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.