Professor Miller-Young Sentenced To Probation and Anger Management Classes For Attack On Pro-Life Advocates

milleryoungincident2 We have been following the controversy surrounding the confrontation of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young with pro-life advocates on campus. Miller-Young led her students in attacking the pro-life display, stealing their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, filed complaints and Miller-Young was charged with criminal conduct including Theft From Person; Battery; and Vandalism. To the surprise of some of us, faculty and students rallied behind Miller-Young. She remains employed as a faculty member. Miller-Young initially pleaded not guilty but later entered a guilty plea with an apology. She has now been sentenced to sentenced to three years of probation, 108 hours of community service, 10 hours of anger management, $500 in restitution and a small fine. While her actions (and absence of serious university punishment) remain highly disturbing, some of the letters written on her behalf raise new questions over the commitment of University of California faculty to free speech and core academic principles. Miller-Young has been defended by faculty as the victim of a media campaign to portray her as “an Angry Black Woman” and her seemingly happy demeanor on the videotape has been dismissed as a “mask” that she wears as part of a “cultural legacy of slavery.”

Miller-Young’s actions should be anathema to all intellectuals and a violation of the most sacred values of an educational institution. 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. However, it became clear later that students in her department have been taught that such action is not only justified but commendable. Pro-life advocates have been denounced as simply terrorists or haters who deserved what they got from Miller-Young and her students.

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.

Miller-Young’s view that pro-life advocates are “terrorists” were picked up by her students and continue to be heard in her defense. Others have insisted that such images were virtually hate speech when displayed in front of a pregnant woman (Miller-Young was three-months pregnant at the time).

paul_spickard_mVarious faculty members publicly supported Miller-Young and some wrote to the court to ask for leniency. Some publicly denounced the media and the victims in this case. History professor Paul Spikard (left) wrote to object to the court that Miller-Young is the victim of “an energetic smear campaign . . . fomenting racial hatred and rallying right-wing political sentiment.” He insisted that the media was intent on displaying another example of “an Angry Black Woman.” What is striking is that Spikard opposed even a mandatory anger management class in the case. It is hard to see how the media is concocting a smear campaign when a professor is seen stealing a display and trying to stop an act of free speech on campus. Most academics would be horrified by that scene, including professors who are not part of a “right-wing political” agenda. I have an academic agenda that includes faculty member respecting and encouraging free speech on campus. Spikard teaches social and cultural history and has a faculty bio stating that he has been “blessed to spend most of my life immersed in racial populations and cultural traditions that are different from my own.” I have no question that that experience has given him great insight into cultural and racial controversies. However, I fail to see the dominant race issue in a professor acting in this reprehensible and violent manner. We all teach different subjects but we are committed to an intellectual enterprise. We inherited a commitment as educators to protect the unique environment — and our students — on campus. It is not a protection from ideas but a protection of an environment for the free discussion of ideas. It is a safe harbor for ideas even when many would silence such debates outside of our walls. In this case, it was a professor who was physically seeking to silence those with opposing views.

eileen_borisAnother to the court came from Eileen Boris, a professor in the Department of Feminist Studies. Boris picked up on the earlier defense that the signs were traumatizing to a woman who was three-months pregnant. Boris told the court “she was at the stage of a pregnancy when one is not fully one’s self fully, so the image of a severed fetus appeared threatening.” Boris then tries to deal with the fact that Miller-Young is smiling and both she and her students appear to be proud of their actions in the video. Professor Boris dismisses the video record as misleading and inaccurate. She explained to the court that “[i]f she appears smiling on camera, she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-presentation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.”

It is hard to see how a court is expected to ignore the record of the video under a “cultural legacy of slavery” claim. Miller-Young and her students referred to these young women as “terrorists” for voicing their views and creating their display. There was not a hint of hesitation on the video in seeking to stifle free speech.

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.”

In addition, 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.

milleryoungincident2Students 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.”

