California Professor Faces Possible Assault Charges After Stealing Sign From Pro-Life Protesters On Campus

milleryoungincident2 We have recently discussed a number of incidents of professors acting badly in shouting down student protesters or journalists on campus. (here and here and here). This has include prior attacks on pro-life demonstrators. Now a teenage pro-life demonstrators has accused a University of California (Santa Barbar) professor of taking her sign and assaulting her on campus. Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, have posted a videotape of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young walking away with their sign and getting into a confrontation with the teenagers.

thrinshortmilleryoungThe Shorts were handing out pro-life pamphlets when they say Miller-Young confronted them and became irate over their demonstration. They videotaped her after she appeared to organize students in yelling “take down the sign.” They say that she grabbed the sign and walked off–ignoring the protests of the teenagers. Campus police were called and Short says that she was pushed by Miller-Young three times — leaving bruises on her wrists — at an elevator confrontation.

On the video below, Miller-Young is seen taking the sign with graphic images and saying “I may be a thief but you are a terrorist.” At the elevator, she can be seen shoving the teenagers and blocking them. The fact (as noted by her students) that the teenagers do not go to the school is no excuse for this type of conduct. If there was some real violation in the protests (which seems dubious), Miller-Young has no authority to quash the speech. This appears a clear content-based act by Miller-Young. It is even more disturbing to see her encouraging her students to silence opposing views by stealing a sign. It is the very antithesis of the academic mission which is based first and foremost on free speech and association — and civility.

Miller-Young lists her areas as “Pornography; Sex Work; Black Film, Popular Culture and Art; Feminist & Queer Theory; African American & African Diaspora Studies; Visual Archives; New Media; Ethnography; Oral History.” Her bio states that she focuses on pornography and African-American women.

According to reports, Miller-Young has retained an attorney. Catherine Swysen of law firm Sanger Swysen & Dunkle (Notably, Swysen draws not only from her considerable legal experience but experience as a former teacher in the University of California system). She is making no comment but a student her Women of Color class, insisted that she was write to do what she did because “She’s pregnant, so she’s very sensitive to horrifying images like that.” It is very distressful to see a student supporting anti-free speech conduct, a concern expressed recently with regard to French students in suing Twitter.

She could face assault charges based on the videotape. My greatest concern is with her conduct as a faculty member. There are few violations as serious by an academic than attacking free speech or violently trying to stop the expression of viewpoints. Her actions are clearly incompatible with the position of a faculty member. The question is whether the university will act to remove her from the faculty based on this videotape. Putting aside the criminal allegations (that should be left to the criminal justice system), there is the separate question of her judgment and conduct as an academic. The delay in issuing an apology is only going to reaffirm concerns in the minds of some faculty. I fail to see a viable defense for this conduct. Once again, regardless of the status of these teenagers or the disturbing images of the protests, this was an act of free speech. If there is a prohibition on such displays (which would itself raise free speech issues), this was not how academics address controversial speech. If Miller-Young had a legal concern, she can call the police — not lead students in stealing signs and trying to silence their speech.

The faculty code states that faculty “accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge.” This includes a prohibition on “any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.” Misconduct includes:

1. Intentional disruption of functions or activities sponsored or authorized by the University.
2. Incitement of others to disobey University rules when such incitement constitutes a clear and present danger that violence or abuse against persons or property will occur or that the University’s central functions will be significantly impaired.

The admission on the tape that she has stolen the sign will not help in any university investigation. Regardless of any claim of provocation by Miller-Young, the means chosen by the professor is clearly unacceptable and inimical to the academic mission. To call people with opposing views “terrorists” is a shocking view for an intellectual. To enlist students in an act of censorship only magnifies that violation.

What do you think should be the proper discipline (if any) for Miller-Young?

197 thoughts on “California Professor Faces Possible Assault Charges After Stealing Sign From Pro-Life Protesters On Campus”

  1. Otis, great comment. A content neutral proclamation of the value of free speech rights. But then there’s the then…the one thing you said left that me wondering why it was necessary or relevant to your point. Why stick in the sentence that stated “[P]lease know that this is not to show support for Pro-Life.”?

  2. Fire this professor right now.
    As Noam Chomsky said, “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.” Please know that this is not to show support for Pro-Life. This is to show support for our freedom of speech, our laws, and justice.

  3. I’m betting that Professor Turley isn’t finding it as thrilling as ol’ Nick here that there are those who would like to turn his blog into an Althouse type blog, where civility has no place.

  4. Nick,

    Did you say something anybody cares about…… Or are you just positing yourself again in a hollow well…..

  5. I see that the three girls are not doctors, engineers, authors, educators or leaders — the male path of dominance — but topless lap dancers using sex appeal to gain the upper hand. There would be predictable outrage if the painting depicted three men, porn stars, using phallic maces to force a “working” woman with child into submission. But then we would have to admit that there is not a dual standard when it comes to gender. Fawning attentiveness may make a dog appealing, but that is not what a woman is attracted to in a man, perhaps accounting for her choice of a bad boy all too often. I think the obsequious painter is as conflicted as those who do not see his work for what it really depicts, unless it’s a work of satire, of course.

