13 / April
13 / April
Professor Denies Assault, Admits Confiscating Fliers

The women's studies instructor at the center of controversy at Western Michigan University denies assaulting the chairman of the school's College Republicans. "Let me be perfectly clear--no one got physical with [Matt] Hall in my classroom; I never pushed him from behind, from the side, or from the front--THERE WAS NO ASSAULT. Mr. Hall's claims are totally false," Edith Fisher told me via email. Fisher also condemned the lecture-hall assault on Patrick Buchanan that occured a few hours later at WMU, stating: "It violates the spirit of peaceful protest and the principle of free speech."

"There was a trash bag full of confiscated fliers sitting on the chair next to the one holding the flag and the confiscated poster," Fisher remembers of the confrontation with Matt Hall. "I positioned myself in front of the trash bag of confiscated fliers on the chair as Mr. Hall grabbed my flag and the confiscated poster. I grabbed both items back away from him without touching him and put both items behind my back."

Witness Jeffrey Tirrell disputes this, stating that "as [Hall] went to get his poster back the professor grabed him," adding that the "poster was crumpled up and had a [M]exican flag stuck through it." Hall notes that he is "shocked that [Fisher] is denying the contact occured."

While Fisher denies getting physical with a student, she admits tearing the Buchanan fliers down and admits suggesting to students in her class that they could do the same. Dr. Fisher justifies her actions by charging that the College Republicans posted fliers in forbidden locations and without authorization from WMU. "Many people were tired of these abuses of regulations," Fisher maintains, "so I collected this evidence to deliver to the administration, which I have done."

"Prior to the beginning of my class session on March 31st, a few of my students wanted to collect evidence too," explained Fisher. "They saw this as activism, something I strongly suggest all my students do--to find everyday ways to get involved in things they believe in. I suggested they could add to the collection in the trash bag if they wanted to remove illegally posted fliers off painted surfaces. This was not a class assignment. It was a couple of students and I assisting the administration in an investigation of the illegal posting practices of the College Republicans at WMU."

The disputed assault is just one of the unsettled questions related to this campus controversy: What gives a state institution the power to grant or deny authorization to any political flier? What educational purpose did it serve for Edith Fisher to encourage her students to rip down fliers bearing a message she disagreed with? Is this a proper use of class time? Was it necessary to fill a trash bag with Buchanan fliers or impale an expensive Buchanan poster with the pole of a Mexican flag? Why did the class project of "assisting the administration" stamp out illegally posted signs focus on Buchanan fliers? If tearing down fliers counts as "activism," couldn't Buchanan's assailant argue that dumping a cup of salad dressing on a speaker qualifies too?

While a leftist doused Pat Buchanan with salad dressing and a women's studies instructor led students in tearing down fliers promoting the event, it is the organizer of the Buchanan lecture, Matt Hall, who now faces numerous charges at Western Michigan University.

posted at 12:30 AM
Comments

So she ripped the flyer Matt had taken back out of his hand. Or did they pull on it back and forth a bit before her brute force won out? Which begs the question of what assault is, is it only a push, or can it also be a pull?

BTW, what is Matt being charged with?

"I positioned myself in front of the trash bag of confiscated fliers on the chair as Mr. Hall grabbed my flag and the confiscated poster. I grabbed both items back away from him without touching him and put both items behind my back."

Posted by: obi juan on April 13, 2005 02:25 AM

I think Matt is being charged with political dissent.

Posted by: Evil Pundit on April 13, 2005 02:39 AM

wow, i never knew there were thought police. they exist, and their habitat is WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY.

Posted by: polemical muhammad ali on April 13, 2005 03:01 AM

After perusing the procedural rules (posted at wmich.edu), I have to say I feel sorry for Mr. Hall, Western Michigan University has a very unfair hearing system that seems violative of due process to me.

Nothing is done in public.

Hall CAN NOT be represented in his hearing. He must ask all questions and make any objections himself.

There are no rules of evidence at all.

There is no provision for an appeal.

And the burden of proof is downright kooky:

The judicial body’s determination shall be made on the basis of whether a reasonable person would conclude that it is more likely than not that the accused student violated the Student Code.
So the members don't vote on their own assessmant of the evidence they vote on what they think a hypothetical person would do if they were judging the case. Is this really a hearing at all?

Posted by: Bronco Billy on April 13, 2005 09:08 AM

It is a Leftist's understanding of due process. Since the 'perp' is a Republican, a 'reasonable person' (read Leftist ideologue) must conclude that it is likely that he is a racist and a facist, and obviously violated the Student Code.

Posted by: nobody important on April 13, 2005 09:31 AM

"Which begs the question of what assault is, is it only a push, or can it also be a pull?"

I hate to nit-pick, but I suggest you (along with every reporter in the country) look up the phrase "begs the question."

Mr. Hall needs to hire an attorney and file suit against the university.

Posted by: Brad on April 13, 2005 10:49 AM

Given Bronco Billy's quotes from the Student Code describing the trial's process, I agree with Brad.

I hate the litigious culture, but the only way for Hall to defend himself against these double-standard activist "academics" is to hire a lawyer.

Posted by: short on April 13, 2005 11:28 AM

Maybe the following will bring readers a little satisfaction: while attending an appearance by David Horowitz at UC Berkeley this past February I made a point of going up to him before the program that I considered myself fairly liberal and that I'd voted for Kerry, but also that I admired much of his work and thought that it was good for Berkeley that he had come. With incidents like those at WMU in mind, it felt not like a nice idea, but rather a responsibilty.

