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.


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