  6. dagda w/ a superb takedown!! Who knew a conservative could know art. I thought conservatives only understood cartoons, country music, NASCAR and moonshine. It is so refreshing to have new voices here. Folks must be sanctimonious and condescending @ their own risk.

  7. Darren,
    Let’s get back to the painting. For background, I have studied art, I have taught art history and art and I collect art. The painting has to speak to the viewer, it does not need an interpretation from the painter (although, I will admit, sometimes that is a help). In this painting It takes 3 young women to take down one male, assuming they took him down and did not take advantage of the fact that he was already down. By showing their breasts he is playing to the female stereotype to begin with. You cannot tell from this view of the painting, however it is hard to think of those boots without having at least a 3-inch if not 4-inch heel on them (female stereotype). Since there are three females you also get a Charlie’s Angels vibe from the painting (female stereotype). There is really no way to tell if the male is impotent since he appears to still be in movement in the painting and is fully dressed.

    Darren, if it speaks to you the way the artist describes then fine, but it does not to me. If it makes you feel any better I think Damien Hirst is over-hyped and I am glad the prices on his works are dropping like a rock.

  8. Charlton,

    Thank you… I did hit the link it took me to Facebook sign in….. You all the so call Christian males could take a lesson from the Jewish…. Where women were treated equal… Could own land and had general respect for them…. Some of the strongest people in the Old Testament were women….

  9. davidm, We got TA and T&A on the same thread. When I was a juvenile probation officer we had weekly “family therapy” sessions. Every PO was required to bring a family on their caseload to these tortuous sessions. The PO didn’t want to be there, the families didn’t want to be there, but the director did. The director had some letters after his name and was big into TA. The consensus among the PO’s was we did more harm than good w/ these already dysfunctional families. All because a guy w/ letters after his name[oh, and he always used them!!], thought he knew best. The Peter Principle is rampant in “helping” bureaucracies.

  10. El DL…. Annie….

    Post as much as you wish…. I enjoy reading your posts…. Post often and a lot…..

  11. Darren,

    I think I get your point….. I could see how some would use they as a prolog to topics…. So, I’m not surprised David will show his daughters….

  12. Charlton….

    Some people can’t handle paranoia too well…. What’s the name they call folks with many personalities…. Besides troll or sockpuppet…..

    And for those with Facebook I suppose they can see the picture of Elaine’s tshirt…. But I don’t do social media…. Would you post it here sir….

  13. Wow…. It seems like I missed the shoot out at the Turley OK Corral….. Any tombstones to be erected…..

  14. Dadga Wrote:
    Darren, thanks for exposing the under-belly of this blogging site. I often thought that some people were working in concert but there did not seem to be a way to email each other. Now I know that you and rafflaw are emailing back and forth. That means that Elaine and annie are probably doing the same and Carlton is in there somewhere. Thanks. This explains so much.
    It probably should not come as a surprise that those who write articles on this blog would also converse with each other over e-mail, as this is the case with other situations where people work under a common umbrella.

    Who writes what to whom is just as common as everyday interaction with people generally and not indicative of any cabal or intrigue meant to whip up drama among the comments here. If you believe this is somehow of great importance well, that is your observation but we here have lives external to this site and don’t have the time or inclination to waste energy conjuring any kind of plot or conspiracy.

  15. Dagda wrote:
    Darren, there is nothing in that painting that shows those women are strong, intelligent or liberal. I appears they are into S&M.
    Polke’s work is symbolic in that traditional art images have focused often on triumph over adversity, cravenness or malevolence such as victory over them often symbolized by serpents or enemies. Usually these have been male roles where women were excluded. Polke shows a chorus line of three women in triumph over a discontented but ineffectual / impotent man as is symbolized by his cusp of a flightless bird. His arrogance his trounced while the women stand over him forcing him into submission and humility. The women are not held to stereotypic gender roles and can retain their femininity while also being strong and victorious over society’s expectations.

    1. AY,
      The Roman Catholic Church has tons of female saints, including the mother of Jesus, Mary. The Greek Orthodox Church has some, including the princesses killed by the communists. Some Christian religions were founded by women. In at least one current sect of Judaism, the woman cannot get a divorce without the consent of her husband. Is that equal treatment? In Orthodox Judaism women cannot be rabbis. AY, what happened to respect for Jewish women since the Old Testament?

  16. Now, lets all hit the sack and wake up refreshed. I’m looking forward to some more weekend posts. The sunlight just puts a more positive tone on the blog. These late night marathons are almost always negative. As Chris Rock says, “If you be goin’ to an ATM after midnight, it ain’t for nuthin good!”

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