You may or may not know that I am a participant in “The Clergy Project” and its Evolution weekend project (www.evolutionweekend.org). But this is not the reason for this particular post.
Jess Zimmerman is a junior at Butler University who wrote some blog articles that were critical of the treatment of his stepmother who was removed as Chair of the Butler University School of Music. In what was perhaps an attempt to intimidate him, his father’s (Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy project) contract as the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science was not renewed.
The story about what is happening can be found at Inside Higher Ed (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/16/butler#) and The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stu-kreisman/student-blogger-shut-down_b_325370.html). You can also read Jess’s take on this amazing story – and view all documents associated with the case, and lots of press coverage, including a piece written by Clergy Letter Project member Matt Young on Panda’s Thumb – in Jess’s blog at www.akadoe.blogspot.com.
Now, I find it interesting that the administration claims that they are not suing Jess Zimmerman but rather the anonymous blogger who wrote the critical pieces. Jess has acknowledge that he did in fact write the pieces so the claim that the blogger is anonymous is somewhat weak.
Whether you support Butler University in their claims and subsequent actions, the fact remains that the university has sought to stifle free speech and open dialogue. It is rhetoric that sounds amazingly like much of what has transpired during the past eight years when we were told that anyone who spoke out against the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan was working for our country’s enemies.
I am taking this opportunity to encourage you to first read the pieces cited above and make your own decision. Then I am encouraging you to go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/butler and sign the petition in support of Jess Zimmerman.
Here is what I posted as a comment to my signature:
It is ironic that a school founded by an abolitionist would engage in the same sort of activities that many who opposed abolition used themselves to shut down free speech in the early 1800’s.
A university, any university, is a symbol of learning and inquiry. To work against free speech is to work against that which a university, any university, stands for.
The administration may not like the light in which it stands at the moment but that is the nature of freedom. Those who seek to hide in the darkness will die in the light.
Butler University must open its activities in this matter to the public and withdraw its suit against Jesse Zimmerman.
There is also a Facebook page for support (search for Friends of Jess Zimmerman).
And then tell your friends.