Saturday, June 20, 2009

Midsummer Night's Induced Coma

Going off-line for a month

See you'se all mooks in 30 days, give or take (you give, I'll take).

With great hope, absolutely nothing of value, interest, or portent will take place over the next 4 weeks. Of course, should something of value, interest, or portent take place, I trust you'll hunt it, grab it, nail it, skin it, kiss it, kill it, and shove an apple in its beak for the grand return.

It's summer, people: get a nice sultry photo of Mills in his swammin' trunks holding a glock, so we have something to show for when it's really hot and muggy.

Or, wait, nevermind, here you go:

have a nice day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cancer = Death; Death = Silence; Silence = ?

No doubt one of--if not the--most emotionally charged points against Mills is his statement to a student who had returned to his class after arriving at a miraculous remission of her cancer. The debate as to his conduct here has to do with (at least) two variations on whatever actual comment he made. Here is a paraphrasing of the alleged intents:

1. Because you choose not to put up your work for public scrutiny in my class as promised, I wish you had died of cancer.

2. Because you choose not to put up your work for public scrutiny in my class as promised, your participation has become null and void, much as death would have rendered you, much as your now seemingly vanquished cancer would have allowed.

It's this heaty distinction that makes me glad for any time that a media outlet chooses a phrasing more in line with the way that Perry Mills actually approaches the nature of scholarship and that terrible immortality-allowant pursuit we call art. So, while this piece does mitigate the nature of the quote by insisting it is "Mills' version", rather than that of, I don't know, the more objective clan fist-raising for his head on a spike, here we have from

Drama Professor's Barbs Debated at Western Washington

A recent Washington State appeals court ruling has forced Western Washington University once again to debate the comments of Perry Mills, a drama professor accused of repeatedly making bullying or abusive remarks to students and faculty members, The Seattle Times reported. The appeals court did not fault the decision of a university panel to suspend Mills for two quarters without pay, but the court found that by not opening the hearing to the public, the university violated the professor's rights. The Times article looks at how Mills is seen by some as a powerful instructor and by others as a bully. At faculty meetings, Mills allegedly called his colleagues "idiots," "maggots" and "the usual." In one incident where his words are in dispute, he criticized a student recovering from chemotherapy who was hesitant to present her work in class. In Mills' version, he said, "If you don't put up your work, it's just as if you died of cancer and aren't here at all."

Because it's just so much fun to weed through comments, let's hear your own. Look at that quote. Do you make sense of it more in line with my previous paraphrase #1 or previous paraphrase #2?

Now please enjoy these immortal anecdotes:

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.

-- Albert Pine, English author, died 1851

Immortality is not a gift, Immortality is an achievement; And only those who strive mightily Shall possess it.”

-- Edgard Lee Masters, American poet, died 1950

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

-- Woody Allen, New York filmmaker, died sometime between Hannah and her Sisters and Manhattan Murder Mystery

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Former Student: Some of us Mills folk are doing just fine, thanks!

An op-ed letter written to the Seattle Times' Online Letters to the Editor section by a former Mills student, attesting to the eventual successes of people like himself--those who entered Mills' classes and came out the other end wholly intact and ready for more!

WWU professor under fire

Many former students doing well

The article about Western Washington University drama professor Perry Mills was woefully one-sided ["Professor says he provokes, but others call it abusive." page one, June 9]. The reporter failed to interview students who are supportive of Mills, of which there are many.

Theatre is an extremely difficult business, yet WWU students have had great success in part due to Mills. Below is a short list of former students of Mills who have worked professionally in theater:

Braden Abraham, associate artistic director at Seattle Rep (and frequent director of shows there and elsewhere);

Alycia Delmore, longtime local actress who recently appeared in "Hump Day," which was an award winner at Sundance;

Barzin Akhavan, professional actor who has been featured in plays across the country including Seattle Rep, San Jose Rep and is currently starring in the play adaptation of "Kite Runner";

Galen Joe Osier, local actor who recently starred in "Crime & Punishment" at Intiman Theatre;

Jon Lutyens, local Seattle actor;

Jason Martin, published playwright.

And that's just off the top of my head. These are not English/psychology/education majors who took a theater class here and there. These are theater majors who had Mills as a professor in multiple classes. They are working professionals.

