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Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Abortion in the Culture Wars: Some Effects of Academia's Weakness (Updated)

The national media has spoken on a confrontation between a professor and an anti-abortion group at UCSB on March 4th.  It is not pleased with the professor. 

On March 4th, one of my colleagues at UC Santa Barbara, Feminist Studies professor Mireille Miller-Young, was walking to her office when she was approached by members of an anti-abortion group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust (SAH).  One thing led to another:  the police report picks up the story:
She said an argument ensued about the graphic nature of these images. Miller-Young said that she [sic] situation became "passionate" and that the other students were "triggered" in a negative way by the imagery.  Miller-Young said that she and others began demanding that the images be taken down.  Miller-Young said that the demonstrators refused. At which point, Miller-Young said that she 'Just grabbed it [the sign] from the girl's hands." Asked if there had been a struggle, Miller-Young stated, "I'm stronger so I was able to take the poster."
Miller-Young said that the poster had been taken back to her office. Once in her office, a "safe space" described by Miller-Young, Miller-Young said that they were still upset by the images on the poster and had destroyed it. Miller-Young said that she was "mainly" responsible for the posters destruction becaues she was the only one with scissors.
The SAH protestors seem to have consisted mainly of two sisters, Joan Short, 21, and Thrin Short, 16.  Thrin Short began to film Prof. Miller-Young and a few students departing with her sign.  In the video, you can hear ongoing exchanges between the two groups, see the UCSB group enter South Hall and try to take the sign up the elevator, hear what must be Joan Short calling the police and narrating events to them, see the UCSB group refusing the Short sisters entry to the building elevator amidst some scuffling-- at which point the video ends.

The event got immediate campus coverage in a student paper, The Bottom Line, which ran a story and a picture of one of the anti-abortion posters. The Santa Barbara Independent covered it a week later, identifying the group as SAH and  narrating its account of the events, for by that time Prof. Miller-Young had an attorney and was being advised not to speak about the case. The conservative blog The College Fix posted an account on March 12th, showing the scratches on Thrin Short's wrists and Joan Short with her signs.  So we can be clear what we're talking about, here are the signs on UCSB's campus on March 4th:

Rush Limbaugh got into the act on the same day, spinning the story in his usual way on his Quick Hits Page under the title "Leftist Professor Goes Berserk, Attacks Pro-Lifers" (scroll down). Fox News picked it up on March 13th (the SAH account has more media links at the bottom.) On March 14th, the Short sisters appeared on Megyn Kelly's Fox news show with an augmented version of the original video.  When Ms. Kelly asked how they felt about the professor's claim that she was "triggered" by the images and that she had the "moral right" to take the signs away, Thrin Short said she was sorry that the professor was "offended in any way. But after all, she does teach or show porn to her students, so she's not really the one to talk about offending images." (Joan Short is on the left, her sister Thrin on the right.)

 On March 15th, just to make the media circus complete, Salon got involved: Mary Elizabeth Williams turned the incident into an object lesson called "Why You Should Never Engage with an Abortion Protester."    She summed up her position by saying sarcastically, "Well, thanks, Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, because now these two sisters, who might otherwise have been just a campus nuisance, have overnight become national right-wing heroines."

OK, so much for the media fun.  Let me see if there's a way of threading a path through all this.

First of all, Prof. Miller-Young was wrong to take the Short sisters' sign, as she acknowledges in the police report (page 5 of 5).  She and the students were wrong to leave the scene while taunting the Short sisters, wrong to scuffle with them, and wrong to destroy the sign upstairs of out the Short sisters' reach.  I see no reason to disagree with the reporting officer when s/he says, "I explained to Miller-Young that vandalism, battery and robbery had occurred." 

Second, the Short sisters are not isolated citizens expressing a passionately-held moral belief (though they are obviously sincere, and their type of activism takes guts).  They are part of a right-wing institutional world that makes many people feel unwelcome and unsafe, including the women of color who confronted them at UCSB on March 4th. This is an important context for what happened that day.