Posted by: Jeremiah on April 13, 2005 12:55 PM

"The judicial body’s determination shall be made on the basis of whether a reasonable person would conclude that it is more likely than not that the accused student violated the Student Code."

that is absolutely 100% certifiably insane.

Posted by: polemical muhammad ali on April 13, 2005 01:34 PM

This update confirms me in my opinion that all of this brouhaha was easily avoidable if Dr. Fisher had used better judgment and prudence, but her politics wouldn't allow it.

She indicated that the building supervisors and the school bureaucrats in charge with oversight of student activities and flyering was already well aware of the improper posting engaged in by the CR's. Therefore, tearing down the posters and collecting them as "evidence" in her classroom was wholly unnecessary. Further, skewering one on a Mexican flag was silly theatrics (what she calls "activism") and a rather undignified and provocative way of making a point.

Thus, the fact that a college student who is clearly engaged in political activism and prone to the emotionalism that current political "discourse" imbues (as well as the emotionalism of being a college student) took Dr. Fisher's actions as provocative and disrupted her class is a completely predictable result. And, more importantly, it was an avoidable result that Dr. Fisher should have taken care to avoid as the authority figure in this incident. After the disruption occurred, she should have handed over the "evidence" to Mr. Hall instead of grandstanding in an attempt to keep him from getting his posters back.

Clearly the rules of evidence are such that she really needed no exhibits a-z to bring charges of violations of postering policy against the CR's.

The activism of the left is too commonly infantile and now it seems that Republicans are possibly following their tactics, particularly on college campuses. Shocking isn't it?

This certainly should not reach the level of litigation but it wouldn't have even reached the level of Dr. Fisher possibly not being retained to teach, or Mr. Hall being suspended or expelled, if Dr. Fisher had not decided to make her class one of political engagement.

As I think had been suggested before, she easily could have arranged for a classroom debate between a CR and someone of her political bent over content of the posters or the issues raised by Buchanan's visit to campus. She opted for posturing instead of educating and we can all see the reult.

Posted by: Brian on April 13, 2005 02:46 PM

"The activism of the left is too commonly infantile and now it seems that Republicans are possibly following their tactics"

I've often said that same thing. It's not that campuses should allow any self-righteous expression, that a self-righteous protester, that just thinks you need to hear their point of view, wants to engage in. It's not that that is the ideal, however much a number of liberals have made it seem so.

It's just that for years the litmus test for injustice, on the part of the left, has been the "double standard". Just labeling something a double standard is enough. Just citing how treatment is not totally equal is as well.

It's also that professors from a "protest culture" permiate our universities, teaching "moral outrage" and "civil disobedience" and have disdained procedural rules as "cold" and "institutional" of as a result propping up the status quo of the power elite.

Dr. Fisher may be an advocate for civil behavior. (Viewing her last post.) And she may or may not have taken some missteps in dealing with Mr. Hall. It seems to me that a breakdown in decency is part of the legacy of the 60s that few liberals want to deal with.

As long as we have enough people, on any side, who truly feel that throwing food at people is conduct that needs to stop, then perhaps we can do something.

Posted by: Sea King on April 13, 2005 03:43 PM

A can't really go with any pox-on-both-houses proclamation.

The difference between Hall and Fisher will be in the final results. He'll be dismissed -- she won't. In fact, in the long run, this will probably be a feather in her cap. Juanita d'Arc, if you will. (In the short run she might get a wrist-slap so WMU can claim even-handedness.)

He'll be left scrambling with a hole in his resume.

Posted by: Bronco Billy on April 13, 2005 04:01 PM

There is only one group who could bring justice to this issue! THE GREEK COUNSIL. Stan Gable has been waiting for this sort of case to come his way since the jocks were booted out of the dorms and sent to live were the rest of the jocks live, the gym!

Posted by: maury on April 13, 2005 05:49 PM

Fisher for all her far left lunacy is quite smart really. No doubt there are places on campus that posters can not be placed, my own university had similar rules. Unless they can show that the posters where not placed where they should not have been (which seems pretty much impossible to show) or have evidence of the left loons ripping them down from legitimate places (I guess next time a video camera may be in order, mobile phones have them these days) she will probably carry the day.

Sadly someone in this case is telling bald faced lies and although I am willing to be it is Matt who is telling the truth, all we have to go on is the word of those involved and one other student who will be accused of "sticking up for his friend".

What is to be done ? I keep watching these sorts of things from down here in Oz (our Uni's are not quite so bad, but then again I did a comp sci degree so perhaps I was just insulated) and it just breaks my heart. The US is by no means perfect, but to watch a great nation continue to be brought down from within by fith columnists like this is tragic.

Jason

Posted by: Jason Rennie on April 13, 2005 06:27 PM

good post Im just trying to figure out what a " bald faced lie" is??

Posted by: maury on April 13, 2005 06:31 PM

Oh sorry, In that one of them is openly telling something that is entirely untrue. Something as opposed to what you would consider either a "white lie" or "lying by omission".

One of them is telling a lie that will deliberately harm the other person.

This will of course be compounded by one of them bearing false witness under oath as well.

Jason

Posted by: Jason Rennie on April 13, 2005 06:35 PM

Of course a Women's Studies prof would never commit assault. Women are incapable of physical violence! And she took the posters because she was fighting for what's right. All conservatives are racist, sexist, homophobic, insensitive bastards.

Posted by: Mr. Sarcasm on April 14, 2005 07:51 AM

Mr. Sarcasm, Your insensitive comments are tantamount to rape.

Way to go bro'

Posted by: Frat Man on April 14, 2005 08:04 AM

All of you are male cheauvanistic pigs! You should all be forced to watch 48 straight hours of "Will and Grace" and "Judging Amy" for sensitivity training! It appals me that you alpha males cannot accept the fact that women are good for something else besides sex and cooking!

