A Note on Free SpEEch

I've paid very close attention to Jess Zimmerman's blog of late and partake in and read the comment threads. Here's something I've noticed: There's a difference between writing a comment intelligently and writing a comment thoughtfully. Now, I don't mean that the pointed calls for Fong's ousting and criticism of the internal disciplinary process are not well-reasoned. But thoughtfulness in this climate must lead us to consider speech and the internet more broadly. We may make our allegiances, but what of the future?

Something that caught my eye in the Collegian Online earlier this week was Levester Johnson's comment on Juicy Campus being brought down. He offered this as evidence of the proper protection of free speech on these, the interwebs. Much of what appeared on that site was crude, rash, ignorant, out of touch with reality and seemingly irrelevant. I say seemingly because not only were individuals hurt by it but so was the reputation of the student body. More importantly that cesspool of anonymity also exhibited misogyny and homophobia.

The memory of Juicy Campus became all the more relevant when a friend shared with me a group from the Book of Faces. This group (and my perspective is limited as I refuse to join it) purports to be, "a group where you can post the outrageous/absurd/hilarious/tragic things heard while on Butler's campus. All of those crazy things you hear people say post on the wall and all can laugh about the things Butler students, faculty, staff, and randoms on campus say."

A quick review of the one page of Wall that I am allowed to see revealed what appeared to be a form of Juicy Campus. Neo-Juice perhaps. The most important difference is that posters have no option to be anonymous. Yet some of the comments remain crude. Some are humorous. And unfortunately there are several comments which appear to mock and find outrageousness, absurdity, hilarity and tragedy in homosexual and transgendered lifestyles.

Now, this group is not a lone wolf trolling the tubes, it's a very public and student-sponsored outlet of Butler University. What do we make of free speech in this context? It's not terribly useful, certainly not civil and, in many senses, it's socially damaging. Is it worth defending? If not, then where do we draw the line?

These kinds of questions form a well-thought opinion and distinguish it from a well-worded one. And, I'm not claiming that abhorrent examples of free speech should be used to reign in Jess Zimmerman or lessen the enormity of what the university has done. But I am trying to show how it is difficult for people on the raw end of "irrelevant" gossip to easily weigh in. And if we are, as the Underground claimed and I Am John Doe has shown, living within a climate a fear, it goes to show how careful we must be to ensure that an ability to dissent does not host an ability to hate.


An Email to the Chair of the Board of Trustees

Just a few minutes ago I finished this email which I addressed directly to John Hargrove, the Chair of the Butler Board of Trustees. I urge anyone who is supporting Jess right now or who is confused and infuriated by the current state of affairs, to do the same. It will do you no harm. The trustees have power that students and faculty do not and only good can come of giving them our take on everything.

fromJon Irons
to jhargrove@ghj.com,
date Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 9:13 PM
subject Regarding Butler U v John Doe
mailed-by gmail.com

Mr Hargrove,

I am writing in order to reiterate what I hope has been considerable outrage over the actions that Butler University took in January of 2009. As I am sure you are well aware, the university filed a lawsuit against an anonymous blogger who wrote critical and pointed opinions about the actions of certain administrators. Since I learned about this lawsuit three weeks ago I have been fuming not only about the drama leading to its filing, but also the opinions and statements of the university.

I am a co-founder of an independent student blog known as The Butler Underground. The blog was formed in direct response to the sudden shut down of The True BU in January 2009. At that time, my colleague and I joked half-heartedly about what role the university might have taken in the shut down of the blog. We joked because we thought it would be ludicrous for a university to go to such measures to silence the opinions of students (not simply the author but the readers and commenters as well). In doing so we took up the cause of dissent and began to fight the climate of fear which had descended upon students. At that time, I had friends who supported me fully in private but refrained from making their opinions known in public spaces for fear of silencing, hassle and prevention of graduation. When this lawsuit was revealed the students in full last week, I happened to be on campus visiting and saw a darker cloud descend upon the student body. While many of us were outraged and spoke out loudly in defense of the implied defendant, Jess Zimmerman, we could not overlook a clear sense of danger associated with our actions. Will the University work to silence us as well? Will The Underground come under similar scrutiny? Should I run my comments by others to ensure they cannot be misconstrued? The very act of writing these words, fear and danger and silencing, especially in response to action taken by a university that purports to uphold a liberal arts tradition, is enough to drive me mad!

