Sunday, December 21, 2008

Clarion Call: Students! Mills is Your Man!

This Op-Ed piece was intercepted by Brutal Battle using cutting edge, state of the art, brand spanking new, recon-surveil methods--which themselves were gleaned using our blunt-edged, artless, ancient recon-surveil methods.

Massive amounts of money changed hands; innocent lives were lost; new diseases were born, old diseases fought them, lost, and were replaced (none of which had anything to do with this post).

Actually, this was sent to us by the author via email, so it couldn't have been easier. In any case, since this student intends this piece for publication by the Opinion Section of The Western Front, it may prove to ultimately be a Brutal Battle exclusive. Only time will tell. Actually, I hope others will tell, too, because I don't want to have to read that paper every week looking for evidence that pro-Mills propaganda isn't getting the short shrift. As always: If you see something, say something. But say it to me, not to a policeman.

In Defense of Mr. Controversy, Professor Perry F. Mills

To the students of WWU: Professor Perry Mills got a bad rap. He’s no monster, no demon. In fact, he’s much more Santa than Satan, much more Jerry Garcia than Johnny Rotten.

He happens to be the most fall-down funny teacher on campus and one of the best. If you are interested in creative writing, the theatre, filmmaking or the artistic process in general, you’re crazy not to seek him out, take his classes and befriend him.

Yeah, he’s controversial, always has been. He’s occasionally
shocking but frequently hilarious and brilliant. He sees teaching as a performance art. He wants, above all else, to engage you, to excite your mind, to shake your foundations and question how you see the world.

I was fortunate enough to take five classes with him in my time at Western. He was extremely helpful in building my writing skills and opened my mind to important philosophical and artistic concepts. His “Arts Inquiry” course ought to be taken not only by all art (painting, music, drama, creative writing,) students but also by all philosophy students. You will read great stuff that will get your engines churning and inspire you.

Students don’t know who he is anymore. He’s been kept away from the university for so long that he’s lost the word of mouth that kept students pouring into his courses, not to mention the exposure he got from his large seminar course, “Intro to the Cinema” which hundreds attended each year.

Perry’s suspension was pressed by faculty members who didn’t like him. Since I was not a theatre student myself, I have no criticism of the individuals who have ostracized him on any matter other than this one. My interactions with the department were always pleasant. But on this matter, they made a mistake (which they were proven wrong about) and now he’s back.

Find him, talk to him. If you’ve got a sense of humor, you’ll love him. You artistic minds out there – you know who you are – must find him. He’s at this university, on this earth even, to help creative students prosper. There’s nobody like him. Except maybe you.

Eric Stone
Western alumnus 2004

Dramatic Writing & Video Production degree, through Fairhaven College

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Perry Mills Back In The "News"

Extra! Extra!

Extra Large! Extra Cheese!

New article about Perry being back on campus, though still a pariah. Here's the naked "truth"--opinions will follow after a glass of sleep.

Suspended Professor Returns

by Ashley Mitchell
Friday, December 05, 2008

Four years later, after hearings and allegations of harassment and misconduct toward students, Western theater professor Perry Mills resumed teaching classes on campus this fall.

Mills, a professor who has taught at Western for more than 25 years, was suspended in the fall of 2004 for one year after the university decided he had violated too many sections of the Code of Faculty Ethics to resume teaching.

The Code of Faculty Ethics are specified standards in the Faculty Handbook that professors and faculty are expected to follow and respect.

According to documents of a Western hearing panel, composed of professors, the university felt Mills’ behavior toward students and faculty demonstrated a considerable disregard for his faculty duties. The violations ranged from not exercising self-discipline and judgment in the classroom to intimidating and exploiting students.

Mills said he feels the university went about his suspension unjustly and illegally.

Western wanted him gone and they went searching for ways to do it, he said. He said he has hired a lawyer and other legal help to look further into his suspension.

Mills said he is suing because of a process violation. According to university documents, there is supposed to be a formal confrontation of the issue with the professor in question as well as a public hearing before any action is taken. Mills said he was handed a yellow slip, suspending him, and the entire issue was kept a secret before a public hearing occurred.

Mills was suspended for one year with pay, but after a hearing panel was held, ended up being suspended without pay from all faculty and teaching privileges for two full academic quarters before he was allowed to return.

He was also required to sign a statement that stated, “I agree to comply with the Code of Faculty Ethics for the Faculty of Western Washington University,” in order to teach again.