The Shorts were trained as activists by SAH, a group founded by Jeff White.  Mr. White, according to his website, was National Tactical Director for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, a group known for its aggressive tactics, and which is very much still in the game (Kansas example).  Mr. White continues to specialize in attention-getting public confrontation, as in this bizarre conflict with a Hollywood lighting crew in 2010.  He is apparently well-connected within conservative activist and funding networks.  Mr. White seems to have had great recruitment success within the Short family:  there is at least one more SAH Short sister, Mary Rose, who can be seen protesting in Albuquerque in November 2013, and who was protesting outside a high school in Jackson, MS in March 2012 when two SAH colleagues were arrested. 

Given their front-line position in a well-developed national anti-abortion activist network, there is no reason for the Shorts to play dumb about their intentions.  The sole point of their gruesome signs is to shock and offend people into opposing abortion.  They signs aren't "conversation starters": they freak people out, as they are meant to do. Even if you are sixteen years old, you should take responsibility for the likely impacts on actual people of what you are deliberately doing.  If you try to provoke people, you will eventually succeed, and if you work for someone like Jeff White, you have a full understanding both of what these provoked people might do and of how you can use this with the media.

The deeper issue here is that the Shorts arrived at UCSB as the institutional representatives of what for convenience I'll call Limbaugh's America--the forever angry wing of the American Right that disparages its opponents rather than debates with them.  The Shorts also represented that Right in the rhetorical strategy of their signs, which said quite plainly that pro-choice people, like some of the college students walking by, favor murdering "preborn" babies.   In this sense, the signs aren't just graphic: they are calculated insults of the moral viewpoint of the presumptively pro-choice onlooker.

UCSB student Delyla Mayers made this point clearly in her editorial in UCSB's Daily Nexus:
These groups have taken no consideration to the individuals who are directly or indirectly affected by abortion. UCSB prides itself on inclusivity and diversity, yet these groups have actively chosen to ignore the myriad people these images negatively impact. These groups have chosen to overlook these experiences, placing harmful and potentially damaging materials in front of students without so much as a warning. Student announcements are sent out every day, giving students warnings about numerous things; why aren’t such events required to do the same? I don’t think any group should be above that. It’s not the position I have a problem with, but rather the approach that is very insensitive, non-inclusive, violent and dangerous. These groups have failed to give students the right to choose to partake in such events, stripping individuals from their choice to practice self-care in topics as deep as abortion.
Prof. Miller-Young was aware that her students had the sense that the signs represented categorical hostility both to their views about abortion (if they were pro-choice, they favored killing unborn babies) and in some sense to who they are, that is, "campus liberals," and women of color.

Isn't this overreacting? No.  The Right's anti-intellectual dismissal machine has a long reach, and used anti-feminist and racial dogwhistling in this case as in so many others.

For example, in her appearance on Fox News, Thrin Short made a direct connection between Prof. Miller-Young taking offense at her signs and Prof. MIller-Young teaching pornography as an academic subject.  That same day, Rush Limbaugh had established the same equivalence.
We have hyphenated name? Check. Teaches multicultural nonsense? Check.

Attracted to perverted and worthless areas of academic emphasis? Check. Instinct to lash out violently at those who disagree with her? Check. Resorts to violence when she doesn't get her way? Check. Logical conclusion: She is a madcap leftist and she has tenure. She is teaching young skulls full of mush, inculcating them with this worthless drivel that their parents are paying through the nose for.

Now, you might say, "Rush this has always gone on."

Not to this degree, folks.

The higher education curriculum has been in the process of being corrupted by militant feminazis for I don't know how long, but it is continuing to normalize what 10 years ago were extremes.   The extremes 10 years ago are the normal today. The extremes 15 ago are the normal. A professor teaching a course in black cultural studies, pornography, and sex work on her faculty Web page?
Well Rush, actually yes: Black culture has obviously been a fountainhead of American life from its  beginning, and consuming pornography is America's national pastime not to mention an important form of popular culture, as UCSB's Constance Penley has been arguing for two decades. But in Limbaugh's America, studying Black culture or representations of African American women in pornography is all feminazism.  Mr. Limbaugh says these things regularly, they become right-wing common sense over years and decades, they get echoed by front-line people like Thrin Short--and then folks wonder why feminists or students of color get upset.