As an attorney who, as your biography states on the Butler website, "is a nationally respected First Amendment advocate," surely you cannot simply sit idly by and watch such a dangerous precedent become established. I am no lawyer, sir, but a great deal has been published about this case outside of Butler and none of it has supported the case filed by our university. Indeed, most speak to the long history of preeminent anonymous writing, the groundbreaking precedent that this case sets and how the two observations do not add up. See for instance, The Huffington Post.

Now, as student and faculty opinion has gone spiraling out of control, and after the fact that Butler is gaining national poor publicity, Dr. Fong sent out a memo to faculty (not to students or alumni) clarifying his position. He states that the university never intended on actually going through with the lawsuit and will not; an opinion which is at odds with comments made by university lawyers to reputable media outlets and to statements made by the Zimmerman family. Most of all, this statement is at odds with the very status of the litigation itself which is still active. Furthermore, within that memo, Fong appears to have placed blame upon Jess for the entirety of situation and maintains that Mr. Zimmerman (a.k.a. John Doe, a.k.a. Soodo-Nym) has made defamatory, libelous and harassing comments with no form of evidence other than an abandoned lawsuit. I find these comments and current handling of the situation inexcusable and appalling. Dr. Fong continues to invoke Butler's mission statement as justification for the lawsuit and even went as far as to mention the massacre at Virginia Tech to excuse his decision to prosecute.

I invite you to visit Mr. Zimmerman's blog which contains links to the text of the memo I spoke of as well as links to Fong's statements in the Butler Collegian.

Though I have moved on from Butler, I am close enough to this case and the students underneath the cloud of fear, that I am actively working to demand a public apology from Dr. Fong addressed and distributed to Jess Zimmerman, his family, the student body, the faculty and alumni. This is not an outrageous demand as the issue has resulted in extremely negative attention to this university and has consumed the precious time of students and faculty who have worked very hard to battle the opaque nature of current administrators (not to mention that it has scared the student body).

I am writing to you now because I have been solicited no less than two times, since I became aware of this case, to donate a monetary gift to the university. I interpret these requests as pokes and prods, begging me to forget and infuriating me. I feel I cannot trust my money in the hands of current administrators who would, apparently, spend my meager contribution on frivolous and damaging lawsuits. As a fellow alumnus I urge you to do the same. Furthermore, as a trustee (let alone the chair), I know that you are trusted, "with fiscal and strategic oversight and governance of Butler University." I hope it is in your power to reprimand Dr. Fong who has, by filing and continually defending this lawsuit, besmirched the name of the university you and I once called home. I beg of you to act and defend the students and faculty that are quickly exhausting their resources!

Thank you.


Jon Irons
BA Anthropology
Class of 2009
Butler University, Indianapolis


Another Response to Fong's 10/19 Memo

Dr. Bill Watts forwarded me a letter he addressed to the faculty in response the memo that Bobby Fong released yesterday. He reiterates similar points that Jess and I have made, namely the continued accusing of Jess and the inconsistencies of the university's position on the lawsuit. Most importantly he addresses the statements made by Fong and his lawyers that the university, throughout these last weeks, kept all legal options open. Why would officials make these statements if, as Fong claimed, they had no intent on ever suing Jess? Things are not adding up.

"Dear Senate Colleagues,

Since I first raised questions about Butler University v. John Doe, and since President Fong has now sent us two extended statements about the lawsuit, I want to provide you with some facts important to an understanding of this matter. In his October 19 statement, President Fong states that “The University did not, has not, and will not sue Jess Zimmerman.” This may be the current position of the University, but it is at odds with previous statements and actions:

1.On Sept. 27, Michael Blickman wrote, on behalf of the University, to Jess Zimmerman’s attorney that “we will proceed to substitute Jess Zimmerman for John Doe in the pending lawsuit. I anticipate that these actions will occur by the end of the week. Please let me know whether you will accept service for Jess Zimmerman.”