Posted by: Gloria Steinam on April 14, 2005 09:24 AM

I didn't know Monica Lewinski could also cook.

Love me, I'm a liberal too!

Posted by: Frat Man on April 14, 2005 10:11 AM

gloria answer me something. What is the connection between us having to watch 48 hours of Will and Grace and being a woman? I just dont get what that means? Because you like a t.v. show about a gay man and his friends? Why dont u watch 48 straight hours of Sportscenter or golf tournaments every Sunday? Does that signify insensitivity by the male?

Posted by: maury on April 14, 2005 10:58 AM

"Of course a Women's Studies prof would never commit assault. Women are incapable of physical violence! And she took the posters because she was fighting for what's right. All conservatives are racist, sexist, homophobic, insensitive bastards."

Nice sarcasm, or something. I don't believe anyone was saying that at all.

There is violoence perpertrated every day, by both men and women. Is it our fault that the majority against women is by men?

Not once has Dr. Fishe personally attacked anyone, or any group throughout this entire ordeal. She has not, nor will she ever, generalize a satement to an entire group of people. Dr. Fisher is an advocate of equal treatment to people; men, women, minorites, majorities, children or seniors. One thing she does not advocate, however, is the discriminaton, or belittling of any group or person.

Posted by: Meggan Kimmerle on April 14, 2005 11:24 AM

Some face time for Dr. Fisher at

http://www.mlive.com/cgi-bin/nph-cachecam.cgi?url=photo.live.advance.net/mlive/images/1590/Buchanan3

Trying to bring her ever-present Mexican flag into the Pat Buchanan Memorial Food-Fight.

Posted by: Frat Man on April 14, 2005 11:40 AM

One thing she does not advocate, however, is the discriminaton, or belittling of any group or person.

She don't like fratbo ... MEN either!

Posted by: Frat Man on April 15, 2005 09:45 AM

meggan u have to be the biggest brown-noser I think i have ever met. Go spread ur man hating on another site. Dont you think you have said enough in defense by now? Its called overkill honey, just so u know!

Posted by: maury on April 15, 2005 11:49 AM

Maury, why would you even feel the need to post such a worthless post as that.
A. You have never met Meggan.
B. Just because she is sticking up for the TRUTH does not qualify her as being a "man hater"
C. And don't YOU think that you have posted enough offensive comments? Maybe you should take your demeaning and offensive comments some where else as well.

Posted by: Shannon Clark on April 15, 2005 02:17 PM

demeaning to who? U dont even know me? Like I said, I didnt want to hear anymore garble out of you! Have any of you man hates figured out that you all USE CAPS EVERYTIME U SAY TRUTH! Truth doesn't need to be placed in caps if it is! The caps talk from u man haters makes u look like a mendex in my mind!!

Posted by: maury on April 15, 2005 02:30 PM

"Except for conservatives, whom she characterised as people who post venomous hate on websites, and who encourage the wearing of explosive vests and the firing of guns at nice lefties."


She was using an example of posters on this site. She didn't characterize them, they said this themselves.

Posted by: kel varnsen on April 15, 2005 04:45 PM

I am woman, hear me roar...

Posted by: Helen Reddy on April 15, 2005 06:07 PM

kel: No one on this site admitted being venomously hatful or encouraged terrorism. Dr Fisher was twisting what two random people said to make it seem like they were "spewing venomous hate" and then using this to characterize the website as a whole.

This is called "sophistry", and if her player-hating degree is worth the paper it's printed on, she knows she was being unfair.

Posted by: short on April 15, 2005 06:53 PM

I hate it when people sink to the level of character asassination. It seems that this case has brought out the "inner thug" in most of us. Dan was right when he observed that both Hall and Fisher couldn't be telling the truth. One of them must be lying. So far, it's been the word of Fisher and her classrom eye witnesses against Hall and his acomplice. The rest of us weren't there. But we sure have let our ideologies color our judgments.
Fortunately, there was one other witness to the event in question, and that person filed a written police report 2 hours after the classroom incident, when his memory was fresh. I have sent a copy of the police report to Dan, and he can check on its authenticity.
The witness in question was Matt Hall, who went to the Western Michigan University police claiming assault and battery. He gave his statement to an officer for perhaps 10 minutes. His statement was typed up, and 20 minutes after it was opened, the case was closed. It was categorized as "trouble w/ subject," not assault, and Hall was told by the investigating officer that he had no case.
The police report given by Hall contains at least 7 distortions, but you won't believe me, and that's not what's important. What is important is what the report *didn't* contain, viz. any mention of physical contact whatsoever. I'll let Dan post the report in full. What Mr Hall said happened was that "Dr. Fisher acted improperly" toward him.
He said Fisher "physically blocked him from reaching" his poster, and that "she crumpled the poster up and threw it in the trash. She then told Hall that her class was in session and told him to leave. Hall said that he then left." (Quotes from the Police Report) I'll leave it up to her class members to tell you how many times Fisher screamed at Hall to get out of her class, but she identified herself and began telling him to get out before he'd taken five steps into the classroom. I think what finally got Hall to leave was when on of the students stood up and yelled that he was ruining her class, and to get the hell out!" But I wasn't there, so I can't say for sure.
Something interesting must have happened in Hall's head during the time period between the police report and Mr. Buchanan's speech, because Hall told police, press and many many students his version of the story and stated that he had filed assault charges. I heard him say that! But the lies just kept getting bigger as he talked to national media.
Now I usually believe that people tell the truth, and it's hard to imagine how someone could lie that much. But he did. He compromised Dan when Dan believed him and printed his story. He USED you, me, and the Conservative movement for his own selfish purposes. He used Edie Fisher the most. A (very) few Campus Republicans have continued to harass her and the Take Back The Night program she is part of. She was slandered and her character defamed, part of it on this site. Fortunately, Matt Hall isn't any smarter that he is moral, and he screwed up. I think the little coward was scared to tell a BIG lie in a police report, so that's the only true evidence we'll get from him.
Anyone who still believes Hall should read a book by Festinger, Schacter and Back called "When Prophesy Fails." But I must go. I wish you well, and hope you have good lives. Peace.