These letters reflect how such views of intolerance can take hold in students. I have become alarmed by the increasing anti-speech activities by students. For decades, social activists, including feminists, faced this type of intimidation in having signs ripped down or being called criminals. Campuses were the bastions of free speech and students were its champions. Increasingly however the West seems to have lost patience with free speech and often the voices for speech regulation and even criminalization are coming from the left.

As someone long associated with the free speech community, I find the Miller-Young scandal — and the response to it by faculty and students — to be incredibly depressing and alarming. We have seen the corrosion of our foundation of free speech in our educational institutions. It has long been the very touchstone of the intellectual life of our schools, but it is now denounced as shield for terrorists and haters. Such views will cut us adrift without any common principle or commitment as academics. The loss of a single sign is of little consequence, but what has clearly been lost at the University of California Santa Barbara (and other schools) is a common article of faith.

102 thoughts on “Professor Miller-Young Sentenced To Probation and Anger Management Classes For Attack On Pro-Life Advocates”

  1. She holds her position because of affirmative action.

    Her behavior is based on her position.

    Her behavior stems from affirmative action.

    Unintended consequences are an inevitable result of affirmative action.

    Affirmative action is unconstitutional.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.

  2. “I’m not sure it takes fanaticism….the core values of our modern society are selfishness and hyperbole. Together they have replaced community with a mob mentality on both ‘sides’ of the political spectrum- which frankly I see as the twin forces of intolerance. The rest of us are their designated victims.”

    Incredibly well-said.

  3. Bailers: “Disheartening to say the least that those who should unquestionably know better about the dangers of fanaticism and censorship are so quick to employ the tactics in their own defense.”

    I’m not sure it takes fanaticism….the core values of our modern society are selfishness and hyperbole. Together they have replaced community with a mob mentality on both ‘sides’ of the political spectrum- which frankly I see as the twin forces of intolerance. The rest of us are their designated victims.

  4. Bailers:

    “The problem is that the prof and her supporters are convinced of the righteousness of their cause.”

    Most folks are so but you can be convinced and still be pleasant. It’s a hard lesson to learn — I know.

  5. Seems that many of the faculty and the university itself I suppose by extension shown any concern for the actual victim of the crime? Or is she simply a “terrorist”.

    I view the statements listed by these faculty members and the non-punishment by the university of Miller-Young as reprehensible.

    It seems the university in not sanctioning this associate professor and the amici filed at the trial show that the university is one that sanctions, or at least ignores, physical assault against those who express free speech rights on topics that are not in agreement with them.

    I easily could have seen Associate Professor Miller-Young prosecuted for robbery and deprivation of rights. At what stage does the University of California actually sanction a faculty member who commits an assault? Must the assault be a felony before action is taken? Or, is a fellow faculty member always the victim?

    Some of the amici filed I would expect show an structural institutional problem in denying the free speech rights of these demonstrators. I hope they take the State of California and the University to federal court.

    1. Darren – you really think with Eric Holder as Atty Gen. someone is going to take UCSB to fed court?

  6. Squeeky-EXCELLENT use of the word “harridan.” What a perfect word for this professor.

    1. Brian – read Chapter 6 of her dissertation and I think you will understand her more.

  7. Her biography states she focuses on pornography and African-American women.


  8. Anyone have time to unpack all of the logical fallacies & nonsense crammed into Theo’s post? I don’t have the time or the patience.

  9. The regular nasties are out in full force I see. I have begun to see this site as basically a naming and shaming site with very often a bias against women and it seems to me that it is done at times by the professor, by posters (and not all posters are biased) and by commentors (and not all commentors are biased). Other concerns are addressed but the posts and comments are often characterized by a gleeful Schadenfreude. Professor, you are right about the free speech but empathy leads me to put myself in her place. She did wrong in attacking them, but the women and men who are supposedly pro-life in the main are some of the most obnoxious and reactionary human beings in the country and regularly make the lives of women seeking reproductive care a nightmare, whether or not they have an appointment at a clinic for regular reproductive counseling or an abortion. They have been given a right to torment by the Republican Party, the shock jocks and conservative commentary generally, by the courts, and by the amoral leaders of the fundamenalist churches. On no other issue are any of these people pro-life, only with regarding to the decisions of the female half of the population to seek an abortion within the first trimester or later if due to valid medical reasons. The university’s refusal to fire her was a humane decision and just. The judgement of the court was excessive and unjust.