2.In his Oct. 13 statement to the faculty senate, President Fong noted that I had asked him, on Oct. 7, “to close this lawsuit and to normalize the disciplinary process involving the student in question.” President Fong responded to this request in his Oct. 13 statement by saying that “the University is keeping all of its options open.”

3.On Oct. 16, Inside Higher Ed published an article which stated the following: “As for naming Zimmerman to the suit in place of the current ‘John Doe,’ Blickman said the university ‘is reserving all options’ in the future.”

4.As of October 20, Butler v. John Doe remains open in Marion County Superior Court 2. More than four months have now passed since Butler gained definitive proof of the identify of Soodo Nym, and nearly ten months have passed since Jess Zimmerman was first accused of using this pseudonym. President Fong still has not committed the University to closing the lawsuit.

While President Fong now states in his Oct. 19 memorandum that “We do not intend to sue Mr. Zimmerman,” the record suggests that the University took extraordinary steps to give a 20-year-old sophomore the impression that he was going to be sued, and that the ample legal resources of the University would be used against him.

Moreover, President Fong continues in his most recent memorandum to use the words “libel,” “defamation,” “harassment,” “threats,” and “intimidation” with reference to the utterances of Jess Zimmerman aka Soodo Nym, thereby suggesting that the University could reasonably proceed with the lawsuit if it chose to do so. By this time, many knowledgeable people have examined the entire record, and find little or no support for the central claims of the lawsuit. In addition, the claim that Jess Zimmerman’s utterances have been threatening, intimidating or harassing depends, so nearly as I can tell, entirely on the “Butler Brigades” email message, which President Fong now acknowledges is not attributable to Jess Zimmerman.

I look forward to a lively, educational and on-going debate about how best to preserve the free exchange of ideas while maintaining civil discourse in the university. I remain deeply skeptical, however, that either the lawsuit itself or the handling of the lawsuit has in any way enhanced the educational mission of Butler University.

Bill Watts"

Dr. Watts, whatever your opinion on his outspoken-ness, is truly serving the Butler student community. Through email exchanges and Facebook he has continually made sure that students see what he and the faculty see. He has CCed students on email exchanges with administrators about sensitive issues. I see this as an effort to force transparency on a university that would rather keep everything silent and preserve the marketable idyllic image of Butler. For that I am grateful.


A Short Introduction

This entry brings no new developments except for the addition of a writer to The Butler Underground. Jon has asked me to introduce myself and explain why I am here.

My name is Lauren Thorne and I am in my third year at Butler University as a theatre major. I won't plague you with unnecessary personal tidbits here, as this isn't a social mixer. What matters here is not me; it's the information. I'm not here to preach my views or denounce the views of others. I'm here because I believe in a Butler where we work hand-in-hand with one another to foster an open environment that facilitates learning and growth.

Information is power. I'm not speaking of power over someone else. I'm speaking of the personal power that comes from being aware of what's going on in one's community. That awareness allows one to act in ways that promote peace, understanding, and progress.

Peace. Understanding. Progress.

That is what we, as a community, need to be striving for.

I thank you for your time and, along with Jon, strongly encourage you to attend the symposium tonight. Information regarding the time and place can be found in earlier posts.


Any questions, comments, or other feedback can be posted as comments on the blog, of course, or sent to Laurenet0112358@gmail.com.


A Break For Jess

Earlier this evening, on his blog, Jess Zimmerman announced that the University will not substitute his name in place of "John Doe" in the current lawsuit. This was made clear in a memo send by President Fong to the faculty. Jess has made the memo public on his blog and you can find the contents of the memo below. Please see Jess's entry for his insightful commentary on the situation which is far from clarified.