My third point is that in this context the theft of the SAH poster, though illegal, can be seen as an act of (non-violent) self-defense.  Many people, including many women and many people of color, do not feel safe in or respected by Rush Limbaugh's America. Many of the targets of the routine practice of disrespect see universities as refuges of enlightenment or at least basic rationality in a country whose media is saturated with personal attacks and hate speech.  The appearance of the SAH signs ended that fragile protection (as Ms. Mayers noted above).

On Fox, Megyn Kelly displayed disbelief at Prof. Miller-Young's line, apparently directed at a Short sister, "I may be a thief, but you're a terrorist." The most relevant definition of terrorist in this case is Jean-François Lyotard's in chapter 2 of The Postmodern Condition, where he defines terror as "eliminating, or threatening to eliminate, a player from the language game one shares with him."  This is the effect of SAH signs, and it is the core Limbaugh / Fox News strategy--not to debate an opponent, but to discredit her in advance as a dangerous buffoon. Non-Limbaugh America, now associated by the Right with Barack Obama's electoral majority built of various communities of color, feels quite unsafe in a mediascape and political world in which their positions are held up as ridiculous.  The university has come to function as one of the few escapes, and it was something that Prof. Miller-Young, in her way, was trying to defend.  This is why the police report records her saying that her actions "were in defense of her students and her own safety." The fact that they took an illegal form, as noted above, doesn't change their meaning as self-defense. I believe, she said to the reporting officer, that I have a "personal right to go to work and not be in harm."

Fourth, where are university administrations in all this? My basic feeling is that individual professors and students wouldn't have to be inventing ad hoc forms of self-defense against the presence of groups that disrespect them if the university had a reputation for defending itself.  By defending itself I don't mean universities should ban groups like SAH or eliminating free speech zones that welcome non-students. On the contrary, universities must continue to support the kind of debate that would be ejected from everywhere else in commercial America, like its bank lobbies, office cafeterias, and shopping malls. I mean, instead, that universities must build a counter-common sense through which the general public immediately understands why a university must have things like feminist studies departments and pornography scholars--that the university studies everything important, and studies everything according to professional rules of the knowledge-seekers own making, in uncoercive dialogue with the general public.

As it is now, the university has no answer to the Right's carefully constructed anti-intellectual culture, which allows its members to interpret new knowledge as an affront, a heresy, and an assault on all that is good.  All academic knowledge is vulnerable here, from stem-cell medical research and climate-related oceanography to studies of farmworker health, white suburban poverty, and new sexualities.  The result is that after three decades of culture wars, activists trained by right-wing groups like SAH know that if anything bad happens to them on campus, they can discredit their academic opposition in the media by appealing to ad hominem  stereotypes of liberal professors.   My sense is that the general public decreasingly thinks of universities as serious places that will protect themselves, their functions, and their people, and that anyone can do political hit-and-runs with impunity.  Obviously the Right's brilliant long-term institution-building is the main source of the weak cultural position of universities, which undermines individual academics when they most need help. But high-level university silence paved the way for the Right's control of the framing of university teaching and research.

As an institution, the university needs to build a discursive and cultural framework in which its own heterodox activities can be understood.  Tactically, university officials should not get down in the weeds and debate the value of porn studies with each anti-abortion protest group. But strategically, organizations like the American Association of Universities, presidents of major colleges, and other prominent educators need to help scattered associate professors confront and overturn the Limbaughian worldview.  The AAU is happy to speak officially in what it sees as a necessary defense of Israel, as when it formally denounced the American Studies Association's alleged infringement on academic freedom via its support for boycotting Israeli academic institutions.  The AAU should do the same, on an ongoing basis, around the the academic freedom of faculty of color to teach and conduct research, in dialogue with the public, on Black culture, Black actors in porn, possible racial bias in private medical research funding, the shortage of people of color in children's stories, or anything else that society puts in front of them.