I humbly suggest you interview one of them, or myself. I spent eight years as a professional actor/director. Please do your research before defaming a professor without the whole story.

-- Jan van Amerongen, Class of 1998, BA Theatre Arts, Seattle

Read this piece in its native home and the usual ancillary blog-opinions here.

If you--or anyone you know of--has sailed on Mills' scholar ship and are doing "just fine, actually" or even better, let us know!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Former Student to WWU President: Mills Made Me A Man--Be One Yourself!

June 10, 2009

Bruce Shepard
Western Washington University

Dear Dr. Shepard,

I am writing an open letter to you today regarding Professor Perry Mills. I am deeply troubled and still somewhat ashamed by the University's conduct toward Professor Mills, and the vast misunderstanding that fuels his detractors' purpose. Their familiar refrain states that Professor Mills engages in slanderous, offensive behavior, cares little for his student population, and seeks self-affirmation through their abuse. Besides being baseless and hyper-reactionary, these emotional appeals cloud a broader, more important issue: what are the fiscal obligations of the university to its students, and why are these pseudo-issues employed to hide the fact that thousands of dollars in student funds were stolen and misappropriated? Must we all idly watch while a court ruling specifically cites the Theatre Department Chair for this action, even though the now-overturned judge erroneously stated that the university had not engaged in embezzlement because the records they kept of the stolen funds (!) were not falsified? Professor Mills opened himself to censure by insisting that the university uphold the trust of tuition-paying students. The more I read and hear of this escapade, the more saddened I am at Western's refusal to address the issue, thereby forgiving the perpetrators of this pathetic disgrace.

This meddlesome disgust pales in comparison to the largest question you must answer: the function of your university in the academic world. The course of a true college student is hazardous; every premise begotten to us by our parents in our most formative years is questioned and examined, and ethical questions are answered in ways that elementally change us as individuals. This is how it should be. True scholarship is not a sport or a pastime; it is a disciplined adherence to the practice of questioning ideas and beliefs (political, sociological, empirical or otherwise) until those ideas and beliefs are found to be true or false. Professor Mills' invective, which I rarely saw in the three years in which I insisted on attending at least one of his classes every quarter, was saved for those who would not engage the material, and who refused the tools of learning that Mills so ardently offered on a daily basis. To these people, Professor Mills offered a clear choice: think and create or disappear.

I have never witnessed a single event in which Professor Mills derided a student for being wrong as long as that student made an effort to think about the subject at hand. Even when presented with student-written plays that most people would find pathologically perverse, Mills questioned his students' motives within their work rather than impeaching their values. Mills also made certain that his students perform and test their work, and encouraged student works zealously while his colleagues bestowed leading roles in college plays upon themselves, thus preventing students from honing their tools through practice. These tools--inductive and deductive reasoning, avid passion for scholarship, practice, and ceaseless, pointed questioning--have proven invaluable to me as a man and as a member of society.

As a new legal and public hearing nears on this subject, you have a clear choice ahead of you as the President of WWU. Will you endorse your academic principles and demand that your students behave as scholars who engage the coursework and seek true higher learning, or will you adopt the position that your students be treated as fragile and that their feelings and comfort be given primary concern, even at the cost of scholarship?

I submit to you as a graduate of WWU that no scholar will find comfort in anything less than the pursuit of knowledge. Only a non-student--an anti-intellectual--will ask that their feelings be regarded above the development of their mind. Dorothy Sayers wrote: "For the sole true end of education is simply this; to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain." Professor Mills' teaching style exemplifies Ms. Sayers' concept of scholarship. To fulfill this aim, we need courageous, eager students and professors who do not dull their pedagogical methods to validate a student population that refuses to engage the scholastic method.

Nearly a decade later, the reason I happily pay installments on my student loan is that Professor Mills alone made my tuition worth every penny: he refused to teach me what to think, and taught me how to think instead.

Sincerely yours,

Rick Banuelos
WWU Class of 2000
Seattle Times
Gov. Christine Gregoire
Bellingham Herald
Perry F. Mills
The Western Front

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Modern Journalism: Bair and Falanced

So the Seattle Times didn't get the photo wrong as previously predicted (Perry really does look like that when he's crammed into a Lynchian hallway with a harsh perspective and ferociously ethereal lighting)--instead they got the facts of the story wrong. Hooray for the vacuous lickspittles of modern journalism!

