that her Bush sticker would not protect her from a parking ticket. I do not recall her making any reply. My recollection is that she never spoke at all.

I did recognize the man that got out of the car with her, because we both patronize the same cigar shop. I had some brief conversation with him about the cigar shop we both go to. Then the man and the woman simply walked off. At no time did the woman ever say or do anything to indicate that she was upset, embarrassed, flummoxed, or alarmed.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Student remarks about Professor Mark Kuntz, from ratemyprofessor.com

"Mark rocks..."

"...his classroom presentation is really engaging. I also appreciate the exploration of issues around what defines art and about gender & ethnic issues in contemporary theatre."

"Really funny and SUPER sarcastic..."

"Talked about himself most of the time."

"His lectures were interesting and he tells some funny stories."

"All he does is talk about his personal life and how wonderful theatre is and that film is satan."

"he is good overall..."

"Class is very easy."

"Condescending...Inflated ego."

"...thinks he's god."

"...a shameless self-promoter, when he actually shows up to class, he likes to spend class bashing organized labour and going on and on about how much he has contributed to modern theatre."

"looses papers, Man hater, Makes False Accusations."
The Gender-Safe, Non-Offensive, Yet Somehow Free-Speech World of Theatre Department Chair Mark Kuntz (Part 1)

Upon learning of the fate of old ratty suspended Professor Mills (whom I'd hoped was long since dead so I could merely say nice things about him without suffering some terrible retaliation), I was immediately struck with curiosity concerning the key players in Mills' suspension.

Though the Provost and the Dean, having risen in the ranks, are well-fortified in their administrative bunkers, with only eight people in the world knowing what they do or why they do it, and with defensive websites repelling invaders with lists of the vicious activities of the "Capital Budget Advisory Committee" and other unspeakable horrors, their lackey professor, Theatre Department Chair Mark Kuntz, is more exposed.

He's the member of the team on the ground, doing the dirty work. He has to field the complaints, fire them up to his masters, listen to the whining, take the shots, all the while holding office hours, teaching classes, and maintaining an inviting website for students and alums that opens him to satire and ridicule, all while Provost Bodman and Dean Edwards recognize how useful is a turkey once given a title.

Having a looksy through Professor Kuntz's website, I was struck by the design, and how well it goes with his ambiguous memo quotes about "reasonable standards for and by reasonable people" and "ethical violations" and "a learning environment that embraces tolerance, safety, and freedom of speech".

I sent the site to Sean Tejaratchi, an accomplished typographer, asking him for a review of Professor Kuntz's choice of typeface, and he responded thus:

[It] is a common Art Nouveau face. I've seen it under many names, but I knew it first as Arnold Boecklin.

It's the long-term favorite of hippie designers and anyone with a feminine designer locked inside their heart. It's a nice face, but it's painfully overused in certain circles. It suggests a free-thinking soul with vague, feel-good spiritual leanings, and ESPECIALLY someone who's familiar with art school, in the Biblical sense. Just look at Kuntz' site and you'll see how well the font goes next to the unimpeachable serenity of a watercolored sunset.

It's a non-statement masquerading as a statement. It's a very, very safe typeface with no negative connotations. It's hippie-ish, but without the druggy smoke connection of later fonts. It's not the kind of font which would ever be suspended for say...wielding a knife in an irresponsible, stabby manner.
Student remarks about Professor Perry Mills, from ratemyprofessor.com

"This guy was a joke. I have learned more from listening to bums rant on the bus than when he would get going in class."

"God bless this man. If there were more people like Perry Mills in the world, it'd be a whole lot crazier, but also a little more sane in some weird way."

"...talked poorly about jesus, very anti sematic. Ate his own boogers."

"Perry F. Mills, the F stands for 'F*** off, you gucci bag toting hipsters!' He's a pirate, a rebel, a campus legend, and has the biting cynical outlook in life of Lars Von Trier."

"He hates students and his only joy in life appears to be making people feel horrible."

"He knows what he's talking about and won't accept crap from students he knows can do better."

"...a masoginistic pig..."

"Almost everything he says, cruel as it is, is freaking hilarious. People say he's insane, but really, he just has a cynical view of our generation. And why wouldn't he? We're a bunch of careless mass-consuming capitalist pigs."

"hard, i don't like his teaching style!!! Not very nice."

"Perry's awesome, you just can't show fear - I think he smells it."