To the Butler University Faculty
From Bobby Fong, President
Monday, 19 October 2009

Subsequent to my communication to the faculty with regard to the “John Doe” complaint, student Jess Zimmerman publicly admitted to being Soodo Nym, the originator of messages that prompted the University to seek court orders to protect members of the Butler community from defamation and harassment and to discover the identity of the sender.

In my earlier remarks to you, I refrained from identifying the status (faculty, staff, or student) or gender of “John Doe,” respecting the individual’s right to confidentiality. Jess Zimmerman has chosen to waive that right by publicly identifying himself as the anonymous blogger. This frees me to clarify further two points on behalf of the University.

The University did not, has not, and will not sue Jess Zimmerman. His public claim that the university has done so is false. The University filed the lawsuit against “John Doe,” the anonymous blogger, because it did not know who Soodo Nym was.

Mr. Zimmerman met with Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson on 2 January 2009. In an email dated that same day to confirm what was discussed at their meeting, Mr. Zimmerman wrote Johnson:

. . . I did not write or know about the note that was sent to Provost Comstock and Dean Alexander on Christmas day. Further, I condemned the note as being in poor taste and promised you that I would make sure to express my desire for civil discourse to everyone I know. I will make certain that the group that controls the blog knows that I, both in my capacity as a student leader on campus and as a concerned student, feel that this type of communication is unwarranted and should stop. In addition to the Email sent to the Provost and JCFA dean, you shared with me an Email sent from another address to you that said that “threatening students has gone too far.” This meeting was the first time I have seen or heard about that Email account and I agreed to let people know that Emails like that have no place in higher education.

Dr. Johnson replied in an email on that same day:

• I acknowledged your statement that you do not claim responsibility for the messages sent to me and those sent to Dean Alexander and Provost Comstock.
• I acknowledged the right for Blog sites to exist and that it has become a common means of communication as are other means on the web, and from my perspective, will need to be embraced and understood moving forward. I also strongly stated my opposition to “anonymous” Blogs such as TrueBU which are damaging to the civil discourse expected within a university environment, especially if they do not allow for opposing opinions to be posted. . . .
• Jess, most importantly, I appreciated your pledge to communicate with any individuals who may be affiliated with the TrueBU Blog site and therefore the inappropriate messages sent to Dean Alexander, Provost Comstock and myself. . . .
Mr. Zimmerman denied being Soodo Nym. Mr. Zimmerman’s father met with me on two occasions, 31 December 2008 and 7 January 2009. I have notes of those meetings indicating that I told him, “Jess has denied to LJ that he is Soodo Nym but acknowledges knowing the identity of Soodo Nym.”

On 4 January 2009, the University attorney wrote to Soodo Nym’s e-mail address:

Be advised that your communication to Dean Alexander and Provost Comstock is in violation of Indiana criminal laws prohibiting harassment and intimidation. Your e-mail and previous postings on the truebu blog also constitute actionable libel as you have defamed the University and several individuals, including those referenced above. . . .

The University has been advised by one of its students that a number of individuals have posted to this blog as “Soodo Nym” . . . The legal action to be filed by the University will result in the disclosure of this information by the internet service providers involved in this matter.

The blog’s author claimed to be a student or students, but the blog contained information to which students would not usually have access. When Mr. Zimmerman denied that he was the author, there was no way of ascertaining with certainty who the blogger was, faculty member, student, or outsider, without seeking the name of the owner of the blog account from an internet provider. To do this, we needed to seek a subpoena directing the internet provider serving “Soodo Nym’s” account to divulge the account owner’s identity. In Indiana, the only way the subpoena could be obtained is to file a “John Doe” lawsuit against the account owner. The decision to do this was not made lightly.

Butler has a duty to safeguard robust academic speech. However, the University also has a duty to protect all of its members from defamation, harassment, threats, and intimidation. This, too, is part of creating a campus climate where robust speech can flourish. The University makes no attempt to stifle criticism of its policies or actions. However, “Soodo Nym’s” blogs and e-mail crossed the line from robust criticism of policy to character assassination and intimidation. Read as a whole, its intent was to undermine the effectiveness of the provost and dean by maligning their reputations and making their jobs unbearable by ongoing harassment. The blog was defamatory by legal definition because it contained falsehoods that harmed the professional reputations of individuals.