Mills said he felt the university and theater department were looking for ways to kick him out of the university and argues while the university said he violated conduct according to the Faculty Handbook, he had done nothing wrong legally.

“They tried to burn me at the stake,” Mills said. “But the stake was wet.”

Mills did not resume teaching for more than four years—just enough time for all of the students he had to graduate. He said he is aware of his reputation to newer students, but those worries pale in comparison to his legal issues.

“I have never had [Mills] myself as a student,” said Western senior and theater major Kristin Bruce. “But he has a pretty crazy reputation. It’s been a while since he’s been on campus, but he is still known for pushing students to crazy levels and making unusual, ridiculous comments in class.”

Upon Mills’ return, guidelines were drawn up for him, according to Whatcom County Superior Court documents. Mills is no longer allowed in the Performing Arts Center, and his office no longer resides in the building. His office is now in Haggard Hall, and his classrooms are in close proximity to his office.

“Most other theater faculty members and I have not physically seen [Mills] since his return,” Theatre Department Chair Mark Kuntz said. “It’s pretty whacky because he is no longer connected to the theater department at all, even though he is still a professor and teaches theater classes. That’s pretty hard to find on-campus someone teaching outside a department like that.”

Kuntz said he believes Mills hasn’t been welcome at department meetings since his return.

Mills was assigned two classes this quarter, and only four students signed up. One of the classes was cancelled, but two students remain in a second class, which he has taught all quarter. According to Class-Finder, it appears more students are signing up for his classes for winter quarter, Kuntz said.

The hearing documents contain written instances of students responding well to his challenging teaching methods, but others have been offended by his style. In one particular occasion, which was used by the hearing panel in its decision, a former student of Mills’ wrote a letter to Performing Arts Dean Carol Edwards, who received it on Oct. 12, 2004, about his negative conduct toward the student during a class period.

The student was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and took a class from Mills upon her return to campus, according to the written complaint. She became nervous upon presenting one of her projects in front of the class.

According to the letter, Mills had said, “If you can’t even put up with your piece for the class then you should have just died of cancer.”

In another instance not used by the panel during the hearing, Mills was suspected of harassing Western alumna Shareen Faleafine in the school parking lot.

There were several witnesses, but each had a different perception of the events, and the panel could not find any specific set of facts, according to panel documents.

Despite what some students perceived as a negative attitude, not every student was put off by his teaching methods and some were even looking forward to his return, Western freshman Bobby Delos-Reyes said. He said he hopes to become a theater major and has had friends rave about Mills’ unusual tactics.

“My sister took a class from him and has never taken a more aggravating class in her life,” Delos-Reyes said. “But she loved every minute of it. Some people can take his abusive encouragement and others can’t from what I’ve heard, which is why I think he was suspended. I like challenges and I hope to take a class of his as soon as it works with my schedule.”

Mills said his teaching style is designed to make students stronger. He asks questions and calls students out on their mistakes in order to make them think about their work, he said.

“This no child left behind thing in schools is what makes students lazy and apologetic,” Mills said. “I may not be liked but I have strong students.”

Buckley Sykes, one of Mills’ former students, writes for a blog that was started by former students of Mills’ in support of the professor, even after his suspension. Sykes said he felt the reasons behind Mills’ suspension were personal in nature and thinks Western lost one of its best professors when Mills was suspended.

Although no longer a student, Sykes said he is glad to see his mentor back on campus. Sykes said he doesn’t understand why Mills' information is missing from the theater department's biography page. He said he wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not and believes it to be unfair either way.

In the blog, Kuntz is referenced as one of the main people who wanted Mills out of the department.

“They make me out to be this horrible person,” Kuntz said. “It’s funny because there are two sides to this. People need to know both sides and know that I did what I felt was right.”

Kuntz said the bad relationship between Mills and the old department chair, professor Gregory Lawrence Pulver, is one of the main reasons he is not considered a part of the theater department. This is probably the reason Mills' biography isn't on the department's Web site, he said.

“Mills is back and teaching and will resume teaching through next quarter,” Kuntz said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

From: The Western Front, December 5, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

To Awaken A Sleeping Bear...

Once a sleeping bear has been awoke,
there's little one can do to keep him from tending to his hallowed den...
And once inside his beastly lair...
...the bear boasts mightily of his trophy trove...

"Whatchoo talkin' 'bout?" asks the bear, stupefied.