"This old bitter man simply could not help himself from insulting everyone that doesn't look like an old ugly pirate. He made several students cry in my class."

"This guy is funny. I wouldn't recommend asking stupid questions. Just sit back and laugh at the people who do."

"Man, sexiest pirate teacher I've ever seen. I still get giddy when I see him smoking his cigars every morning. And that comment about wanting to get a tank and run over people on campus? Beautiful."

"'Lil girls play with barbies to prepare them for a life of servitude and 2nd class citizenship.' Be open-minded."

"Called us sheep and threatened to bring a gun and shoot us all."

"He's probably one of the few honest professors out there. Has no patience for spoiled children..."

"...a bad human being."

"...one of the best profs on campus."
The Weapon (Or: The Pocketknife)

As discussed in "The Statement of Charges", the suspension of Professor Mills hinges, overtly, on some kind of incident regarding Professor Mills and his pocketknife.

Here are statements on the matter, beginning with that from the lawsuit (pdf) of Professor Mills:

In October of the year 2000, one of my students was performing part of a play written by Tim Boyd called 'The Hitchhiker'. In the play, one of the characters removes a knife from his pocket and pursues another character off stage with the knife drawn. We were acting out this play on the stage. While acting out the scene, I took out my knife and used it to show how I thought that part of the play should be acted. I was on stage when I did this. The students present were in the audience at the time, and none of them were on the stage. There was no one within 15 feet of me when I did this. Nevertheless one of the students in the audience apparently complained to Professor Kuntz.

Now the memo (pdf) from Professor Kuntz to Professor Mills:

A student reported (and you confirmed) that you took out of your pocket a 5 inch spring action knife and displayed it in class as a means of making a point. A student received this gesture as a threatening gesture, and your actions were reported to myself and to campus police.

Your actions were in direct violation of both the faculty handbook and laws concerning the possession and display of such weapons in public education institutions.

Your bringing weapons of any kind (concealed or openly displayed), considering recent instances of violence in academic settings, invites a very strong response from your students and colleagues. I cannot think of any reason how your carrying weapons will better serve the students or the university or how these weapons might assist you in the execution of your responsibilities here.

The student also reported you continue to make off color remarks concerning your colleagues, women, gay students, and minority populations on campus.

And now the post from someone who claims to have been there during the incident in question, posted on the Western Front website:


I happen to have been a witness to the "knife incident" in question, and am disgusted that

A) It was a member of my class that considered Mills's behavior with the knife to be dangerous in any way, and reported him for it,

B) A well-respected, tenured university professor apparently can't be considered responsible enough to handle a knife intelligently,

C) Mark Kuntz has the gall to pretend this is all about a knife, when the real reason was Mills making fun of Kuntz's name, and

D) Suspending Mills for the remainder of the quarter wasn't enough to satisfy Kuntz's vendetta, it had to be for Winter quarter as well. What does that come out to, one month per blade inch?


Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Statement of Charges (In Which the Professor is Accused of Unspeakable Things)

In October 2004, Western Washington University administrators suspended Professor Perry Mills from teaching. The Western Front, WWU's student paper, broke the story.

Department chair and professor Mark Kuntz said he would not reveal the reasons for Mills' suspension because the matter concerns department personnel.

"This is to honor and protect Perry's privacy," Kuntz said. Mills tells a much different story.

"I was suspended and told to leave the campus because the department chair got a report of a student seeing (me) with a pocketknife," he said.

Mills was thereafter exiled from campus, to which he could return for his office possessions only by permission of Theatre Department Chair Mark Kuntz who, on such occasions, arranged a police escort.

Now with plenty of time on his hands, Professor Mills consulted local law enforcement officers who, upon inspecting Mills' pocketknife, determined that the tool was legal to possess under Washington State law.

However, the legality of Mills' pocketknife will later in our story be overlooked by Mr. Kuntz and other university administrators, in favor of placing the pocketknife center-stage, a nice sharp focal point around which to build evidence of Professor Mills' character, once merely gruff and unfriendly, but now allegedly dangerous and violent, a threat to the security of students, and a liability to the goals of higher education.

For eight months, the administrators responded to questions regarding Mills' suspension evasively, cherishing the pristine and easy ethical considerations of teacher and student "privacy" over the dirty and difficult ethical considerations of telling anyone why they had suspended a professor for eight months without cause.

