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.

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