Miller-Young and University of California Sued Over Campus Assault 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. Miller-Young was convicted and sentenced in August. Despite the shocking conduct of Miller-Young and the clear violation of the most fundamental values for all academics in guaranteeing free speech and associational rights, the faculty overwhelmingly supported Miller-Young and the university decided not to impose any meaningful discipline. Now, the victims are suing Miller-Young, the UC Regents and others in seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit could finally force the University to explain its inexplicable response, or lack thereof, to the highly improper conduct of Miller-Young. As discussed below, Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, not only issued a statement that seemed to blame the victims but faculty defended Miller-Young’s conduct, including arguments that the pro-life advocates were “terrorists”; Miller-Young’s response was due to that fact that she was pregnant and even that her expression of satisfaction was nothing more than her “mask” from a “cultural legacy of slavery.” Those arguments are likely to find little traction in a court of law.

The nine-page complaint was filed Thursday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court by Life Legal Defense Foundation. As discussed below, it could raise some interesting vicarious liability and discovery issues.

While I have been criticized on this blog for my objection to the lack of serious institutional discipline for Miller-Young by the university, I continue to view her conduct as anathema to all intellectuals and these defenses as not just immaterial but bizarre. Indeed, female professors have fought for decades to refute arguments that such conditions as pregnancies make them emotionally vulnerable or in any way unable to conduct themselves as academics. More importantly, Miller-Young 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. Much of the response from faculty appears to be influenced by their underlying agreement with the political views of Miller-Young. I would be surprised if the same response would be forthcoming if a conservative professor assaulted a pro-choice table and verbally denounced those arguing for the rights of women. In the end, it should not matter what the respective political views were in such confrontations. Faculty cannot lead a mob or fight the exercise of free speech without destroying the defining principles of our profession.

The lawsuit will now force the issue of the university’s lack of response. The lawsuit advances two claims based on the denial of federal and state free speech rights. One claim is based on the California Civil Code guaranteeing that the women would “be free from violence and intimidation by threat of violence against their property because of their religious and political beliefs and the peaceful lawful expression of those beliefs.” The fourth claim is a straight battery allegation.

The third claim is notable since it is part of the Hate Crime provisions generally supported by advocates as tools for fighting racism, sexism, and other prejudices.

Miller-Young only paid $492.40 in restitution to the Shorts and another $295 in fines. What will be interesting about the litigation will be the question of discovery and whether the court will allow the university’s post-event conduct to be considered as well as the question of scope of material that can be accessed by the plaintiffs. Miller-Young clearly committed acts that she admitted were criminal but also acts that constitute such torts as assault and battery. It is the nexus to the university that will be interesting. They could attempt simple vicarious liability through respondent superior. The classic defense is that she was acting outside the scope of her duties — a strong claim here. However, the lack of serious discipline conflicts with the defense on some level. Then there is the failure of the university to protect such free speech exercise — a claim that could make the later lack of action more material for discovery and trial.

The university can be expected to file robust dispositive motions. Yet, a total dismissal seems unlikely given the battery claims and the prior conviction. However, it could prune away a couple of the other claims. In doing so, the university would be arguing for a narrower reading of hate crimes provisions, an ironic position given the defenses raised by supporters of Miller-Young. The university could argue that an employer should not be liable for the actions of such an employee — a position that would be viewed as weakening these laws.

We will continue to follow the lawsuit.

169 thoughts on “Miller-Young and University of California Sued Over Campus Assault On Pro-Life Advocates”

  1. Sandy and Paul, if you are paying attention now, I was allergic to something the doctors had me taking and now I am not for seizures and migraines hence my concentration is much better. So please note the above “dirty little secret” and forgive my inattention of the last few months.

  2. Hey Paul. I went back and read a moldy Psychologist because I suspected him of being the Father of modern Narcissism – guess who it was – with his Hierarchy of Needs and Self Actualizing Behavior – Abraham Maslow – and sure enough –
    There it was – the baby boomers and why you can’t stand them. I get it. Guess what?? I can’t stand them either. lol

  3. Happy, witch burning came in Salem much later. Washington’s wife was mad at him, well there’re goes the country. You use the word mean a lot, what’s your definition?

    1. Now Sandy, I was thinking of the Puritans and Hester and all and the Salem witch trials were in 1692, supposedly in March 1662 the first Witch trial was done in Hartford Connecticut you know. I got picked on as a kid and I just naturally turn to look for a persons compassionate side any way I can because I have no intrinsic sense of pride. It gets in the way of what I am trying to do you see. These threads get soo hateful. I finally just jump in when they cool down a little to speak my mind. or —- whatever you want to call it. 🙂

      1. happypappies – don’t compress history. Different religious history went on in different colonies at different times. There is a bunch of feminist theory literature about the Salem witch trials that are pretty funny if you can get through them.