Finally, on June 6, 2005, the crusty office of the Provost and Vice President, Andrew R. Bodman, issued Mills a Statement of Charges, available here. (pdf)

As we have already learned, the Statement of Charges would lean heavily on the pocketknife (about which we will hear testimony later), thus charging the Good Provost's Statement with an electrifying appeal, a tangible excitement in prose that Provosts are seldom allowed to express, not for their lack of interest in the literary craft, but for the lack of exciting material that presents itself to them at insignificant backwater state colleges of sparse acclaim. So that when a non-mediocre figure comes along, calling students funny names, and carrying a pocketknife to boot, it allows the administrator, who once was young and still remembers the thrill of colorful life since turned gray, to rise to the occasion, at once expressing the power of his position (that he has spent so long in attaining), while also allowing him to write memos that don't simply make him tired after lunch.

The Provost's Statement of Charges against Professor Mills kicks off with clear direction and no sass, stating that Provost Andrew R. Bodman, Dean Carol Edwards, and Theatre Chair Mark Kuntz collectively hold the view that Professor Mills' "behavior and conduct towards students and fellow faculty falls substantially below the standards to which faculty should be held."

From here, however, the memo moves into nebulous realms. There were complaints "lodged". These complaints were forwarded from Professor Kuntz to Dean Edwards to Provost Bodman. Professor Mills had "waved a knife around". This was "threatening, inappropriate and concerning." Provost Bodman reported that Dean Edwards reported that Professor Kuntz reported that "library staff had reported to him that they were very uncomfortable in having to work with Professor Mills" who was "menacing and threatening".

As if brutalizing the frail psyches of librarians weren't enough, we next learn that Professor Mills did not exempt faculty of the weaker sex from his abusive, derogatory, and hostile words. According to the report, Mills called a fellow professor a "bimbo", "slut", and "once even 'cunt'". This professor reported to Dean Edwards that she's heard Mills call his students "shit-for-brains", "blondies", "faggot", and one overweight student "a 400 pound canary who warbles nothingness".

Having now determined that, in his reckless manner of offending everyone, he has also been discovered offending frail and helpless women, mentally-challenged students, gays, and fat people, Provost Bodman closes the memo with direct official pluck, having trotted out a cast of victims so sanctified that to now put in a word for Professor Mills might be like bringing a boxcutter to the airport.

It took eight questionably unlawful months for Provost Bodman to state the charges against Professor Mills, but it appears his time was well-spent in calculation.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Headsman's Tale

A strange and terrible account of sloth, indifference, greed and revenge.

By Jack Ketch

Act I – The Unblinking Eye

In which the inexorable march of technology runs afoul of cloistered bureaucracy in the medieval dungeons of Mabel Zoe Wilson.

On or about the penultimate decade of the Old Millennium in a small cottage near the northern shores of Lake Whatcom, a humble lecturer dwelt in penury. His name was Perry Mills and he labored among the ivy-covered halls and moss-covered scholars of the University of Western Washington, a vast edifice of scholarship that still towers at the summit of Sehome Hill looking over the now-abandoned slag heaps, toxic sludge ponds and decaying pulp factory of the little town of Bellingham which itself was widely known as a nice liberal town with the highest population of serial killers per capita in the continental United States of America.

Mills was a large, shambling, irascible hulk of a man who limped about in a fog of malevolent cigar smoke. He had a piratical beard, hands the size of Easter hams, a metal brace on his leg, a head whose size was the despair of haberdashers and one terrible eye that was rumored to see around corners.

He also possessed a great fondness for his companion, Linda, the many cats who shared their home with him, home-brewed beer of ferocious power, the literature written in beams of light across the silver screen, largecaliber handguns, dramatic irony, good food, sharp knives and extremely fast motorcycles, though not necessarily always in that particular order.

At the University, he abided amongst the denizens of the Theatre Department and at first lectured and later professed film studies, functional literacy (a great rarity in those parts), play writing, interdisciplinary liberal arts, and popular culture, as well as a great loathing for dogs, timidity, self-promotion, arrogant clerks, most of the white race, all politicians, and any technology more complex and arcane than fire or a sharp stick.

To further witness the gruesome horrors of this strange account of madness and treachery, continue here...(pdf, 157K)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Introduction to the Good Professor Mills (as Pertains to the Interest of a Student)

In a sleepy little Northwest village called Bellingham, in the almost-forgotten state of Washington, lies a mediocre, middle-sized, almost wholly unremarkable educational factory called Western Washington University.