  10. Having read Chapter Six of “A Taste for Brown Sugar” I will say that who ever wrote it, writes well.

  11. @anonymous

    Thx for the link. It looks interesting! Which also made me think of an
    Irish Poem.

    DISS – ertation???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    There once was a lady on crack.
    Who lived in the hood and was black.
    Her skills were extensive
    Her price not expensive,
    Yet, respect -wise she got not a whack.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  12. A 2000 year old supernatural love story with a parabolic meaning for Prof. Young. No NYU PhD needed.

    And behold among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
    In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.
    (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)

    So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows.
    Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.

    I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.
    For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.

    With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.
    He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;
    Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.

  13. “If you are pro-choice, you are against free speech for the unborn baby.”

    Please explain the facts of the above statement. They are two different ideas.But I guess grouping people, who disagree with you and trying to make them seem like they are against a certain law, is one way of feeling better about yourself. Or trying to make yourselves look like a victim is one way of trying to win a debate. Adolescent as it may be. You forgot to throw in there that all ProChoice women are lesbians. How that would translate into making Roe v, Wade unconstituional, I do not know. But it is also some thing used to attack.

    I am a Liberal and I am very much for the 1st Amentment. It is the law of the land. Being anti 1st Amendment is not one of the policies of Freedom of Choice or ProChoice. Anti-Choice folks have a right to express their opinions about their Choice to be against the Constitutional Right to a woman’s Choice.

    What Miller-Young did showed a lack of good judgement and should not have happened, I agree. What women are frustrated about is the fact that folks are still trying to take Choice away from us. Please do not confuse your hatered for our Constitutional Right to Choose and our ability to speak out to keep Choice on the books. Gee, guns kill people, children in fact. Where is the outrage over that? Save your breath – if you are going to attack me for being against the 2nd Amendment – because I am for the right to bears arms to keep a well regulated Militia. Read the 2 Amendment – that is what it says. It does not give folks the right to mass shootings because it kills people. I am for better background checks and not selling guns to just anyone at Gun Shows. I know you foks will
    find fault with that. Too bad you are not concerned for the safely of others. But that does not concern you. I could go a step further and conclude that conservatives are all for Mass Shootings because they are against better
    background checks and regulations at gun shows, but that of course would be drawing a conclusion on some flawed thinking. Gross generalizations are not the way to win a debate and the sign that you are devoid of the real facts and are only left with hurling stones and insults.

    Anyone who thinks that racism is no longer an issue in this country is quite mistaken judging by some of the comments left here.

    As far as talk is cheap – and having a lot of money – well, do I really need to bring this up? Mitt Rmoney had an enorimous about of money, but that did not seem to make a difference for him, he still lost the election by a landslide. I am sure the 49& spoke volumes.

    Thanks for your time and it has been very interesting.

  14. I agree with Jonathan’s assessment of Miller-Young’s actions and those of her supporters. However, calling for her termination is excessive. That’s just as extreme as Miller-Young’s attack on the young women.

    It’s not necessary to deal with every single transgression as a firing offense. A lessor punishment, such as a temporary suspension, would be in order, but she doesn’t deserve firing for her almost comical aggression. It’s not as if Miller-Young went after the girls with a baseball bat.

  15. The neoCon definition of government is something they can drown in a bathtub.

    No wonder they play around with teddy bear drowning stories for political understanding.

    1. Dredd
      The neoCon definition of government is something they can drown in a bathtub.

      No wonder they play around with teddy bear drowning stories for political understanding.

      Seriously, man, have you taken today’s meds? This does not make sense.

  16. Paul C. Schulte

    Dredd – Dude, you are not even making sense any more.
    Thanks for the compliment.

    When I make sense to you I will go to rehab.

  17. squeeky – she is part of feminist studies rather than black studies at UCSB. She got her Ph.D. at NYU so you can probably get her dissertation through Google Reads if you are really interested.

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