The bear thinks, being awake, it must be time to hunt for something to eat.

How now, Black Bear?
What dost thou have in thy mind to do?

"Wouldn't you
like to know?"
We're just curious is all, seeing as how we've stuck by your story for so long.
"Well, stay tuned then, and maybe you just might learn something."

It's high time our bear truly smiled.
Good luck, Dear Bear, in the cold months ahead...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Boycott Reality--Watch Reality TV!

From now until the precise moment that WWU gives us unalienable proof that Professor Perry F. Mills has been properly reinstated as an educator on their campus, I challenge those of us in his corner of the ring to load, refresh, and stay glued to--vigil-style--the WWU Red Square Web Cam. If you should catch site of the dread professor making his disabled rounds around the grounds, give a shout--(remember our mantra: If'n You See's Something, Say's Something!)--and you too can win a FREE PRIZE!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Back To School!

Good news, bad news, take it as you will (there's no such thing as "neutral news".) Perry F. Mills, Professor at Large, formerly Deposed Bear of Starling Ethics and Aesthetics, has returned to:

W W U !

In researching WWU's Theatre Department website I couldn't find a single link that actually leads to any academic scheduling, so I can't post that here.

Also, Perry is glibly omitted from the faculty bio page.

More soon as sanctioned material comes my way. With hope we will have the juiciest of juicies online soon: The Various and Sundry Syllabi of Academic Expectations vis a vis the Studious Environs Lorded Over By One Professor Perry F. Mills.

Toss one back for the old boy tonight!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Where in the world is Perry F. Mills?

To anyone interested in contacting Perry:

Please note that as a self-professed Luddite Bear, and one in deep hibernation, Perry Mills cannot be reached via email. That said, if you would like to touch him through the proverbial bars of Ye Olde Communication Methods known to the human race ahead of the advent of the internet(s), please feel free to email me at, include your address or phone number, or both, and I will pass this information along to the Great Omnivore for his determination as to whether to warmly contact you, ignore you, or send you a bill for unpaid gambling losses.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Freedom of Speech Continues to Chill

New link on the right. This is Mills' attempt to get Washington's Supreme Court to review his appeal of the case. It very clearly breaks down Mills' grievances with WWU's suspending him, the way they handled the suspension, and the way the courts have--so far--treated the situation as a whole.

Click on "Appellant's Statement of Reasons for Direct Review" and then drag your cursor over the stupidly narrow image. When you see a magnifying glass, click with it and the image will--magically-- zoom in to a readable size.
If any of you still have the issue of the student with cancer--and Mills' hard statement to her when she vacillated between putting her work up in class or allowing fear to win over--stuck in your craw, then read his explanation on page 11. If that doesn't convince you--at the very least--that it's possible this issue was blown out of proportion, and--more to the point--taken entirely out of any context, in order to highlight its emotional weight, then go back to looking for updates on the MySpace page for that prostitute that "triggered" the downfall of Eliot Spitzer or price comparisons on bottles of Paris Hilton's perfume or whatever you normally "read".

Can you tell that my favorite line appears at the end?:

"There are no Washington cases which address assertions that the existing disciplinary rules for university professors are unconstitutionally vague and chill the exercise of freedom of speech."

In other words: You've been served. Hello? Served. Is anyone out there? Served!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Would You Let This Man Teach?

I finally understand WWU's problem with this ogre... Anyone who misunderstands the social norm that the word "Cheeeese" is meant to provoke shouldn't be allowed anywhere near impressionable young people on Cheerleading Scholarships.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Washington's Shame = New York's Pride

A smallish, non-fictional town in northern New York State names itself in honor of our stalwart, hearty, hard-hearted, hearth-warming scholar of the evermore, in an attempt to right a few wrongs and bring the ephemeral, but well-intentioned powers of geography to the surer side of goodness and light:

Coordinates of Perry Mills, New York, USA:
Longitude: 73° 30' 22" West
Latitude: 45° 0' 1" North
Perry Mills can be found 34 miles [54 km] to the south of Montréal (QC).

Yes, friends, supporters, and corporate sponsors: there is, indeed, a town in the state of New York known as Perry Mills. Don't believe me? Googlemap it! Try to book a Greyhound ticket from YOUR own unbelievable home station to this hotspot of intellectual curiosity and aesthetic confrontation!

Well, it's unfindable through Greyhound, this much is true, sadly, but--LO!--there has nary been a destination of note that HAS been easily accessed by said odiferous omnibus corp...

