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

1 comment:

Spartacus O'Neal said...

Having seen this happen to other Bellingham whistleblowers, perhaps they could add a tag line to the Welcome to Bellingham signs at the city limits--one that reads, "No good deed goes unpunished."