An Open Letter to President Bobby Fong and the Butler University Board of Trustees:
The actions taken in the name of Butler University in the law suit BUTLER UNIVERSITY v. JOHN DOE a/k/a "Soodo Nym" a/k/a firstname.lastname@example.org have become a national embarrassment to Butler University and are unfair to Jess Zimmerman, a current Butler student.
For this case to be the first one in the nation in which a university has sued a student over on-line speech issues is a mistake that Butler University must correct. Whatever one may think of it, the content of the TruBU blog was certainly not so egregious that Butler should be attempting to use it to break new legal ground with respect to freedom of speech issues. Steps need to be taken to ensure that Butler University does not become synonymous with the stifling of the free expression of ideas.
Similarly, the accusations made against Jess Zimmerman by the Butler administration have been unfair, harmful and wrong-headed. Even more important, they are transparently false and thus they too place Butler University in the worst possible light. For President Fong to quote a portion of one sentence from an email that Jess Zimmerman did not write in a manner that implies that he was, in fact, the author and then to use those words to claim that action had to be taken to protect the campus community from violence of the sort experienced by the students, staff and faculty of Virginia Tech University is a disgrace and an insult to all who have been a part of violent tragedies. Similarly, for President Fong to say, "Butler does not tolerate racial and sexual epithets in the name of free exchange of ideas," in his criticism of The TruBU blog and of Jess Zimmerman when no such epithets existed in the blog or have been attributed to Jess Zimmerman is also a disgrace and trivializes the all too frequent instances in which such hateful speech is used in our society. These statements present Butler University in an unflattering light.
Therefore, we request that President Fong and the Butler University Board of Trustees immediately take steps to correct their actions. In particular, we request that President Fong and the Butler University Board of Trustees:
1. Issue an immediate apology for filing the BUTLER UNIVERSITY v. JOHN DOE a/k/a "Soodo Nym" a/k/a email@example.com lawuit; and
2. Issue an immediate apology for the accusations made against Jess Zimmerman.
These two actions, if taken swiftly and sincerely, will help bring this affair to a close and begin to repair the damage done to Butler University's good name.
We are Friends of Jess Zimmerman, a group of concerned individuals on and beyond the Butler University campus.
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For more information, please look at Jess's blog at www.akaDoe.blogspot.com and The story in Inside Higher Ed at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/16/butler
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