Check this chyme out before it passes through the pyloric valve of our plastic way of life:

From a sublisting of the subsection of Wikipedia's entry on the Champlain subregion of New York, sandwiched delicately between notations on Kings Bay Wildlife Management Area and Point a Fer:

Perry Mills -- A hamlet in the northwest part of the town on the Chazy River.

Looking for affordable accommodations to enhance your stay in Perry Mills, NY? Use the INTERNET!

For attractions, please contact the Champlain, NY, Chamber of Commerce and tell Gussie or Mindy-Vespa that you really are looking to find things to do in Perry Mills and that--NO--that wasn't a typo!

Still have no idea what to do in or about Perry Mills, NY? Then rejoice! This is the exact position our Professor, for whom this mythical but still very real town was named, finds himself every day of his frustrated existence as he faces a dwindling bevy of reasons to continue fighting. But oh--sooth!--isn't the FIGHT ITSELF worth the effort? Yes! If you're 12 and believe Iron Man will come to your tent and deliver a magic lantern that will cure your acne and allow locomotives to start by the snap of fingers! Fight! Fight! Fight!

"From across the land they send their teams of great renown,
But on the field of battle they are trampled into the ground,
Pull the Golden Bear,
From his mighty lair,
And we'll drag his carcass with us to the Northland."

So, speed on to Perry Mills and live a moment's weight of stultified usefulness. You're almost there! You have the map, you have the ennui, now all you need is the postcard to commemorate the trip! Just remember: wishing someone else was here doesn't mean "here" will get any better without them, or any worse with their absence! So bring a friend, make a friend, leave a friend, take a friend--but GO! GO and spit in the town well to say:

"I'm a Mills Man, I Sally Forth!"

In memorium: "February 11th, 2008" (another day of unlearning for the ghost-horde of students untaught by non-Professor Perry F. Mills--a drop in the bucket of hope-gapped-eternal...)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Disembodied Voices Continue to Find their Way Home

A letter from another alum, full of unsought, but unsurprising, shame and loathing:

Question Mills decision

Dear Editor,

In regard to Paul deArmond's article about Judge Mura's ruling in favor of WWU's actions in the case of Perry Mills (in the WI issue of Nov. 29, 2007):

Firstly, embezzlement is very clearly defined (citing the Oxford dictionary): "embezzle | em-bez-l | verb [trans.] steal or misappropriate (money placed in one's trust or belonging to the organization for which one works)." There is no stipulation for falsifying records in this (or any) definition. Where is the call for legal subjectivity in this case? Where did this new qualifying circumstance come from? Can justice be exacted both ways, or is Judge Mura placating his county's largest constituency?

Secondly, the idea that the constitutional right to free speech should be confined to course material is terrifying and outrageous. There is no such thing as an "innocent" college student; remember that college students are adults, and removing the right and requirement of open discourse (which can be unpleasant at times, especially for those who obsess over how they feel about what they believe) elementally contradicts the academic process, and robs every college student of the fundamental right to be challenged as an adult. When the right to speak freely is curtailed, either for controversial professors or anti-intellectual college-goers, a university becomes nothing more than a focus group.

Lastly, I find it disgusting that Judge Mura found that WWU acted illegally, yet found that their illegal closed hearing warranted no attention because of a lack of provisions for remedial actions against them. Where is the reason behind this decision? is it not the place of a judge to maintain the rule of law by meting out punishment to those who disobey? What is the point of a law that cannot be enforced?

Having taken classes from both Perry Mills and those seeking to remove him, I am glad that I opted to challenge myself with Mills' persistently demanding coursework, rather than slogging through overbearing, pointless sharing of feelings and ephemeral nonsense with a faculty and student body fixated on simply making themselves feel "good," rather than striving to grow intellectually. If there were any adherence to objectivity, both at the university and in the Whatcom County Superior Court, the value of Perry Mills as an educator would be self-evident, and I would be less ashamed of my alma mater, and the city I used to call home.

Rick Banuelos
Manhattan, Montana
WWU Class of 2000

A Rare Sighting Of The Redbreasted Grizzly, And A Few Grumblings Straight From The Maw Of The Beast Itself

A recently received letter and some photos from our Dear Professor...
(or: Live Feed Straight from the Well-Fed, Still Alive, Perry F. Mills)

(Pending spelling corrections and change of font)

News Update, New Year 2008!