It was here that I fled for refuge after graduating from high-school, where my inquisitive nature and passion for higher education soon saw my class attendance drop to the bare minimum while I got stoned with the poets that lurked in the woods, and ate acid by the ream.

Despite never writing a single paper during my two years there, I maintained B grades. WWU and I apparently had a decent, wink-wink, win-win sort of relationship in which I paid the administration, did almost no work, and got decent grades from the faculty, about whom I remember almost nothing. There were some characters, like the Holly Hobby-dress-wearing anthropology teacher who would only talk about Brunei, or the literature professor who wore smart gloves, had a little moustache, and carried himself like a Frenchman, but I don't remember learning much from them and I certainly offered little in return. My university career at Western followed this pattern, until I took Theatre Arts 201.

Like other students, I took the film studies class as an elective, so I could get university credit for watching movies. The class was infamous for being easy, and it was in this spirit of apathy that I wandered into class in my Guatemalan sweater with my beads and my ponytail and my patchouli a few times a week to watch Battleship Potemkin, Chinatown, and Siesta.

The professor, Perry Mills, was a brute with a glass eye and a platform shoe
assisting one mutant leg, and he wore the same smelly paisley shirt each class. His extreme ugliness was matched only by his extreme passion for film. It was obvious by his playful monologues that he cared about these films deeply, or at least cared about some aspect of these films deeply, and he became excited when students became excited about these movies.

But as the course progressed, it became obvious that the loose grades were not without cost. (Perry used almost exactly the same test every year, and would pass out last year's test a few days beforehand.) Raising one's hand in response to one of Mills' questions, saying something, and thus participating in the Pavlovian call-and-response that passes for intellectual dialogue at American universities, did not fly with Professor Mills.

"That's the stupidest thing I've heard this year," Mills would say in response to a student's normally-useful rhetoric.

On other occasions, Mills would call us "a bunch of baseball-cap-wearing yuppie maggots from the I-5 corridor" and describe in extended fantastic monologues the terrible things our parents had done to get the money so that we could go to college and watch films that we would never understand because we were just going to get jobs and make babies anyway.

I had never seen such a teacher. I had never seen a teacher gleefully describe how he would ride his bicycle across campus, veering toward clusters of students to make them scatter like the pigeons they were. I had never seen a teacher openly describe to a class of students the bullshit he was involved in with an administration who simply didn't like his style. I had never seen a teacher treat me as an equal, and then go for my jugular when I proved by my pretensions that I wasn't.

Mills never seemed to hold a grudge, probably because he could hardly discern one idiot from the next, and his verbal lunges had the quality of sport rather than personal attack. Each new class was a fresh match, with previous animosities forgotten. This was intellectual dialogue at its best.

I took a Playwriting class from him later, and not only did he teach his subject well and with passion, but he laid bare the machinations of my "education" that I was too ignorant to ferret out on my lonesome. In retrospect, Mills surely had some influence in my immediate delight upon later discovering Mark Twain, Florence King, Jonathan Swift, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, J.P. Donleavy, Ayn Rand, Hunter Thompson, and H.L. Mencken. Curmudgeons the lot of them, I may have never sought them were it not for Professor Mills, and may have remained satisfied with Jack Kerouac, Herman Hesse, Jim Morrison, and other literary sedatives I was engaged by at the time.

Perry Mills frightened me, and is without question the best professor I've ever had.

Now on to the bloody meat of the story:

For years the administration of Western Washington University has tried to tame Professor Perry Mills, to threaten him with inconveniences and minor penalties for his unorthodox methods, and to dangle treats and promises of a nice soft life should he abandon these methods. Mills delights in this game, and has kept it up since the last time I saw him, almost 15 years ago. But something changed after the 11th of September in 2001, in which the subsequent lockdown tactics of Homeland Security and the resulting ripples of social paranoia have found Mills suspended for carrying a pocketknife. Not a machete in one hand and a student's head in the other. A pocketknife.

This is not, after all, simply a nostalgic story about my fondness for a professor, but an illustrative tale about how a national social doctrine can be used for effective housekeeping, sweeping out the nooks and crannies typically troublesome to get to. In the new milieu, it's suddenly easy to get rid of a pesky professor on campus. And this is a story about how those players assisting the sweeping maintain only the noblest motives.

This blog specifically chronicles a university's bureaucratic process of booting a tenured professor from his post, as well as the old dog's attempts to dig in his heels and stay put, but is more generally a fansite for an obscure professor very influential to a handful of students each year.