Such high-level statements should also involve something we might call campus cultural, intellectual, and personal safety for students, an issue that recent protests by Black students at the University of Michigan, UCLA Law School, and elsewhere have put back on the agenda--again.  The long-term project is to build a cultural common sense in which the university's unavoidable violation of orthodoxy is the heart of its public mission--and where its community can be safe from the harassment that Limbaugh-culture reserves for that public mission in all its forms.

More locally, my hope is that the Short sisters will drop charges against Prof. Miller-Young in exchange for some kind of  statement or restitution from her.  It might be interesting to invite Joan and Thrin Short to a Feminist Studies classroom to talk, rather than to affront with signs, the professor and the students they tangled with before.  Who knows--Thrin Short might even stop ditching high school to protest abortion.

On Friday, Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced that she was filing misdemenor charges against Prof. Miller-Young for theft from a person, vandalism, and battery.  The Santa Barbara Independent has coverage here. So does Fox News, which adds a quote from the Short sisters' father to a repeat of its earlier framing.


Mike said...

The anti-abortion protesters--who have come to my campus as well--are repugnant, but I don't buy the argument that the group has done anything wrong by aggressively making "calculated insults to the the moral viewpoint of the presumptively pro-choice onlooker." This is actually a well-established rhetorical gambit, dating back to graphic depictions of the inferno in both Catholic and Protestant art and letters and continuing in the antislavery crusade of the 18th century and the animal welfare and antiwar campaigns of the 20th.

It is no use arguing against the anti-abortion protesters on the grounds of communicative principles. If you believe they are wrong--as I do--it is not because they have communicated inappropriately. It is because the substance of their belief in restricting access of women to abortion is unjust. The only question here is whether it is right or not for women to have access to abortion, and under what circumstances. Abstracting away from that will quickly get you mired down in the kind of digressive and fruitless search for universal principles that marks the original post.

Anonymous said...

This Orwellian exercise in freedom through suppression of opposing viewpoints is alarming. I am not really bothered by the teachers actions, people can do stupid things when they become swept up in the moment. The terrifying part is the intellectual hoops that some are willing to jump through to excuse what is clearly unacceptable criminal behavior.

These are the arguments of people willing to justify actual barbarism if it suits their ends. It was not so long ago that leftists lived in fear of physical violence for expressing their unpopular views. Now it seems that they have tried on jack-boots of thier own and found the feeling irresistible.

Anonymous said...

Why bother to react to Limbaugh? There are always loonies around.

I walked by the fetus photos and nearly lost my lunch. There are many other similar photos that would make casual strollers nearly vomit… photos of how our hamburger is made, photos of a typical life saving operation in a hospital, photos of the Sand Creek massacre. Photos from Abu Ghraib.

Has the right really descended to support for giant posters that make polite people upchuck? Queen Elizabeth II would not be amused. I'm sure Prince Philip would have been glad to do just the same as Prof. Miller-Young. And that is my only real defense of her… she should proudly do the time for her crime because she kept many people's lunches in their stomachs and made the library plaza a more polite and civilized place.

Perhaps the stunner in all of this is that the right won't give her the credit that they would have given Price Philip.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how you people on the Left can so easily dismiss a human life. Organizations on the left spend millions and have so much passion for animal life and find laws to save wildlife from extinction, and yet, killing an unborn human being that feels pain is justified.. HIPROCRITS. People on the left are the closed minded, angry people. Its sad really.. America will fall someday and it will be the doing of people that have no moral compass.

Anonymous said...

Since anonymous is the trend then who am I right...Im alarmed by ppl who espouse violence as an end to anything. The tactics employed by the teacher were violent. The girls, however they were trained or by whomever, surely didn't deserve to be assaulted or have their property vandalized and stolen. I hardly think that Prince Philip wouldn't have immediately jumped to the defense of the young ladies. He is a good Greek gentleman.

Anonymous said...

Anti-meat groups do not place giant posters of cattle slaughters with bloody entrails and heads in the UCSB plaza. Anti Abu-Ghraib groups didn't post giant posters of naked Iraqis stacked up by American soldiers and peed on by dogs in the UCSB plaza. Anti-military groups didn't place giant posters of dead babies shot by American soldiers at My Lai.