"The university's action was upheld May 26 by a state appeals court, except for one costly flaw: The court ruled the whole process must start over again because Mills' disciplinary hearing was closed to the public."

Of course, as all ye faithful readers remember--and the Goode Apostle Paul de Armond was quick to point out--the university's Aktion was overturned and not upheld. But really, isn't overturned just a synonym for upheld? As in "Molly invented the applepine downside-up cake by using a recipe she got from the Seattle Times, having accidentally upheld the paper in an overturned manner."

Reed it yore shelf here:

Seattle Times: Is WWU drama professor provocative, or an abusive bully?

Demand a retraction if you prefer your fiction left to cable TV news media... Otherwise, subscribe.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


This rare bit of hindsight from Rate My Professor, the generally insipid academic water cooler of undergraduate revenge:

"I took Perry Mill's classes in 1985 at Western. I found my thoughts drifting to him today. I did not appreciate Perry at the time. Twenty Four years later, I do! I've grown up and know what was going on in his classes now. Pay attention and show respect. What you perceive as rudeness may actually be something else."

An update! Another student from the days of yore speaks out!

"I had Perry as a Prof for a Theater/Arts film class back in '84. I thought I could breeze in and scoop up an A. Wrong! Perry didn't let anyone breeze through anything. He actually demanded me to think and when I resisted he goaded, challenged, berated me into at least trying. I respect the hell out of the man and consider him a damn good professor."

Read these and slightly less ancient opinions at:


This just in from Paul de Armond:

This ought to get us a whole shitsmear of unwanted foot traffic! Excellent.

If you're new to us here at Brutal Battle: say hi.

And remember: BE NICE. We're all about NICE here. Just like Perry himself.

There's also a rumor going around that a plane will be towing a similar banner over the heads of all the pretty graduates during commencement on Saturday, June 13th. If you're in the Bellingham area, race over to campus, look up and snap a shot or two of the plane. Then send your photos along to for immediate publication here...

News Aggregator

Little is ever as simple as it seems. Big is even less simple.

So, in honor of the girth of this situation, and its lack of simplicity, here are several links to articles that manage, through careful wording, to sway the timbre of recent news to imply that Dear Professor is still really the one at fault here.

If you have the stomach for it, you can also read the simpering cesspit of local opinion. There's little as enjoyable as slogging through the opinions of people who have no background facts to get in their precious way. There's big as enjoyable as that, too.

Bellingham Herald: WWU Professor disciplined for abusive remarks to get new hearing

Seattle P.I.: New discipline hearing ordered for WWU professor

Western Front: Previously suspended professor gets new hearing

All three rather redundant, but we're trying to be Perry completists here...

Now for all you lawyers out there chasing this particular ambulance: Suspended professor entitled to new hearing

That one got the facts wrong and the fictions boring. So here's: Suspended WWU professor is entitled to a new hearing

(Note: Mills is entitled to a new hearing, this was not forced upon him as the other headlines seem to suggest--amazing that it took two law sites to word the thing properly)

And then our own frequent guest contributor and stalwart yeoman or centurion or whatever, Paul de Armond (to whom thanks goes for two of the above links) also has this piece on offer, which thoughtfully spells out the steps in the offensive timeline starting with Mills shining light on misappropriated students funds to the point where then-department-chair Mark Kuntz had him fired to just about where we are now:

Northwest Citizen: The Fall of the West(ern): Perry Mills gets a new roll in the barrel

And now the coupe de grace: this essential, quite thorough piece written by a former student (and to which Paul contributed). Definitely worth your reading (not least for the fact that this article seems to be the only one for laymen, rather than lawmen, which sports a headline implying that Mills has earned a new hearing and is not having one foisted upon him against his wishes):

Cascadia Weekly: SAVAGED BY SHEEP - WWU professor disciplined for abusive style earns a new hearing

Word from the Big Man himself has just arrived in Ye Olde Snail Mail that a Seattle Times photog is on the way to get his visage wrong for their upcoming spread. Stay tuned for those results...