California Professor Charged With Battery and Theft In Confrontation With Pro-Life Protesters

milleryoungincident2 We recently discussed the controversy surrounding a confrontation between Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, and Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young. Miller-Young has now been charged with criminal conduct including Theft of Person; Battery; and Vandalism. All are misdemeanors.

The formal criminal charges will increase demands that Miller-Young be terminated as a faculty member. Even without the criminality, she engaged in an act that should be anathema for any academic or academic institution: she was trying to silence others on campus. Given the videotape evidence, I would expect an offer of a plea if the prosecutors dropped the battery charge. Battery, even misdemeanor battery, makes any continuation as a faculty member problematic.

Of course, even without the battery charge, Miller-Young has acted in a way that is anathema to all intellectuals. Ironically, she has acted in the same way that critics of early feminists and birth control advocates responded to their protests. Feminist signs and protests were attacked and students censored for their views.

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.

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 magnifies the fundamental misconduct shown on the video. The response of her students reaffirms that they have learned from this example and fail to appreciate the shared value in free speech that extends across political and social divisions.

Here are the charges.

28 thoughts on “California Professor Charged With Battery and Theft In Confrontation With Pro-Life Protesters

  1. Happy to see this case being brought along. Tolerance is only such if it is applied to both sides of an issue.

  2. She has already started to set her defense in motion. 1)The students were ‘terrorists’ therefore she was protecting the campus. 2) She is pregnant and therefore hormonal and not responsible for her actions 3) There were no “Trigger Warnings” to keep her from committing criminal acts (this is the fault of the students).

    The problem is that to really assert these defenses she will have to take the stand. Once she takes the stand, her background, including her dissertation is on record, “Brown Sugar: African-American Women in Pornography” If this is a jury trial, it is going to be hard for anyone to take her seriously.

  3. This is the insular, elitist, education industry. How many examples are needed before we scrap it and start over?

  4. Paul, It’s Santa Barbara. There will be plenty in the jury pool itching to acquit this feminist hero.

  5. Reblogged this on SiriusCoffee and commented:
    It’s strange how, in the topsy-turvy world we live in, people who belive that life begins 9 months earlier than another group, and wants to protect those lives, are labeled “terrorists”. I thought terrorism was all about taking innocent lives – not protecting them.

  6. It seems to me the charges allege have merit. Her admission to committing theft while it was occuring is certainly damaging to her case.

    I see this as being a protracted ordeal for the university administration to bring to a conclusion.

    There might even be the possibility of a civil action against the university by the persons allegedly assaulted.

  7. It sounds to me that her defense lawyers are grasping for straws by playing the pregnancy hormonal card. The video tape, if allowed to be used, is sound evidence against her. The accusation of calling the opposing students “terrorist,” is also going to fly out the window–unless the judge is also a liberal feminist…hmmm.

  8. I have deleted about a dozen postings in other threads this evening showing a continuation of personal and insulting language. I fail to understand why the same individuals continue to engage in baiting other commenters and engaging in personal attacks or asides. The rest of us are not interested in such low grade discourse and this blog is committed to adult, civil conversation. I also noticed references to the degrees of individuals as well as mocking taunts. I love the different views on this blog and I would like everyone to continue to share their views. However, if you cannot control yourself, please simply move on to blogs that relish this type of personal attacks and commentary. This is not the place. This evening I deleted the comments of a person who has continued to refer to another blogger by childish names and barred his continued participation. Despite our commitment to free speech, there are limits if you are going to simply post one line name calling tirades.

    Please respect our civility policy or move on. The tit-for-tat comments are entirely inappropriate for this blog.

    • annie – one would like to think you are correct, but the reality is that our politics sometimes affects our legal judgement. If politics were not so important a judicial decider, it would not be so easy to pick sides on Supreme Court cases and there would be fewer 5-to-4 decisions. 🙂

  9. nick – isn’t Santa Barbara where “Psych” takes place? I posit that the assoc. professor only did this knowing the team from “Psych” was leaving and she thought she would be safe. 😀

  10. One of these days society will get around to realizing that the problem isn’t a dearth of births, but too many.

    Until then, the lesson is, grab their phones before you grab their signs.

    • Mr. Natural – the police have unsuccessfully been trying this tactic to stop citizens from filming them. Hasn’t worked for them. Will not work for assoc. professors. The problem is that you have to get everyone’s phone. You grab one phone, someone else is going to video you doing it with their phone. It is a never-ending problem.

  11. We appreciate the civility expressed on this blog. Hopefully the message will be heard and understood by all. This associate professor is clearly out of line.

  12. Paul Schulte:

    “The problem is that to really assert these defenses she will have to take the stand. Once she takes the stand, her background, including her dissertation is on record, “Brown Sugar: African-American Women in Pornography” If this is a jury trial, it is going to be hard for anyone to take her seriously.”

    I’m not really sure how seriously a jury will take her, but there are potentially millions, or even billions, of men in the world who will (or should) be profoundly grateful to her for opening up a new area of scholarship. Now, these scholars can explain with a straight face and an air of authority to their mothers/girlfriends/casual acquaintances/wives, “No, I’m not really watching porn — I’m doing research for my dissertation.”

    • Porkchop – there was a call out to find participants for a study to compare males who had not seen porn with males who had. They discontinued the study when they could not find males who had not seen porn.

  13. jonathanturley, have you notified the offending commenters?

    Actually, I do not think anyone should be barred from making a comment, to the extent that it is lawful, because it is merely, well, censoring. Admonish? Yes. But do not delete comments.

    In the martial arts, the balance hangs with he who is best at using to advantage an opponent’s folly. Perhaps your own enjoyment of opposing views, comes from commenters who over power an opponent using logic and words. When you censor, you deny not only a commenter free speech but also deny others the right to defend themselves and maybe win a match, not to mention, in your own words, deny yourself of the enjoyment that comes with opposing views.

    When it comes to drama and entertainment, conflict is everything. I wonder how many liberal comments here, visit conservative blogs to spar opposing views? For anyone who does not, they must have a pretty mundane life. The last thing I want is to hang out with only those who agree with me.

    I’ve been blocked by far too many magazines and blogs by now, but I have voluntarily left many more after censorship had homogenized the thought pool to boring proportions.

    One can argue that much of what is wrong today is a direct consequence of censorship.

  14. Paul Schulte — The only thing that surprised me about that is that even they bothered to try to find males who had not seen porn. After all, scholarship and academic ambition are among the highest priorities of young men. Who wouldn’t have gotten a head start on his Ph.D. research by, say, age 12 or 13?

  15. Samantha, Ideologues want an echo chamber. This place was close to becoming one, w/ the majority bullying dissenting voices away. Some driven away by the bullies are now returning along w/ a diverse new group. It’s just like a rainbow.

    • Porkchop – the reason virgin sacrifices ended is we ran out of virgins 🙂 As a 12-13 yo I did not have available to me what constitutes porn today. Cosmos runs racy stuff than I was able to see or read. I was in my mid-teens when Lady Chatterley’s Love was approved for printing in the USA. My aunt loaned me her copy.

  16. This is the more constructive thread. Now, let everyone breathe and try and be more positive and less personal and vindictive.

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