        1. Paul C. Schulte – I know that – I said Supposedly. There is a smile face there, See the Smiley 🙂 I know they didn’t really burn most of them and it was a power trip, I was making a point. Mike Appleton Helped me out though,

          1. happypappies – used to make beer money on the Salem Witch trials. They didn’t burn any of them. 🙂

        1. Sandi Hemming

          Happy, why do you go off on these tiny things? There was so much more to my post.

          Sandy – You asked me three questions I answered, You are referring to the previous conscious post to Annie – I imagine. That was a great post. I agree with you. It echoes all over the walls of time imo. He is stripped bare. So is his buddy. I found another video I posted on another Thread of Gruber on MSNBC that I am not sure is still standing because he was taking them all down last night. I am gonna go look. It’s great because He strips his own self bare as a consummate liar also and pardon me for saying so, it is becoming obvious that the Liberals are taking “stupid” as a “term of endearment” simply because when Gruber spoke “Off the cuff” on MSNBC – many Libs I know thought he apologized. Not here. But elsewhere,
          Here is the comparison to Romneycare. It is truly sickening

          1. Happy, I believe Romney left office before it was implemented. Anyway, today we learned that old Teddy got into the act with money from the other 49 states. The $$$ probably went in pockets of those who agreed with him.

  4. Olly – well – that’s good because I consider myself on the right side of history. Not everyone always agreed at the table though If I remember my history correctly though. lol. I have to admit you had me worried there for a minute 🙂

  5. Olly:

    There was not a particular “definition” of natural law relied upon by the Founders.

  6. “Everyone has their own opinion of what “Natural Law” is which is why there is a separation.”


    There may be 300 million different opinions of what Natural Law and Natural Rights are but none of them have any legitimate authority to redefine the definition used in the establishment of this republic. And you needn’t be concerned about making me furious; being on the right side of history has taken all the stress out of these debates for me.

    “Fair winds and following seas” on your spiritual journey.

  7. In actuality, the Mayflower was not full of people wanting freedom of religion. It was instead full of people looking for a place in which they could establish their religion as the only lawfully permitted system of religious belief. And that is precisely what they did.

  8. Olly – is because I couldn’t rationalize what appeared to be conflicting principles. I have no doubt you have sincere motives; as I suspect many pro-choice advocates do. The two quotes from you above clearly demonstrate your compassionate intent but you are overlooking the more fundamental aspect of natural rights. –

    Olly – I don’t know which thread you wrote it on, but before I start – inalienable is used in Business more frequently by lawyers. It means the same thing. So…… I am not confused there. I know what Natural Rights are and the Declaration of Independence is and Unalienable and Inalienable Rights are and I know why Jefferson put that Danbury Letter in – Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.-

    Which echoes my sentiments exactly. Everyone has their own opinion of what “Natural Law” is which is why there is a separation. I don’t think I am confused. I think I am on a Spiritual Journey as we all are that are consciously aware of ourselves. I also do not think one murder is worse than the other as I keep trying to tell you and you ignore it. I think it’s wrong for us to interfere in the Middle East, but we do, and it’s none of my business so all I can do is vote as a citizen and voice my opinion. I could say so much here that would make you furious I am sure. But I am going to hold my peace because it’s not important. I want the killing to stop. Not just abortion. All of it. Sometimes the best thing to do is to try to raise the vibration around you. Now, I just heard that Gruber today backtrack on MSNBC on line say that he spoke “off the cuff” about ACA being dumbed down. so I guess it will be on the news tonight.

  9. *Comment*, lol. I have that comet on my brain, isn’t it incredible that the Europeans landed a space craft on it?!

  10. Well thanksgiving is coming, turkey on the brain isn’t so strange. But Sandi do you mean me in your above comet or did you mean Happypappies. I don’t think you’re mean or evil at all. That Olly though, whew, he’s a mean one all right.

    1. Annie, my comment was more a stream of consciousness directed at no particular person. I’m not watching the news tonight, because I can’t watch him anymore. Is there any good? We could have had better health care for so many if it had been done reasonably. They weren’t concerned about health, but how to sell it. It was pushed through unnecessarily, instead of going to conference and fixing mistakes. And they knew the promise we heard hundreds of times was not true. Two men, so far, appear to have cobbled this together. One of them thinks we should die at 75 — I’m 73! So much money, so much money wasted, just gone. I don’t want my country transformed, I love it as it is. Some things need fixing, we’re good at that. I expect to see the Constitution burned on the Truman baloney someday. And the National Christmas Tree is going to be changed to National Holiday Tree! Holidays are for something! But not now. I’m streaming again, sorry.