The University complaint against “John Doe” was filed on 8 January 2009. The suit was filed against the anonymous blogger. As a result of subpoenas ordered by the court in response to the complaint, the University obtained evidence that Mr. Zimmerman was Soodo Nym on 9 June 2009. This was the first proof we had that the blogger was a student. The University has not taken the legal steps needed to sue Jess Zimmerman by replacing “John Doe’s” name with his and serving him with a complaint. It has no intention of doing so. Mr. Zimmerman has not been sued.

But had Mr. Zimmerman been honest with Dr. Johnson, no suit of any sort would have been filed.

The University will deal with Jess Zimmerman through the internal disciplinary process.

Through the summer, the University engaged in discussions with the attorney for Mr. Zimmerman with regard to his going through internal disciplinary processes of the University. Contrary to Mr. Zimmerman’s public assertions, the University specifically offered in writing to exclude “academic suspension or termination of his enrollment at Butler” from a list of possible sanctions because the hope was this would be a “teachable moment” for Mr. Zimmerman. Discussions continued until 26 September 2009, when attempts to reach an agreement broke down because Mr. Zimmerman maintained that no sanctions were warranted. The University is initiating the internal disciplinary process.

Mr. Zimmerman has now publicly acknowledged that he was “Soodo Nym” and that he sent the 25 December 2008 email. He denies, however, that he knows about the 2 January 2009 email from “butlerbrigades” sent to Vice President Johnson and Provost Comstock. I’ve been asked if the University pursued the identification of that email’s sender. Yes, we did.

Attorneys for the University sent a subpoena to Microsoft (Hotmail) that was served on 9 January 2009. Microsoft responded on 21 January 2009, outlining its document disclosure process, which involved providing the user with notice as well as an opportunity to object.

On February 9, 2009, Microsoft disclosed records of butlerbrigades@hotmail.com to us, which revealed that the email account had not been active or logged into since the harassing email was sent back on 2 January 2009. Because Microsoft did not require any identifiers to open an account, this was a dead end.

No activity has occurred on the “John Doe” complaint since June, when discussions commenced with Mr. Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman’s name has not replaced that of “John Doe” on the complaint. There is no lawsuit against him. There never was. The University filed a complaint against “John Doe”, NOT a student. We do not intend to sue Mr. Zimmerman.

I want to reiterate some items from my earlier remarks. The free exchange of ideas is fundamental to academic life. Teaching, learning, and advances in research proceed by way of intellectual disputation. But central to civil discourse is debating the merits of an issue and not engaging in ad hominem arguments. Academic freedom does not provide protection for defamation and harassment. Indeed, the free exchange of ideas demands that faculty, students, and staff be protected from defamation, harassment, threats, and intimidation because these are the means by which bullies intimidate others into silence. There is a point where people subjected to disparagement pass over from anger and frustration at misrepresentations to fear of what might happen to them and their families. That point was reached in this instance."

It seems that given the vocal student objections and national media attention, the President has put his tail between his legs and skulked away. Nevertheless, as is clear in this memo, Fong will continue to justify his actions by misconstruing the mission of a liberal arts university. His unapologetic message and continued bickering is shameful.

In the memo he wages still more accusations against Jess, suggesting that his false statement to Levester Johnson about not being Soodo Nym made this whole mess necessary. Jess has owned up to this lie in his blog and intends to justify it.

Furthermore, Bobby Fong continues to accuse Jess of harassing and defaming Jaime Comstock, Peter Alexander and Levester Johnson without proof or a court decision to back him up. Indeed, Fong seems ignore sentiments from both inside and outside the university which overwhelmingly agree that Jess's comments could not possibly be construed as libel or defamation.

Fong also asserts that the overall tone of The True BU was problematic due to its tone, its goals and the anonymity of the author.

Finally, Fong claims that the university never intended on suing Jess Zimmerman or any other student, but only used the lawsuit to gain subpoena power and determine the true identity of Soodo Nym from Google.