(Material to be Typed in by a Non-Robot)

After four years of being savaged by sheep, the excised professor bakes zucchini loaf and brandishes a spatula!

Local judicial rulings indicated that the processes stifling this loudmouth were illegal, but it was O.K. with the good old boys downtown, so the egregious suspension was affirmed.

This will be glad news to the State Supreme Court, who will be reviewing this mess shortly. Since no one wants to hear the aggrieved tales from the victim, it's a bit of a guess what is being judged all round....

Perhaps moving the inquiry to a venue in which the evidence is heard by folks who aren't related to the participants will allow a little law and justice to creep in.

Stay tuned for more of the same....

PS: If you haven't already, please read the previous post and "sign the guestbook" or whatever you want to call it....

A request from your sponsor...

Folks. I'm about to upload some new stuff Perry sent me to share with you.

I ask one thing, however (it's all I've ever asked from you at this point, and likely it's all I ever will):

As I have no idea whether I'm maintaining this blog entirely in vain, and while a labour of love should command this worry into donning the cloak of irrelevance, I would still greatly appreciate some response from anyone actively reading this page that would suggest to me the pulse does not just beat within a vacuum. One word, even, or a series of inexplicably arranged punctuation marks denoting your displeasure at my amateurish shattering of our fourth wall. Or even--dare I ask it--a fully formed thought. Some sort of "Boo" from the dark vast to let me know I'm not staring into Nietzsche's void without ever realizing that the void's been staring right back at me the whole time.

Oh, and Capt. O'Neal, while your responses are always welcome, of course you know I'm not referring to you here. I already know your pulse beats strongly in our minor community...

Thanks very much. Up next: a few words from the Tenure Track of Purgatory....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Word From Our Professor (via George Carlin)

Perry sent this quote to me in the mail. Seemed like something worth sharing, as I imagine it's very much on his mind these days, as should it be on your own.

Political Correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it’s especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control peoples language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.

-George Carlin

Two P'd-Offs in a pod...

Blast from the Past

Apparently, we missed this article from 2 1/2 years ago. Pretty rudimentary stuff, but Mills' last line is the sort of thing that gives campaign volunteers the excited silly giggles, so...

Cause for suspension stated

By: Sarah Martin

Posted: 7/12/05

Nearly eight months after Western's theater arts department suspended associate theater professor Perry Mills, he received a statement of charges -- which included written complaints from students and faculty members -- from Provost Andrew Bodman in June.

According to the statement, the reason for the suspension was that Mills' conduct fell below the standards to which faculty should adhere. Mills, who has been on paid suspension since Oct. 18, 2004, said the ordeal is a witch hunt.

"You can't prove that Julius Caesar ever existed," Mills said. "It's all hearsay."

In the statement Bodman wrote that he, Carol Edwards, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts, and theater department chair Mark Kuntz believe enough evidence exists to warrant a formal hearing.

The next step in the process is a hearing in October during which a panel of at least five members will review evidence and hear witnesses.

Mills, a faculty member at Western for 25 years, taught theater arts classes such as introduction to cinema and dramatic writing and said he misses his job. Some students have mixed feelings about Mills' teaching methods.

"If he could get an attitude change, he wouldn't be that bad," said Kerrie Thornton, Western senior and Mills' former student. "It's just too bad that he doesn't have very good people skills."

Thornton said that, while his classes are difficult, Mills listened and helped with playwriting.

The charges Mills faces are based on actions some faculty and staff believe violated Western's Faculty Handbook, which specifies the professional standards the university expects from its faculty. According to the handbook, the university may dismiss faculty members from their position for violating one or more of five obligations for behavior. Mills allegedly violated two of the five.

Edwards, Bodman and Kuntz are charging Mills with "a serious and persistent neglect of faculty duties" and "intentional and malicious interference with the scientific, scholarly and academic activities of others," according to the statement.

Attached to the statement of charges were three written statements from faculty and students concerning Mills' conduct.

In a statement dated Oct. 7, 2004, Western junior Shareen Faleafine wrote that Mills, who was her professor for Theater 201 during the prior spring quarter, harassed her in a faculty parking lot for having a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on her car.

"I have always felt comfortable and at home here at Western," she wrote. "Today I felt uncomfortable, put down, discouraged and scared for the first time."

Faleafine wrote that Mills said that if a problem arose in his class, he did not care and students should drop the class immediately. She wrote, however, that she could not afford to drop the class.

