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 was then charged with criminal conduct including Theft of Person; Battery; and Vandalism. While initially pleading not guilty, Miller-Young has now entered a no contest plea to charges to the three misdemeanors. Despite the videotape of the incident and violation of both criminal law and presumably university regulations, Miller-Young remains employed at the university.
Miller-Young will now be sentenced on August 14th, though jail time is unlikely.
The more pressing question is, now that she has admitted to criminal conduct in stopping free speech on campus, how will the university respond. I previously wrote a critical piece of the response by Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs which seems to treat the pro-life demonstrators as the problem while encouraging faculty and students not to attack such “outsiders.”
The response from some faculty supporting Miller-Young and her actions has been itself alarming. Some 2000 faculty and students have signed a petition in support of Miller-Young while only 150 have signed a counter petition calling for her termination.
Students have clearly learned a lesson from Professor Miller-Young that free speech is only protected when we agree with the message. Consider the truly chilling view of UCSB sophomore Katherine Wehler, a theater and feminist studies major: “They are domestic terrorists, because the definition of a terrorist is someone who terrorizes.” Wehler added:
“I have a lot of feminist friends that went to them [pro-life protesters] with an educated academic response, because they were extremely triggered by these images, and the activists were saying this is for ‘women’s rights,’ . . . As feminist scholars and activists, we were insulted to hear that their cause is for women’s rights, because we felt personally attacked as women. Then, we were repeatedly called murderers. That is not okay. . . In my opinion, Professor Miller-Young would never attack anyone as the media suggests unless feeling an invasion of her own personal space like anyone else would in a fight or flight situation . . . If the university did decide to revoke her employment, there would be a large uproar because she is so celebrated.”
I cannot tell you how depressing it is to read a student who holds such views of free speech. Colleges and universities were once the very bastion for free speech. Faculty once instilled core values of pluralism and free expression in students. Wehler is a former student of Miller-Young, who appears to have had quite an influence on her understanding of free speech in our society.