It is incredibly bad taste to put giant gross pictures of bloody anything in public. There are millions of ways to make the point that abortion is murder without giant bloody vomit-inducing posters. Civilized and polite people would do so. I have no doubt Prince Philip would have politely removed the gross posters of this group, and gladly gone to jail over having done so. As would have Ronald Reagan or Earl Warren or Goody Knight or well-mannered conservatives.

Prof. Miller-Youngs only mistake was rudeness in taking the sign away from the poor-mannered protesters.

Anonymous said...

Why thanks for the compliment, coming from you.

Anonymous said...

Let's be fair here. Read the police report. The good doctor is pregnant and planning to have a test for Down Syndrome. If the test came back positive, she was probably going to kill the baby - why else would you have the test? She was confronted with the reality of her horrible plan and snapped.

Britton said...

Stating that these girls had the goal of provocation and, therefore, should not be surprised when someone is provoked, sounds quite a bit like "victim blaming." You know, "girls dress provocatively and are a temptation for rapists." Is that really the stand you want to take? It's certainly not something I agree with.

We all have to deal with people saying or showing things that upset us. That gives us no right to silence them with force. As a side note, would Dr Miller-Young support someone stealing one of her research boards on pornography because it upset them?

Lisa said...

Interesting. I'm pro-life, abhor those graphic signs, and have heard a few reports that the photos aren't even representative. That being said, it is free speech and it is the free right of anyone to walk away or stage a counter protest. Cause otherwise, our country is going way too fast in a direction none of us want. And if you can't deal with viewpoints other than your own, then stay in your house or go find a different country to live in.

Chris Newfield said...

I've updated the post with the news that Prof. Miller-Young has been charged with three misdemeanor counts, including battery. In response to some of the comments, I'd point out that no one in the academic community has defended her treatment of the Short sisters, and my post linked to one high-profile left-wing condemnation of her. On the other hand, that doesn't justify "deal-with-it" political culture, in which the Right in particular claims it doesn't have to care about how anything it does affects its targets. Not caring about their opponents--in fact their active expulsion from the terrain of legitimacy--is a core political strategy of the larger Right to which the Short sisters belong. The Shorts represented a group that claims in its name that anyone who supports reproductive rights or Roe vs.Wade supports a new holocaust, and their signs specifically equated "choice" with mass murder. They have the right to "say" this, but not to pretend that they were trying to start a discussion in which pro-choice students or faculty would have an equal voice. I argued in my post that, to the contrary, SAH-style rhetoric rests on accusation, condemnation, and banishment from the circle of morality and legitimacy, that this rhetoric has been central to setting up and policing the borders of what I called Limbaugh's America, and that its purpose is to make people like the Miller-Young group appear to its audience as second- or third-class Americans if they are real Americans at all (many members of Limbaugh's America continue to deny the citizenship of the current president of the United States). In contrast, contemporary university not only refuses to condemn and exclude the non-Limbaugh citizenry, but tries to set up the conditions in which their experience, insight and learning processes can be protected from deliberately disrespectful and negational interventions like those of the Short sisters signs. It's too bad university leaders have failed to make this clear: the university must support the social relations on which the creation and transmission of original knowledge depend, and these relations are egalitarian and non-racist, among other things. Such social relations have been intentionally driven out of Limbaugh's America, where coverage of this event began by delegitimizing the "porn professor" of Black cultural studies as part of the initial presentation of the incident. The university still stands for the opposite of that.

Anonymous said...

The vomit-inducing posters were placed right next to a big concentration of campus lunch-spots. Indeed I did walk away from them, but in the 3 seconds I saw them I nearly lost my lunch and I certainly lost my appetite. No warning whatsoever. I'm sorry, I don't think free speech includes giant images of entrails and body parts bleeding out of sliced up bodies next to a lunch spot. I don't care what the political message is. Images of the dead at My Lai or the tortured at Abu Ghraib should be forbidden as well near a lunch spot. Hooray for Prof. Miller-Young for getting those images out of the lunch space.

Anonymous said...