In an internal statement to Edwards dated Sept. 24, 2004, Kuntz said he witnessed a conversation between Mills and an administrative assistant of one of his courses. Kuntz said Mills' language included "You bitch, you screwed up," and "Is she retarded?"

Mills said he suspects his suspension could be partly a result of him carrying a pocketknife around campus. Kuntz received a report of a student seeing him with a pocketknife. Mills said he carried a pocketknife for years and needed it for repairing onstage equipment.

Kuntz said he told Mills on several occasions not to carry his knife on campus.

"I believe in protecting his privacy and his rights while protecting the rights of students," Kuntz said.

Mills also speculated that his suspension is due in large part to a $12 lab fee theater students paid until recently. He said Kuntz spent the money for items such as computers, which was not the purpose of the fee, and Kuntz was upset with him for whistle blowing.

Kuntz said the fee was not a factor in Mills' suspension and the department discontinued the fee because it was no longer needed.

In a written complaint Edward's office received on Oct. 12, 2004, a former student of Mills' wrote that she returned to Western after doctors diagnosed her with cancer, and Mills was aware of her situation.

During class, when Mills called on her to present an assignment in front of the class, she said she was nervous.

According to her complaint, Mills said, "If you can't even put up with your piece for class, then you should have just died of cancer."

Mills said he did not think he said anything wrong or should treat students with illnesses any differently from other students.

"I hope that it hurts someone enough to either go home or do their work," he said. "If she died I wouldn't have given her an 'A.'"

Mills said he does not want to handicap his students by avoiding the issues.

"I don't talk nice," he said. "I say 'I hate that idiot' instead of saying 'I hold you in imperfect esteem.'"

Mills is on paid suspension until the hearing.

"Your tax dollars are going into me as we speak," he said.


posted 7/15/05 @ 1:40 PM PST

I must applaud Perry Mills for actually having the guts to say whatever he wants to say. The University has no right to try to censor what their faculty say and do. Remember that First Amendment "Free Speech" Clause? Justice William J. Brennan, Jr put it best when he wrote:

"If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable."

Bravo Mr. Mills, bravo...

Thomas Hintz

posted 7/18/05 @ 8:21 PM PST

No person who holds a position of respect and authority should treat his/her charges with such abuse and disrespect, if these assertions are true.

I am angry and appalled that this behavior and attitude is present at my alma mater.

Mark A. Hardie, 1953, Retired Educator
Puyallup School District

posted 7/23/05 @ 11:02 AM PST

Perry Mills was one of my favorite teachers at WWU. I learned the most from his classes. He was so funny and passionate and salty that it made his classes entertaining. I missed a lot of classes at Western- but never one of Perry's.

Madeline Chauvin, Videographer
Austin, TX

From the The Western Front Online, July 11, 2005
Photo Credit: Lauren Allain/The Western Front

Monday, January 14, 2008

Do You Miss Mark Kuntz? I do, too...

It's been awhile, hasn't it? Well, I know you've been as sick for both the presence of Professor Mark Kuntz--really, the man who started it all, an inspiration to educators and educatees alike--as well as the concision and attention to detail that defines the Western Washington student. So, here's a little treat for your attendant patience, unedited for "letter-order" and grammatic creativity:

From Rate My Professor (Mark Kuntz)

Ugh. Terrible class. I usually love theatre. I didn't with Mark. He was self-absorbed and, though he would ask student opinions in discussions he would usually just make what they said fit his own narrow-minded opinions. The tests were confusing and I thought his grading on papers was kind of harsh. Obnoxious guy, obnoxious class.

What a god awful teacher. I couldn't stand the full of himself, disorganized, unavaliable and he out and out lies about stuff. Huge ego way out of porportion to any talent I saw a director he sucks. Actors actually fell asleep on stage in the last play he did it was so boring.........


I was interested in theater prior to taking this class, but I really didn't learn much about it and I have completely lost interest. He grades papers too hard and the basis of the tests are several uninspiring articles written by people with large egos.

Mark is hilarious! He's such an awesome guy. Get to know him on a personal level... it helps!

Indeed! Truly awesome.