Posted by: Dr. Bob on April 15, 2005 07:39 PM

C'mon Dr. Bob: You claim Hall's police report alleging an assault lacks "any mention of physical contact whatsoever." Then you tell us it contains the claim that Dr. Fisher "physically blocked him from reaching" the posters he was trying to reclaim. That's just lame.

Also, Dan's original post didn't uncritically report Hall's story as the truth. He reported Hall's story as Hall's story. You, on the other hand, seem very personally interested in protecting this junior colleague and activist, and thus in promulgating her side of the story.

Posted by: short on April 15, 2005 08:32 PM

Matt Hall characterizing what happened as "assault" doesn't make it "assault". And if he's wrong -- and I think he is -- that doesn't make him a liar, it makes him wrong about the definition of assault

But this also holds true for the police -- their conclusion might be wrong too. I tend to look at "Campus" police with a jaundiced eye -- they're apt to take the path of least resistance.

That being said no police force is likely to give two shakes about any allegation of this type where there is no injury -- nothing -- and that probably is about right. But let's not turn a police decision about whether-or-not to file charges (and in my mind a correct decision) into a conclusion about what actually happened vis-avis touching. Sounds like they did talked to Hall, properly determined that there were no injuries (AND that this was a swearing contest) and decided to steer clear. Playing with it in my head I imagine gender played a role here -- if Hall was female and was touched (without injury) by a male instructor -- well, who knows, but that's not what happened.

Dr. Bob you seem to have the inside poop, what's the word on Hall, is a panel convened or what? Is this episode being viewed seriously by the Dean of Discipline? Or a public relations excercise?

Posted by: Bronco Billy on April 15, 2005 08:58 PM

Thanks for the info Dr. Hall you are making my case for me.

This whole fracas could have been avoided if Dr. Fisher had any sense at all. Given that she is the adult and authority figure in this conflict she is at fault for provoking some emotive teenager into a classroom confrontation. Why didn't Dr. Fisher simply hand over the poster since that was all Hall wanted? He would have left would have complained about the posters being torn down to whomever would listen, maybe spouted about free speech and then moved on. I would never have heard of him nor would anyone else on this site or elsewhere. I also wouldn't know so much about Dr. Fisher (oh to turn back time!). But instead she got in a screaming fest with a teenager and crumpled up his poster in his face (after taking it from a flag she impaled it on) and threw it in the trash. Very, very mature. How many times have you crumpled up students things Dr. Bob? Does that seem like a good way to handle such a confrontation?

I would hate to see what Dr. Fisher acts like if she ever gets tenure anywhere.

Posted by: Brian on April 15, 2005 10:48 PM

Bronco Billy seems spot on to me. Isn't it probable that there was physical contact? (Contra Dr. Bob, "physical blocking" doesn't typical happen through force feilds, but through "physical contact.") And there was probably no assault. Two people wanted the same stuff and tried to occupy the same space-time to get it. It was probably a moving pick performed by the Doctor, which she would naturally understand as defensive (defending her confiscated posters). But Hall probably understood the contact as offensive because it interfered with his already established trajectory. Now a moving pick may be a foul, but it's not an assault. To me this seems like a reasonable explanation of both sides' stories.

One thing for practically-sure: Dr Fisher and her Friend Dr Robert are probably full of it, or else Mr. Hall would have gotten his posters back.

And I'll join Brian's repeated point: maturity and prudence from this teacher-activist is what would have avoided this moving-pick-gone-wrong in the first place.

Students shouldn't barge into the classrooms, but why should we pretend as though this were a real classroom? They had his stuff, had made a display of it, were probably discussing his group. He disrupted their political demomstration, not their class.

Posted by: short on April 16, 2005 12:37 AM

Since Mr. Flynn has chosen to close the original discourse in which “Future Ph.D.” gave the final statement, I have been directed to continue that discourse here. Future Ph.D. makes some points that deserve response. I shall address his issues in the order he presented them.

“First, whether Dr. Fisher would like to admit it or not, she obviously had the desire to remove the posters for their political content regardless of how they were taped to the wall. It's sad that the CRs provided her with the opportunity to act on her political impulses by posting the sign "illegally" as it were, but nonetheless, I doubt that if the sign were for her TBTN rally and had been posted in the same manner, she would have been as apt to remove it, or suggest that her students remove it.”

Because we stand for equity and fairness, the TBTN volunteers were repeatedly instructed to follow ALL posting guidelines when posting for the event. As a matter of fact, I did remove a taped TBTN flyer and pinned it to the appropriate bulletin board. Then I informed the organizer of the event what had happened so she could contact all volunteers putting up the flyers to remind them of the rules.

The building staff has repeatedly complained every semester to the Administration at WMU since the beginning of the 2001 school year about the extreme abuses of the posting guidelines of the College Republicans. No other student organizations violate these rules to the extent to which the College Republicans continuously have. That is the reason I removed the materials—to give to the Administration as evidence. That is the reason I did not just let the unknown student intruder into my classroom just take them as he pleased.

