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 insidehighered.com:

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

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