Let's get a few things strait. Bobby Fong and his administration lost. They could not have continued with the lawsuit because of the staunch opposition from students and faculty, as well as the national attention. Further, had they gone ahead with the lawsuit they would have lost because nothing Jess published in the blog was so devastating as to be construed as defamatory.

Finally, Fong and his lawyers lost because the voices and messages of Jess and students were too overwhelming. Any other justification or excuse for this action is purely pandering.

But, Fong did not seem apologetic in his memo. Indeed, as Jess pointed out in his blog, there are too many inconsistencies and contentious points made to consider this matter closed. Most worrying to me is the line that Jess will now be subject to internal disciplinary processes. Despite backing down on a lawsuit that would not have won in court, the University feels a justification to punish Jess anyway. (For statements that were not libelous, defamatory or otherwise, and for statements he has continually denied making.) And they plan to do this, once again, behind closed doors to deny students and the community their opinion.

In the petition that, last I checked, over 300 people had signed, we demanded an apology. Until that apology is given by Dr. Fong to all members of the Butler community (students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni) this issue is not over. As Fong claims to work as a steward of the liberal arts, it seems he is misconstruing his own mission. Justification for this lawsuit cannot be found in the mission statement of Butler University or the College of the Liberal Arts and Sciences. The lawsuit, and handling thereof, has worked against promoting a climate of free speech, respectful debate and dissent. Until an apology is given, the precedent remains and students will continue to live in fear of legal recourse. That is unacceptable.

Jess surely has a weight off his shoulders now that Big Bad Butler has finally stopped threatening to sue him. But a weight remains on him and over the entirety of the student body and university community. The climate of fear remains, that a university will unapologetically threaten a lawsuit against its own students and work to cover-up that fact. This is not over, but our collective voice has gotten us this far and can take us the end, winning an apology from Dr. Fong.



The Symposium on Free Speech and Civil Discourse and the Teach In

Apologies for the twin entries today. As Caleb and I have wandered far from campus our direct involvement in the reaction to the lawsuit against Jess Zimmerman is limited. One thing we can offer is our support in the form of promoting events and using The Underground's facebook mailing list. Feel free to send requests for blog entries to the.butler.dissenters@gmail.com or jonwirons@gmail.com.

In response to the lawsuit, and in addition to the petition, a symposium and discussion of the consequences of the lawsuit on free speech will be held on Tuesday Oct 20th, from 5:30-8:30 pm in the Pharmacy Building 156.

"In light of the libel lawsuit, Butler University v. John Doe, and the attention this case has received, there will be a symposium on "Free Speech and Civil Discourse" on Tuesday, October 20 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in PB156. Speakers will include Stephant Laurent in Dance, Michael Vance in Pharmacy, and Bill Watts in English. All faculty and students are invited. Please come to discuss these issues that are so important to our community."

This so-called Teach-In has been organized by Dr. Vivian Deno from the Department of History. Here is a little information on the event and helpful links regarding the case against Jess Zimmerman. In lieu of publishing our own set of links please use these:

"How do you feel about having rights? How about free speech? What do you think about Butler suing one of its own students for libel and defamation - simply for speaking his mind?

If you haven't heard about the legal battle our university is waging against Jess Zimmerman, a junior here at Butler, I strongly urge you to visit Jess's blog:
Start with his first post, at the bottom of the page.

Here is Butler English Professor Bill Watts's op-ed piece in the Collegian about the suit:
Collegian article about the faculty senate on the lawsuit, including comments by President Bobby Fong: http://thebutlercollegian.com/index.php/news/717-fong-addresses-faculty-senate-about-truebu

Now that you're a little caught up, want to do something about your anger/confusion/outrage? Then you should attend a faculty-hosted Teach-In on Free Speech and Civil Discourse, this Tuesday, October 20, from 5:30pm - 8:30pm in PB 156. From History Professor, feminist and Collaborative member Dr. Deno:

'Please join the faculty, staff, and student body of Butler University in an open exchange about free speech and civil discourse. Bring your friends, your ideas, and your voice!! Spread the word!