I have not attacked the content of the materials because that has not been relevant regardless of how much so many of you seem to want to make it. What offended me was the huge oversized poster outside my classroom wall plastered with heavy packing tape that was never even approved by the University. This was a statement that the written rules and the unwritten rules no longer apply to the College Republicans. By that I mean when other student organizations violate posting rules, they do so as fairly as possible. They only put up one flyer per wall and use little strips of regular tape instead of industrial strength packing tape on up to 40 flyers per wall. No one has ever before put up a huge poster like that knowing full well nothing that size would ever be approved.

“Secondly, I doubt that there happened to be any sort of physical assault on Mr. Hall. My guess is that he tried to get by her to grab the poster off the flag (which I will get to in a minute) and they bumped into each other. And, I doubt that Dr. Fisher was making it easy for Mr. Hall to get by her, so I would argue there was just some "push and push" going on.”

You are partially correct on this one. There was no physical assault on Mr. Hall, and I did make it difficult for him to get the poster by holding it behind my back. The part you are wrong about is the “push and push” part. It is very simple, really. He walked past me to take the flag and poster off a chair. I stood between him and a bag of flyers, took the poster out of his hand and my flag out of his hand and held both behind my back. He got tired of my yelling “GET OUT!” and finally left.

“Thirdly, Dr. Fisher has yet to deny that she indeed had impaled the poster on the flag in her room, and I believe one of her posts inadvertantly admits that indeed this did occur. This fact, in itself, eluminates the point that she wanted the posters down for her own political reasons, not because they were taped on the wall in any certain way. “

I did not inadvertently admit to it; I did so quite freely. Sorry to disappoint you, but you are wrong about what this illuminates. I never attempted to hide the fact that the poster had been impaled upon a Mexican flag. As I have said all along, I do not believe in attacking people or assassinating their character. I believe punching a punching bag is a safe and healthy way to express yourself when you are overwhelmed with emotion. Many of the students in my classroom were hurt and angry over the content of these flyers. These students live in a world where violence seems to be the common response to situations such as these. I was making a point to them that walking in a peaceful protest to show solidarity for a cause, carrying signs to voice yourself, voting, signing petitions—all these things are healthy ways of expressing yourself. Someone brought up the pie throwing business, and I immediately took a stance against that type of behavior. It is NOT ok to express yourself in ways that can injure people, but it is ok to express yourself in ways that can’t hurt people. Using the poster and the flag was an example that they could all easily understand as it was directly related to the subject of their anger and tangible objects they could see and feel. My classroom door was closed, and I was teaching my class. After the point was made, I put the flag aside and continued with the discussion. No one was trying to taunt Mr. Hall or anyone else for that matter. We were in our own classroom, behind closed doors, not disturbing anyone. No one was waving flyers in the air. No one was screaming or yelling. No one was having eye contact with anyone outside the classroom. We were engaged in our own private classroom discussion.

“Fourthly, I find it sad that a professor/instructor at any university feels it necessary to promote or orate their political beliefs in their classroom…. It's evident, even in the comments of Dr. Fisher's students that she has made her political perspectives known…. Many professors forget that our students are at a very manipulable age and we develop relationships with them through the course of our engagements and whether we foster this or not, many learn to respect us and emulate us. Some of them get their political opinions from us because they think we're so smart and they want to be like us…. We need to teach our students to think for themselves. To study political situations and come to their own conclusions, not our conclusions. By even allowing a student to know where you lean politically you unfairly give them the opportunity to copy you. It's easy for them. I mean, what have we learned as college instructors? Students want the easy way, how can I get an A without reading, writing, or taking an exam, right? It's much easier for them to emulate their professor than it is for them to work hard at developing opinions of their own…. You don't know how many times I've heard students discuss politics and just regurgitate whatever propaganda they've heard word for word from their professors, many times when they don't even understand exactly what the professor is saying. Probably the most popular problem is students who repeat the montra that Bush is a facist, but when you ask the student to describe a facist, they have no idea what it means, just that it's bad…. I fear this is a function of the desire of faculty members to create followings. Everyone wants to leave a legacy, we see it even in the professional side of academics…. Dr. Fisher has created her own little "safe cacoon" as her students call it. Her following, and she likes it. That's why she comes on this message board and congratulates her students. She's mothering them, not allowing them to create their own identities outside of hers. They are "her" (her words not mine)students, "her" little ducklings, and she's patting them on the head for a job well done. And they'll take it, and smile and be happy because they've pleased their mother.”

Wow Future Ph.D., we approach the responsibility and privilege of teaching very differently, although we do agree on some things. I do agree that many of the students with which we come into contact are malleable, which is why healthy role models are so important. We also agree that we need to teach students to think for themselves. I couldn’t agree more and often become discouraged at how few teachers attempt to do this. Where we disagree is on how to go about doing this. My students are not afraid to speak their minds in my classes because their grades don’t reflect what they think—they reflect whether or not they have thought at all. Regurgitation has never impressed me, regardless of whose it is. I teach my students to listen to all points of view, to question everything, and to keep the discourse alive outside the classroom as well. Only through peaceful discourse will they ever be able to apply themselves fully to whatever they are studying.

I teach my students to value all human beings equally. This means that their thoughts and feelings are equally valuable to the discourse as mine. It doesn’t matter whether or not we all agree; what matters is that we all feel safe enough to find our own voice and express it both orally and in written form. Character assassination is not allowed. It is perfectly acceptable to criticize someone’s ideas but never to attack their person or character. This is the kind of world we wish we could live in outside of our classroom, so it is the kind of classroom environment we create and protect. That is the “safe cocoon” to which someone made reference—the environment of respect and the desire to critically examine the subject matter to its fullest—that is where we find our safe space.