Just about no media outlet has actually included the photos that were shown by the anti-abortion protestors in Arbor Plaza.. Here is a link… don't look unless your stomach is strong. And remember, Arbor Plaza is named for the take-out food spot known as the Arbor. No warning as you walked away with your Subway Sandwich, Wahoo Taco, or Woodstock's Pizza before you walked into this awful image:


Anonymous said...

" I'm sorry, I don't think free speech includes giant images of entrails and body parts bleeding out of sliced up bodies next to a lunch spot. "

Free Speech....unless it's lunch time? Very Telling

Anonymous said...

Indeed, free speech is also limited at movie time in a crowded theater either. Images of fetuses with entrails hanging out next to a lunch spot are no different.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the images but the girls had every right to be there. Just like the Westboro Church, the things they say may be disgusting, or offensive, but they are still protected by the Constitution. Paraphrasing Justice Kennedy, the best action against these types of things is for the community to engage the dialogue and point out the lies of the individuals. Disprove these people in the public forum if you wish to prove your own point.

What this professor did is wrong and cannot be justified. It is hypocritical and depending on the outcome of her trial, criminal. If convicted she will probably be fired and rightfully so. She also engaged the protesters in a public area of the university, so her idea that her workplace 'rights" were violated does not apply.

UCSB is a public university and as such must allow Constitutional protections under the 14th Amendment on its campus to all people. It doesn't matter what group the girls belonged to or what their intentions were, as long as they weren't criminal they have every right to be there and express their opinion.

Anonymous said...

The vomit-inducing giant images the anti-abortion protestors violated the criteria of Grayned v. The City of Rockford: the images were basically incompatible with normal activity (consuming and purchasing lunch at the Arbor food vendors) at that particular place at that particular time (lunch). There are no constitutional protections for trying to make people barf.

In addition, all other protestors in the Arbor Mall had posted warning signs warning people (multiple times) of their disgusting images. They posted those warning signs to comply with a Campus Regulation that states ``Persons on University property have the right to be protected from becoming part of an audience for an event or activity against their will.''

All protestors must obey the law and the UCSB regulations. These protestors did not. Prof. Miller-Young was rude and violated procedure in addressing the protestors violations. But the protestors also violated the law and the rules.

Anonymous said...

Grayned v. The City of Rockford has no bearing on this case. It was a noise violation case that only applies to primary and secondary schools, not public areas on public universities. The protestors never broke the law. Campus regulation is not law and is more than likely unconstitutional if challenged. The entire idea of "free speech zones" on colleges have been challenged time and time again and struck down as unconstitutional.

As for Miller-Young, stands accused of theft, destruction of property and battery-assault, that's not violating procedure, that's breaking the law. Physically assaulting someone is inexcusable.

Take a step back and try to be neutral here, there is damning evidence that a crime occurred, it doesn't matter what the woman's politics are, or her race, or her perceived "trigger" was, if you strike someone outside of self-defense, be ready for an assault charge. It is unbecoming behavior for a member of the faculty of any school or university and it is a liability.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I disagree about Grayned v. The City of Rockford. The concept is whether or not the activity in question is compatible with the normal activity at that location. The Arbor Mall is a place where food is sold and consumed. Giant posters of sliced up fetuses are incompatible with the consumption of food. Disinterested and innocent bystanders are inexorably involved by the giant posters. There are also regulations on amplified sound and disruption by that mechanism. Disrupting the environment with giant posters of blood and entrails is no different.

Please step back and try to be neutral here. Giant disgusting posters in a food court are simply inappropriate. There are limits on free expression, and purposely doing disgusting things or projecting disgusting images in an food area is clearly outside the reasonable limits of free expression.

There are other limits on free expression. Go get a projector and try to project hard pornographic images from the street on to the wall of someone else's residential home in the evening. You'll for sure be stopped by local police. And rightly so.

As to Miller-Young, she definitely destroyed property and in all probability will be found guilty eventually of that crime. The assault charge is laughable, it is an exaggeration of thin skinned whiners. But lots of otherwise neutral food consumers on the Arbor Mall applaud her removal of some of those disgusting images that induced vomit.