  11. “I teach all that I know the sanctity of life.”

    “And I promise you that if a baby was aborted, it would go straight to heaven instead of living a hell on earth…”

    I certainly don’t want to cause you distress. The only reason I engaged you on this topic is because I couldn’t rationalize what appeared to be conflicting principles. I have no doubt you have sincere motives; as I suspect many pro-choice advocates do. The two quotes from you above clearly demonstrate your compassionate intent but you are overlooking the more fundamental aspect of natural rights.

    There is a reason certain rights (natural rights) are treated as unalienable (inalienable) and your quotes are a perfect example. Opening the door to the best of our human nature also opens it to the worst. And NEVER has a republic survived an unfettered government. Since the purpose for government is to SECURE our unalienable rights, the only acceptable creative solutions to the myriad of problems are those that DO NOT infringe those natural rights. Thank you.

  12. Mean!? Mean is creating the Trojan Horse of providing women a safer means (in many cases) of post-conception birth control and thus enabling an entire industry the opportunity to kill babies even AFTER they survived the procedure. And thanks to this wonderful decline in our culture, we have 20 somethings now believing the right to kill a child as old as 4 years old is justifiable since those children are not yet self-aware. Isn’t that special?

    Go sell “mean” to those poor souls that nearly made it. And pray for those not yet “self-aware”. Own it.

    1. Olly – I just erased an entire comment back to you because I am trying to reach you. I am going to try again. I am a Christian. I would not get an Abortion because it is not my way. You talk of beliefs. I believe that God already knows intrinsically what we are about and up to. I also believe he gave us 10 commandments. Now, I am thinking about you and your avatar says US Navy, Just like my Husband. The way you talk I imagine you have seen some action. Enough to know how precious life is. Okay, I get it. I teach all that I know the sanctity of life. But I grew up in an area where there was a different sort of folk. They were ignorant. And I promise you that if a baby was aborted, it would go straight to heaven instead of living a hell on earth in a welfare shack learning to be the same way it’s parents were. Or worse yet, the child who was raped in a blue collar Catholic Neighborhood by her daddy ending up pregnant would still have an option rather than being dead of sepsis and shame.

      I do own your comment. So much so I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. When I was young and didn’t know any better, I argued in school at the age of 13 against abortion. The only one in the class. Against it to the Class President Mickey Stallings that swore the Fetus was not alive until it was 3 months old. I was in tears over that. You see, my Father was Agnostic and that colored my views more than Christianity and that’s what made me want to save the baby’s life. That life was so precious. Because you only had one chance to live. imo then. I did not yet know about all the cruelties of the world. So, I wish we could please put this to rest, And you could please stop pinning the tail on a Donkey that does not exist.

  13. Happypappies,
    I’m a citizen of a nation established with the purpose of securing unalienable rights of its citizens. Not rights because we are Christian, but rights because we came into existence. The fact they align with certain religious principles is of no consequence because they exist for ALL, including non-believers. The reason this distinction is important is because our human nature will drive us to believe many things, but the security of unalienable rights should always stand as a barrier to the worst of our nature.

    Am I God? Is the United States God? Rhetorical perhaps, but deserving a response. Who among us is playing the role of God by choosing not to secure the life of all humans? Me or you? I believe man’s (woman’s) unalienable right to life begins when life begins. I believe abortion is unnecessary in the absence of life. I believe in the case of rape and incest (violations of one’s natural rights) and the life of the mother, the decision to terminate the pregnancy is justifiable. This remains in alignment with the security of natural rights AND my Christian principles.

    I love it when people attempt to use religion to justify infringing the natural rights of others. It is so entertaining.

    1. Olly – in·alien·able
      adjective \(ˌ)i-ˈnāl-yə-nə-bəl, -ˈnā-lē-ə-nə-\

      : impossible to take away or give up

      Thats out of Merriam Webster

      I did not ask you what you believed. Belief is after all an opinon. You do not sit on the right hand of God Almighty.

      I worded the previous statement carefully to keep “belief” out of it because your assertions on what the human race does that damns them to hell is different that what I think does. I am not sure whom is riight. But I certainly don’t think that you should send a scared young person or any person to a back alley to perforate their uterus by making abortions illegal. That is my point. I spoke with a lady in my church tonight after Choir and Bell Practice because you distressed me and asked her what she thought as I am Libertarian and she is Conservative. She said she would try to stop the person but it was their body in the end. She also said like you in a case of rape and incest it was understandable.