I find it interesting that you call congratulating the students from my course who posted on flynnfiles.com for not taking the path of least resistance “mothering” instead of what it was—offering them some positive reinforcement for not taking the easy way out—for remaining true to their pacifist natures and not buying into the character assassination game being played against them. By the way, as a “Future Ph.D.” surely you are aware of the “publish or perish” nature of life in academe. You must also be aware of the need for parsimony in our writing for publication. It is far more parsimonious to write “my students” instead of “the students who witnessed the event” or “the students registered for my course.” You might want to reread your own words in your last paragraph, my friend and future colleague….

“Finally, in regards to the political nature of the actual signs that were posted, believe me, I've seen much worse posted all over MSU, written on sidewalks, stapled to bulletin boards, and painted on the big rock in front of my building. And all of it has been liberal in bent….The difference, here Dr. Fisher, is that while I disagree with what's being said, I haven't suggested to my students that they should tear down these signs, whether posted illegally or not, or crash these rallies, or even write the newspaper. My students are active enough politcally on campus without my help or my persuasion, and as far as my students are concerned, I'm proud to say that many of them have publically acknowledged that they have no idea how I lean politically, and I've actually had students say they believe I am something that I'm not.”

I suspect you used the phrase “my students” repeatedly during those few sentences for the same parsimonious reasons I did and not because you were “mothering” your “little ducklings” as you put it. It’s rather insulting isn’t it—to both you and your students? Don’t sweat it Future Ph.D., we are all learning everyday, and I don’t hold a grudge.

By the way, it cheapens your argument to begin by suggesting the political nature of the materials at WMU should not be the issue only to end by suggesting the political nature of the materials at your school offends you. Furthermore, there is a huge difference between telling students they SHOULD take down flyers and telling them they COULD take them down. I told them they could when they came to me and asked. It’s not the same thing at all.

Posted by: Dr. Edie Fisher on April 16, 2005 12:49 AM

By the way, Ms. Short, I owe you an apology. I thought the two responses to which my post beginning with "sorry boys" were from Brian and nobody important (who had already identified himself as a male). It was my mistake. Nobody important was the post just prior to the one that sparked the responses by you and Brian. I meant no disrespect, but I thought I was responding to two males. I will be more careful when I read the names at the bottom of the posts. It won't happen again.

Posted by: Dr. Edie Fisher on April 16, 2005 12:59 AM

Dr. Bob,

I find it telling if Hall inflated the event after he gave his account to the police. This information would have been helpful from the beginning---though I am aware you might not have had it at that time, so I am not slamming you on that.

But I am saying that you need to reconsider the extent to which some of us had an open mind. It is only natural, until a convincing proof is shown, to resolve an account according to your worldview. Now that worldview needs to be tempered with an open mind or humility. But the good part is that our worldviews represent a storehouse of amassed knowledge, and empirical data on strategies and successes in resolving questions. There is no good reason to abandon one's worldview as a filter, simply because somebody finds it unreasonable.

So let's be clear on what is a bias, and what is simply a fidelity to one's own worldview, though. I have a fair degree of personal experience walking around a college campus similarly decorated as "Future PhD" describes. I am also no stranger to campus newspapers as he described as well. Or walking through halls hearing this professor and that one diatribe on some political issue, whether or not it had anything to do with their subject. And if one of the "lectures" was on the conservative side, I've forgotten it.

I've also spent quite a bit of time at the book store, scanning textbooks and assigned reading. The most curious one was a Nursing Studies book that sounded as if there were a class struggle going on between "knowledge class" doctors and "working class" nurses to correct the "power imbalance".

I think I see trends. But as I said, in another post, just because something is a trend doesn't mean that every similar event fits into this trend. Hall might have been downright obnoxious in the design of his signs, in taping it to walls, in barging into a classroom, in filing a complaint and even inflating that as the spotlight grew. I accepted this as the case as some of the data started to accumulate.

Dr. Fisher appears to be principled and conscientious (at least, to me), which doesn't mean that she couldn't have made some missteps as well. We all stumble.

But in that some part of her objection to the posters was based on the content, it reflects the overall trend of liberally-energized schools taking overt steps against conservative speech or presence on campus. No matter how far this event lies out on the curve.

I have heard, and seen cases of last-minute room changes for conservative speakers, and walked past the empty rooms where they had been scheduled for weeks. I have read about how commonly this occurs these days. And Dan can atest to his experiences. This all adds up to make us think that something is going wrong on our campuses. As ambivalent as I am about Pat Buchanan, I think dousing him with salad dressing is part of it. So if it turns out that Mr. Hall is less trustworthy than I may have considered, it still doesn't give me warm-fuzzies about where speech is headed on universities. Especially when I hear student editorials about some conservative guest asking "What he doing on our campus?" as if the groups that campuses give the loudest voice to were now the sole owners of the campus (of course that's the way it went in the People's Park at Berkely, now wasn't it?).

That said, you can also try to filter out some of the static on this topic. It seems that the trolls really come out when visitors stop by this site. You'll see some of this bile in other threads, but not quite as much as there has been toward the ladies from Fisher's class. We regulars of Dan's site apologize for the obnoxious behavior. Heck, even one of our regular trolls is more polite than that. (Truth/Joe Dirt)

Posted by: Sea King on April 16, 2005 01:03 AM

I feel so special that Dr. Fisher decided to repond to my comments specifically.

