I have written a great deal about the disturbing case of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young who criminally assault pro-life advocates on campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. I have expressed my shock that she was not fired by the University of California and how she was supported by many faculty and students in her violent response to a pro-life display. Now however she will be honored as a featured speaker at the University of Oregon’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Part of its “black feminist speaker series,” Miller-Young will “discuss her work on black feminism, labor and sex work.” The College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English promise that the series will show “the radical potential of black feminism in the work that we do on campus and in our everyday lives.” She will presumably leave out her work leading students in a violent attack on free speech.
Miller-Young’s concept of the “radical potential” of feminism was on display when she led her students in attacking a pro-life display, stealing part of their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. She pleaded no contest to the criminal assault. 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. To make matters worse, Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, not only issued a statement that seemed to blame the victims but practically defended Miller-Young’s conduct. Faculty and student defenders attacked the pro-life advocates and one even referred to them as “terrorists” who did not deserve free speech.
In the announcement, Shoniqua Roach, assistant professor of black feminist theory, declared “Students, staff and faculty alike can look forward to engaging dialogues about how we can embrace and mine the radical potential of black feminism in the work that we do on campus and in our everyday lives.”
The featuring of Miller-Young at the University of Oregon rekindles the debate over how the university addressed her misconduct. Professors have been suspended or fired of social media postings deemed insulting but Miller-Young can actually attack speakers and be celebrated as an academic. The concern is that the response to such incidents seems to differ on the content of the speech being targeted.