      As far as that last statement goes. I don’t even want to try to understand it it hurts me so badly to be honest with you. That is so ugly. You asked me for a Bible Verse and I gave it to you. I have not really been cutting here but I have been defensive because you are mean. and I don’t know why. So I give up. I am done with the thread. You win.

    2. The Mayflower was full of people wanting freedom of religion. The founders provided that, along with the other nine, which are basically the Ten Commandments. The Bill of Rights specifically says “your Creator.” They referred to Creator with the word “God.”

      They were all believers in God (Jefferson a little wobbly) and teachings of the Bible were part of our country’s first official document. That history is pretty telling about those. There are so many other useful things people could do instead of the time and money spent arguing something that is the basis for how we want to live. We fought a long war to achieve the country we wanted to be. They put in place a remarkable doctrine for us all to live by. Then they wrote our constitution, which is also very specific about how our government governs. Governing not the people, but the government.

      At this point in time some don’t truly understand that difference. It isn’t hard to do really, unless government gives itself too much power over the people. Some people have woken up and thought “this isn’t what I was taught and experienced.” And Obama appears to be doing the opposite of what we learned and experienced. You cannot love this country and it’s history and accept what this President is doing. Instead of yelling and screaming about climate change we should be yelling and screaming about the lack of respect for our laws. Left to his own devices it won’t matter what climate occurs in 100 years, because this astounding country will be gone.

      This Emperor has no clothes. I don’t know how much further damage can be done in two years, but it only took two weeks to respond to the voters by threatening to ignore our Constitution again. I know what he swore, but if you don’t believe the words mean anything does it matter? And those of us who pay attention, damned few by the way, watch with an agony that we can’t do anything about it. I’m going to ask my Congressman that if he turkey wants to represent me, skip the State of the Union. Watch it, but not there jumping up and down for a man who is lying to you with his every breath.

      I think our 2016 motto should be “It’s About The Economy, And We’re Not Stupid” which Romney said once, and should have said over and over and over. I want to see commercials about the wonderful things Republicans do on their own time. Rand Paul does eye surgery all over the world for free. Not just Congressional Republicans, but every Republican everywhere. Show those, they can’t be attacked as political. Sort of like Spartacus “I am a Republican.” Show Annie we aren’t evil or mean. We want everybody to have a good life. And that’s not possible the way we’re going. We must change the direction, not the destination. I think Democrats and other parties agree on the destination. We just have differences about the journey. So show them who we are and ask them to come with us. But this time we’ll be leading up front!

  14. Happypappies,
    “I do not impose my religious standards on other people.”

    Come after you? That’s rather defensive for someone comfortable with their moral relativism. Listen, I have no idea what your standards are; what is clear however, is that you have certainly accepted the pro-abortion standards should be imposed on others, especially the defenseless unborn child. And I have no idea where in the teachings of Jesus Christ those standards would be found. But, I’m open-minded to learn.

    1. Olly –

      Do you consider the United States and yourself to be God? Because the Ten Commandments do not state “Thou Shalt Not Kill thy unborn baby at any stage or or prevent a baby at any stage.” Which is why I pulled those archaic verses out of the Old Testament. Again, Do you consider yourself to be God? Are you so self righteous that you can hold your standards to others? I believe Jesus said let anyone who has not sinned cast the first stone against the adulterous woman. Or, are you going to tell me murder is a worse sin than adultery because Jesus told you so or St. Paul was divinely inspired to say?

      So, you please let me know what it is, which sin is worse than the other. I have a friend who tells me St Paul says Adultery is the worst Sin of all, even Murder. She is Assembly of God. So, please, pray tell, let me know how you find what Jesus said to be?

      I love it when people try to categorize me and pigeonhole me. It is so entertaining. 🙂

  15. Happypappies,
    Explain away? It was your words stating you wouldn’t get an abortion because you are a Christian; that’s reasonable. It’s your mental gymnastics to then support a completely different set of moral standards, as if that is somehow very “Christian”. I’m unfamiliar with that version of Christ; do you have a Bible verse to support that?

    1. Listen Olly, I do not impose my religious standards on other people. It’s a free country. Is that clear? The Jews approved of Abortion and Murder in certain circumstances as did the Christians as seen by our Neoconservative Presidents. So don’t even come after me about hypocrisy

  16. “rcocean – what is your problem? Many vile things come out of the right also whether you think so or not”

    Here’s my problem. Why don’t you left-of-center types EVER criticize the Left for attacking free speech. You k’now without people on the Right holding your feet to the fire until you say uncle, and actually do it ?

    And the “You too” argument is “the problem” too. It just shows that many on the left don’t really care about free speech, but view it simply as a left vs. Right issue.

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