Note: I would have been happy to balance this post with some student musings on the criminal pirate himself, but--ah, helas--it's somewhat difficult for students to properly rate their professors when their professors aren't allowed to set foot on campus...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cries in the Dark: Two Opinions

From the Whatcom Independent Online Op-Ed Archives
Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Letters to the Editor
Thu, Dec 13, 9:54am -

Silence does not become us

Dear Editor,

And so we hear the last bleating call of the whistle blower. I’ve been keeping tabs on Western Washington University’s (WWU) attempts to silence and dismiss Perry Mills, as the man was a professor of mine during my time in Bellingham. It never ceases to astound me that a community like Bellingham could stand silently by while this sort of thing occurs.

I know Perry Mills; he’s an educator of the old school. He still believes in standards of learning and thought that were once held dear on university campuses. Standards that have now fallen out of favor, not because they are somehow less invaluable now, but because they are difficult. He is gruff, crass, often shocking, but this stems from the fact that he is driven, direct, and above all, honest.

Professor Mills’ film students were required to pay fees that ostensibly were used for films and equipment. Instead, the funds, in their entirety, were taken and utilized by the department head. For what, then, were his students paying? Trips to conferences, in all likelihood.

Now it’s true that Mills is known for his scathing commentary of his peers. Again, vitriolic though it may be, it is also honest. The mere fact that Mills is known for this should ring some warning bells with the courts and the public, however. Mills did not suddenly become the “neighborhood meany” that the school is making him out to be. He’s been Perry for his entire tenure at WWU, some decades now, and no action has ever been taken to censure him.

University guidelines dictate that offensive behavior be reported and cataloged. They further state that the offender be called to a meeting where the problem will be discussed and rectified before any punitive action is taken. None of this was done. No action was ever taken.

Until now. Now, suspiciously, after he’s attempted to rectify his problem through established means (reporting the missing money), he’s being thrown from his position in direct violation of university guidelines. No official complaints had been made prior to this final attack on Mills, no meeting was called, no discussions were had, no mediation considered. After blowing the whistle, what constituted normal behavior for years became grounds for immediate removal. Well, perhaps eccentric people should just remember their place in life, and keep silent when they’re stepped on. Perry’s plight will serve as a great example to us all.

Stephen Austin II

Dean’s view of Mills

Dear Editor,

I have just finished the Paul deArmond piece on Prof. Perry Mills. I am not fully acquainted with the details of the event, as it happened after I left the Deanship of the College of Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA). As the first dean of the new CFPA, I was of course a part of process when Mr. Mills joined the college. He was hired as an assistant to an associate professor. He advanced to his present rank by way of his excellent work in the Theater Department.

Prof. Mills has been with the theater for a good number of years. His record as a teacher is excellent. His student’s evaluations were, as I remember, very high. His production of student credit hours, a most important factor in any department, was exceptional. Professor Mills’s students were among the best in the college. His development of the student playwrighting project was remarkable.

It is true that his language in informal situations may have left something to be desired, but he was obviously revolting against the effete professor stereotype that is all too common in the collegiate world. I have known him for many years and his language has certainly not worsened. (I am aware that reactions to that statement ranged from “Thank God” to “It couldn’t.”) His command of the English language will put the average educated person to shame. He is certainly as well- or better-read than most of his colleagues. His sense of humor, which I suspect is at the bottom of a lot of the anger that has been generated, is one of the best I have ever encountered.

I strongly suspect that those who have been behind the move to get rid of Prof. Mills are among those who have felt insulted but were not sure how or why. I have seen him in formal situations where his language has always been on the highest level and been extremely effective. Those who have been intimidated by Prof. Mills must have an extremely thin skin.

Prof. Mills is an excellent teacher, one who always put the student first. Certainly that seems to be the case here when dealing with student funds.

W. A. Gregory

Friday, January 04, 2008

Administrative Code Violated; Suspension Upheld (aka Illegality Rewarded)

Okay, so I've re-read this article at least three times (listen, I attended Western, so I can't do objective math--just the new subjective kind, resembling the accounting WWU employs to determine the various sundry fees they collect from new batches of "students" every year). Anyhow, I've read the thing more than once and I still can't understand how this sentence works:

[Whatcom County Superior Court Judge] Mura said he upheld Mills’ suspension but found that Western’s refusal to hold open hearings in the case violated administrative code.

To quote other myriad on-line bafflees: A-wot?

Is this not like saying "[United States Supreme Court Judges] said they upheld Bush's claim to presidential victory but found that Florida's refusal to hold non-discriminatory elections violated constitutional code"?