First, you've consistently made the point that you removed the fliers not because of their political content, but because of the manner in which they are posted. However, you still have failed to convince anyone of this due to one simple fact. You stood in front of your class and inpaled the flier on a Mexican flag. You attempt to justify your point by adding that you also removed a TBTN flier and re-pinned it to the appropriate bulletin board. Since you are for "equity and justice," your hall-mark words, not mine, why didn't you also extend the same courtesy to the CRs poster? Did you notify the administration of the practice of TBTN posting signs illegally as you did with the CR posters? Did you then take the poster into your classroom and also impale it on a Mexican flag to demonstrate "equity and fairness" to your students? What about the students in your class who might have been offended by you impaling the CRs poster on the flag? Did your sense of "equity and fairness" lead you to think about how they might take this display of "activism?"

Second, the easy way out is for students to stand behind their professor. To openly speak out against a figure of authority, especially one who has control over your grade and to some degree your academic career, that takes guts. I find it quite funny that you think it took some sort of courage for a student to come on a message board and argue in support of their professor when they know that their professor is reading the posts. I can think of about 300 students who have been in my classes that would have jumped at the chance, just in case there was some likelihood that I might see it and be favorable towards them. As close-knit a group as you seem to have, suggests to me that you've probably had some class discussions about what's being said, and my guess is you have probably encouraged or told your students they "could" post on here if they felt it necessary to defend you.

Third, since you provide such a safe-caccoon to all ideas in your classroom, I wonder how many times a conservative student has spoken up in your class, or do they feel intimidated because their professor has made it known where she stands politically by demonstrating in such ways as impaling a Republican flier on a Mexican flag in front of the classroom? Maybe there aren't any conservative students in your class. Why would that be? Why would there be such self-selection going on if the class were taught and organized in a non-partisan accomodating way? Believe me Dr. Fisher, I've taught large and small classes and had I at any time performed the action you seem so proud of I would have had at least one student openly complain and probably more.

Fourth, I find it telling that you choose to attack my post on semantics rather than its substance. That seems typical these days, when you can't argue on substantive grounds, just pick at little things and make fun of them.

Also, I wasn't making the argument that the political nature of the fliers shouldn't mean anything. You were. You've tried to make it quite apparant that the political message of the fliers was not the reason you removed them, however flimsy that argument may be. My point, if you read carefully, I'm pretty sure everyone else picked up on this, was that you obviously removed the fliers because of their political stance, not because of the way in which they were posted, as I have pointed out above. I, on the other hand also see fliers that offend me every day, but I don't remove them because they are not mine to remove. When I start removing fliers I open the door to have the ones I agree with removed as well, and I don't want to have that. Believe me, Dr. Fisher, the overwhelming amount of propaganda on my college campus speaks against my political beliefs, yet I never feel the need to tear down a flier or cover up a side-walk drawing because I don't want the same person doing that to the few that I actually agree with.

Finally, you are right we do share some teaching beliefs, but I wonder how impaling a Republican poster with a Mexican flag shows your students that you "value all human beings equally," and "that their thoughts and feelings are equally valuable to the discourse as yours." Perhaps if you had taken the TBTN poster which you re-positioned and demonstrated similarly with it, we might all believe you actually mean this when you say it, but alas you did not. You only chose to be active with the CRs poster, in front of your classroom, during class time. What's the old adage, Dr. Fisher? Actions speak louder than words? You can write about your teaching phisophy all day with nice flowery words. You can talk about equity and justice, fairness, and equality, Dr. Fisher, but they mean nothing if you choose not to apply them in your classroom. From what you are openly admitting to doing in front of your class, I'm afraid I just cannot accept your contention that you practice what you preach.

Posted by: Future Ph.D. on April 16, 2005 08:45 AM

I have one more point to make, and I think it's already been made once, but I think it's important to draw attention to it.

Dr. Fisher, in your own words you stated that "The building staff has repeatedly complained every semester to the Administration at WMU since the beginning of the 2001 school year about the extreme abuses of the posting guidelines of the College Republicans." If this is so, what year is it now, 2005, why did you feel the need to tear down and encourage your students to tear down the CRs fliers for "evidence" as you say, when the administration has been well aware of the CRs posting practices for over 4 years? Also, why was it only the CR posters you collected as evidence? You've suggested that there are other organizations that have posted illegal fliers, why did you not collect these as evidence in order to demonstrate to the administration the preponderance of organizations who post illegal fliers on campus. If you are a true crusader for flier posting legality why did you only single out the CR posters, wouldn't your case for stronger enforcement of legal posting be made stronger with a number of posters from many different organizations to demonstrate to the administration that these practices are rampant all over campus and should be stopped?

Posted by: Future Ph.D. on April 16, 2005 09:01 AM

I think everyone has lost sight of what is really relevant in this sorry episode. It's not whether there was an assault of any sort - there wasn't. Calling whatever happened assault cheapens the term. It doesn't matter if the posters were placed "illegally". Anyone who resorts to that term for placing a poster needs to get a life and step back into the real world.

What is relevant is the pathetic state of higher education in this country. Our children are being led, and I use that term very losely, by a bunch of fantasy land blowhards who wouldn't survive one moment in any type of real world situation. We are supposed to be preparing our children to step into the next stage in life, enter the work word, have families and generally make a positve contribution to society. Instead, they are having their time wasted by psuedo-educators who spend time worrying about "illegal" posters and the impact they may have on our fragile flowers who might wilt if their protective cocoon is violated.

