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.


Spartacus O'Neal said...

I seem to recall Mura once worked for the FBI. Need I say more?

Denna said...

Well said.

Berit Anderson said...

I edit, a Seattle area blog hub for opinion and lifestyle and am interested in re-posting this with attribution on our site.

Really interesting insight here, that you won't find in mainstream media. Who should I talk to about this?

Email me at

Spartacus O'Neal said...

My alma mater in San Francisco systematically harassed and removed independent minded faculty concerned about administrative malfeasance. Whistleblowers lost their jobs and pensions. Finally, after ten years, the U.S. Department of Education closed the school after finding the Board of Trustees had been engaged in money-laundering student advance loan funds. The whistleblowers were right, and the school is closed.