Well, I guess we can turn to the brilliant thinker F. Scott Fitzgerald for a bit of perspective on this conundrum:

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

Or, to quote Western's Assistant Attorney General Wendy Bohlke: "We won, he lost."

Isn't it nice to know that WWU has such a time-saving reductionist on staff? With spin powers like that, it's a wonder she only works for a minor university and hasn't extended her step to a higher ground like, say, Legal Advisor to Vladimir Putin. I know, Russia is cold and snow is heavier than rain, but I think simplicity of the sort Bohlke has to offer would be more useful on the world stage than on the stagnant prosceniums of "Higher Education." At least she'd help give serious editorial cartoonists more work.

Or, how about this other choice statement by the same beast, quoted in the same article: "Universities hire intelligent, educated people. Personnel problems don't happen that often. We deal with them quietly and people move on."

Wow! Silence = progress! Once again, Western Washington's formulas for success are far more interesting than those that come with any amount of ethical integrity! Yep, no more surefire a way to solve intricate issues that affect large populations like nations or student bodies than with that proven vanquisher of time-squandering complexity: silence!

Anyway, enough about me: there are a few more words sandwiched between Bohlke's lardy emissions within the article itself, so read on if you run out of more interesting fiction in your own home's library. And here's some post-reading homework for you: Where did Krell's Facebook group "Perry F. Mills, Where Have You Gone?" go?...

Judge to uphold theater professor's suspension
by Steven Chea, Sarah Gordan and Shana Keen
Friday, December 07, 2007

The dispute regarding the fate of Western theater professor Perry Mills is one step closer to being resolved after Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Steven Mura issued an oral ruling on Mills’ case Nov. 21.

Mura said he upheld Mills’ suspension but found that Western’s refusal to hold open hearings in the case violated administrative code.

“We won, he lost,” said Western Assistant Attorney General Wendy Bohlke. “He was an … abuser of people. We will defend that. The decision was sound.”

Mills was put on paid suspension by the theater department in October 2004 while the university investigated complaints received from faculty and students, according to a review decision and final order released by Western’s Board of Trustees.

In one of the complaints, a female student, whose name was redacted from the document, wrote a letter to then theatre department chair Mark Kuntz stating Mills’ behavior in class toward her was offensive, according to the board’s document. The student, who had been diagnosed in the fall of 2003 with ovarian cancer, returned to Western after surgery and chemotherapy sessions and enrolled in Mills' dramatic writing class in the spring of 2004. The student volunteered to present her work in front of the class, but after she expressed reservations, Mills made a comment to her that she found offensive, according to the document.

The document states Mills testified that the comment he made to the student was along the lines of “If you don’t put up your work, it’s just as if you died of cancer and aren’t here at all.” The comment brought the student to tears, according to the document.

Mills justified his words as a way of motivating her. The board found that Mills’ actions toward the student were “entirely inappropriate,” according to the document.

The incident is one of several mentioned in the document, which include comments made by Mills to other students and faculty members they considered derogatory toward gender and sexual orientation.

The department presented its findings to a hearing panel in October 2005 while Mills defended his actions to the panel. The five-member panel held six meetings and voted unanimously to recommend that Mills be placed on a two-quarter suspension without pay, according to the document.

Theater professor Deborah Currier was one of the faculty members to whom Mills allegedly made comments that she deemed inappropriate, according to the document. Currier did not say her position on Mills’ suspension, but said she disapproved of his conduct.

Western senior Adam Krell took Theatre 201 with Mills, and said he didn't find Mills’ unusual style offensive.

“I just thought he was funny,” Krell said. “He cracked me up. He was abrasive, but I don’t think he was ever serious.”

Krell created the “Perry F. Mills, Where Have You Gone?” Facebook group, which originally protested the suspension.

Krell said he now feels he doesn’t know enough information to make a judgement about whether or not the suspension is justified.

“I think most of what he said was tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t think most of the students took it that way,” Krell said. “I interpreted him as sarcastic.”

Attorneys on both sides must type up Mura’s ruling and add suggestions they feel the judge needs to take into consideration. Mura said he will issue a formal finding after receiving reports from both sides but did not specify a deadline.

Bohlke said she believes Mura will sign the formal finding next week. She said Mills’ case was an unusual situation for Western.

“Universities hire intelligent, educated people,” Bohlke said. “Personnel problems don’t happen that often. We deal with them quietly and people move on.”

Mills’ attorney James Lobsenz was not available for comment by deadline.