What constitutes civil discourse? How do you distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable speech? Who decides? What is the proper response to speech deemed unacceptable? Butler's current libel suit and the ensuing media coverage raises a number of questions about what constitutes civil discourse on the modern college campus. We'll grapple with these and other questions in what promises to be a lively session.'

PLEASE, PLEASE go to this session! Even if you don't know the whole story - come find out. Even if you feel like you don't have anything to say - come listen.

-Jon Irons

With Regards to Butler University v Jess Zimmerman

I assume that no one reading this blog is a stranger to the new case brought by Butler against Jess Zimmerman, a junior who has admitted to authoring the True BU. The Underground arose in response to the silencing of that blog, though we had no idea at that time how deliberate and sinister the actions taken by the university had been. Now that the lawsuit has come to light and Jess has "come out" as Soodo Nym, The Underground throws its full support behing Jess and the right to express dissent in public places on university campuses.

I am certain that Butler and its administrators would love nothing more for this to all go away, that students become disinterested, the faculty overwhelmed and that the lawsuit ends. They want wealthy alumni to donate and for new students to hand over their money in exchange for a "liberal arts" education. The very act of discussing this issue at all is an act of protest, an act of support for student voices on campus. Nothing is more important right now then getting the word out, then discussing and not fearing to express your ideas.

The "Friends of Jess Zimmerman" have started a petition demaning that Bobby Fong and the Board of Trustees issue an immediate apology for filing the lawsuit, "Butler University v John Doe a.k.a Soodo-Nym a.k.a. thetruebu@gmail.com," and for the accusations waged against Jess Zimmerman. I urge everyone to read and sign this petition which states very well the importance of this time in Butler's history.

I will place the petition text below. Click here to access the petition online and sign. Don't forget to read the comments and please refrain from anonymity.

"An Open Letter to President Bobby Fong and the Butler University Board of Trustees:

The actions taken in the name of Butler University in the law suit BUTLER UNIVERSITY v. JOHN DOE a/k/a "Soodo Nym" a/k/a thetruebu@gmail.com have become a national embarrassment to Butler University and are unfair to Jess Zimmerman, a current Butler student.

For this case to be the first one in the nation in which a university has sued a student over on-line speech issues is a mistake that Butler University must correct. Whatever one may think of it, the content of the TruBU blog was certainly not so egregious that Butler should be attempting to use it to break new legal ground with respect to freedom of speech issues. Steps need to be taken to ensure that Butler University does not become synonymous with the stifling of the free expression of ideas.

Similarly, the accusations made against Jess Zimmerman by the Butler administration have been unfair, harmful and wrong-headed. Even more important, they are transparently false and thus they too place Butler University in the worse possible light. For President Fong to quote a portion of one sentence from an email that Jess Zimmerman did not write in a manner that implies that he was, in fact, the author and then to use those words to claim that action had to be taken to protect the campus community from violence of the sort experienced by the students, staff and faculty of Virginia Tech University is a disgrace and an insult to all who have been a part of violent tragedies. Similarly, for President Fong to say, "Butler does not tolerate racial and sexual epithets in the name of free exchange of ideas," in his criticism of The TruBU blog and of Jess Zimmerman when no such epithets existed in the blog or have been attributed to Jess Zimmerman is also a disgrace and trivializes the all too frequent instances in which such hateful speech is used in our society. These statements present Butler University in an unflattering light.

Therefore, we request that President Fong and the Butler University Board of Trustees immediately take steps to correct their actions. In particular, we request that President Fong and the Butler University Board of Trustees:

1. Issue an immediate apology for filing the BUTLER UNIVERSITY v. JOHN DOE a/k/a "Soodo Nym" a/k/a thetruebu@gmail.com lawuit; and

2. Issue an immediate apology for the accusations made against Jess Zimmerman.

These two actions, if taken swiftly and sincerely, will help bring this affair to a close and begin to repair the damage done to Butler University's good name."

-Jon Irons