Dr. Fisher (I do love it when educators love to refer to themselves as Dr., a title bestowed on them by other pompous blowhards for fields of study that have virtually no relevance other than the paper it's printed on) is a pathetic child. See something you don't like, tear it down and encourage others to do the same. Someone comes for their property, hide it behind your back like a three year old. If my company submits proposals for a project, should I sneak in and steal my competition's because I don't like what it says? Someone say something you don't like, go tattle to the principal, or in this case the university administration. I deal with conflict every day, and what matters is how you deal with it and move on. And no, that doesn't mean telling on someone if they say something I don't like or something that makes me feel "violated" Ms. Fisher, you are failing the students that find themselves in your class. Your morals and methods went out of style in elementary school for most people - except of course my beloved higher education staff members.

You want to know why most pathetic protest movements originate in university settings? Because it's the only place that there's no accountability for your idiotic actions. Why not protest everything under the sun, it doesn't matter squat because you do nothing, you produce nothing of value and your not held accountable for the result of your actions. I do something idiotic, I get fired. Do something idiotic at a university and you get tenure and the adoration of the rest of your band of fools. The weather man is more accountable to his bad predictions than you are to your pathetic teaching.

The higher education echo chamber is killing this country and failing our children. Surrounding yourself with those who believe exactly what you do, say what you want to hear and govern based on one set of beliefs is not the way to live, and certainly not the way to teach.

I made it through college, a very good one at that, mostly on the knowledge that most of my professors couldn't cut it in the real world and that if I believed everything they had to say, I wouldn't either. With my pride, sanity and beliefs, I've moved on and hope to God (ha ha, offending your cocoon of freedom from religion)that my children have the same success that I did.

Posted by: Buddy Revell on April 16, 2005 12:01 PM

One more thing while I'm at it and this is directed to all you little Fisher puppets who drop in on this discussion from time to time. Wake up before it's too late. I think I speak for the rest of the world outside your little pearly gates of higher education when I say I don't care about how you feel, what makes you feel violated, what your needs are, your protective cocoon and all the rest of the sewage that you've been learing from people like Ms. Fisher. Unless you plan on staying in school for the rest of your life or becoming a professor, you are going to get the proverbial reality pan in the face mighty quick. I do, however, hope you work for the competition, as it's going to really help line my pockets with your money.

I'm sure there's also openings in the French army if all else fails.

Posted by: Buddy Revell on April 16, 2005 12:11 PM

Thank you Sea King. I admitted to my students that this was my first time reading and posting on these types of web sites, but that I was learning from the experience. It's interesting to see the continuum of ideas being expressed here. I appreciated reading your last post. Some of the posts over the past two weeks have been disturbing on many levels, but once in a while a true gem would appear. I did encourage my students to read the comments to learn about the differences between people who they want to stereotype in one way. I also warned them about being attacked should they choose to post a response. I just wanted them to think about it before they just dove in unaware. Your last post set off a wave of e-mails to me from students who read it and finally got the message that they can't hold any person or group to be true to any stereotype. They have seen a million white swans and wanted to be convinced that all swans are white. I have been asking them about black swans, and they are beginning to understand. Just because they personally haven't seen, heard, or experienced it, doesn't make it any the less real. Thanks. Peace.

Posted by: Dr. Edie Fisher on April 16, 2005 12:17 PM

Dr Fisher: It's Miss Short.

"What matters is that we all feel safe enough to find our own voice and express it both orally and in written form."

Have you thought *at all* about how the campus conservatives feels about their own voices? Orally and in written form they are regularly ignored or discouraged or looked at like they're crazy/evil. This is partly your (and the other hyphenated-studies profs') doing, albeit unintentionally. Really it is.

What this whole episode should teach you as a teacher is that the sentimentalist cacooning you do of your students' voices has the side effect of shuting out or shuting up anyone who really disagrees with you.

Posted by: short on April 16, 2005 01:33 PM

Brian: "Given that she is the adult and authority figure in this conflict she is at fault for provoking some emotive teenager into a classroom confrontation."

That's hilarious. Matt hall isn't an adult? Why is he in a position of leadership of the College Republicans? I agree there seems to be bad judgement on the part of Dr. Fisher as well as Mr. Hall, but saying that she should know better because she's older is ridiculous. There should be accountability for everyone, regardless of age and position.

Posted by: kel varnsen on April 16, 2005 02:29 PM

Dr. Fisher...Mr. Hall....Dr. Fisher....Mr. Hall...does anyone really know the real issue here? I am totally confused on what people are trying to attack and why...Why can't we all just get along? Maybe Dr. Fisher overreacted when impaling the poster...but maybe Matt Hall overreacted when he bursted into her classroom. What is trying to be achieved here? To see who can be kicked out of the university first? As I see it, it looks as if both of their names are being chewed up and spit out from mere speculation. Maybe everyone should listen to Dr. Fisher's students. They were there after all, and I'm almost sure there were some republicans in there who could offer an unbiased opinion. These students seem to be the only eyewitnesses that can be listened to. Would someone please try to explain what it is that is trying to be accomplished?

Posted by: Confused on April 16, 2005 07:51 PM

Why does any question have to be a personal attack towards someone? I just don't understand it. Why is Dr. Fisher being attacked because she's an unconventional instructor? What's the bigger issue here? Why the posters were torn down, or what actually occurred during this alleged assault? EP, what ideas are you referring to that the students were exposed to?

Posted by: confused on April 16, 2005 10:58 PM

Hey confused: What makes Dr Fisher an unconventional instructor? And do you have inside info on her methods?

Besides, what does that mean, now that hippies have been college instructors for 30+ years now? Perhaps she refuses to take her class outside on nice days?

Posted by: curious (and still short) on April 17, 2005 01:24 AM
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