Anonymous said...

You can disagree all you want but the case law doesn't back you up, and no charges are going to brought against the girls due to Graned v. City of Rockford.

I agree with you, the posters were inappropriate, but that has nothing to do with it. They were in a public area. It's protected by the Constitution. Is it so hard to understand? We don't get to pick and choose who is protected by the 1st Amendment simply because of something we deem "inappropriate". Stealing signs, and physically assaulting them brings you down to their level, it creates what they want, publicity.

Pornography is also protected if it can be shown to have "serious value and appeal to have a prurient interest". However, the case law for pornography is very complicated and pretty strict in that it only deals with sexual acts.

The battery charge is not laughable. It's a misdemeanor charge, and carries with it a possible term in prison.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Scott v. St. John’s Church in the Wilderness, No. 12-1077 in the SCOTUS backs me up. The case here is even stronger because the Arbor Mall is a well-known food sale and consumption area; the anti-abortion protestors were sitting at a picnic table usually used for food consumption.

There are in practice many limits on free expression. Causing luncheon diners to vomit is certainly not constitutionally protected speech or expression.

In addition, the anti-abortion protestors at UCSB violated a number of the UCSB regulations on campus activities. Causing luncheon diners to barf and/or be ill certainly violates `orderly operation of the campus' (A.1 under Speech and Advocacy). The giant bloody posters violate the right of an audience to become part of the discussion against their will (A.2 under Speech and advocacy). Exhibition of posters in general is not allowed on campus by non-University organizations; posters are only allowed for various groups affiliated with the University. (B under Posting Regulations). In all likelihood the organization and the specific violators will be banned from UCSB property.

UC Campuses are by no means public places. When you step on a UC Campus you are implicitly agreeing to the rules and regulations of that campus. You voluntarily surrender many of your rights, in just the same manner once voluntarily surrenders rights when entering a military base, or when driving an automobile. Believe me, I know of many people who are banned for life from UC campuses for improper behavior, particularly for arson and rape. Privacy regulations starting in the 1970's prohibited UC campuses from giving out names or publicizing the hearings that ban people.

These anti-abortion protestors showed immense disrespect for the orderly activity of luncheon dining in the food area near the Arbor Mall.

As for Miller-Young, yes, she should have known better, she should have lodged a complaint with Student Affairs. She is likely to be convicted of theft. I simply disagree about battery. Complaining about scratches and shoves when one is showing giant bloody posters to luncheon diners is just rich. The abortion protestors were by no means meek and peaceful either; they clearly had never had non-violence training a la Ghandi. They chased Miller-Young and tried to shove themselves on the elevator. The lost their assault and battery case by doing so. Had they meekly and passively restrained themselves, and had Miller-Young struck them with a police baton or sprayed them with pepper spray, they'd have a case.

Anonymous said...

Scott v. St. John's was denied rehearing by SCOTUS. If you want charges brought against these girls then maybe you should file them.

UCSB regulations have no bearing on United States law unless those regulations deny a person's rights.

UC campuses have public areas, which is where the protestors were located. No one gives up any rights by walking onto a UC Campus. All public universities are required to adhere to the Constitution, the same as the states, under the 14th Amendment.

Your disagreement about battery has no bearing. Touching someone without their permission is battery. It is the law. There is no requirement that anyone act like "Ghandi".

Can you not see that however much you might disagree with someone you still have to follow the law?

Harry Nelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yes, the SCOTUS let stand the decision of the lower courts, which was that giant bloody posters of fetuses can by forbidden when incompatible with normal uses of a particular location. And in that case the protestors were on a public street.

Yes, I agree the protestors must follow the law. They did not in this case, in my opinion.

The Arbor Mall is not a public street. It is land that is owned by a corporation, the Regents of the University of California, for the express purpose of the activities of the University of California. If you think there are no regulations at UCSB, just try parking your car wherever you want on campus, or just try making a `car park protest' on the Arbor Mall where lots of folks decide to park there cars there.

The Regents have substantial power to make regulations that differ from those of California or Federal Law, and they do. If you commit arson or rape on a UC campus, you can (and usually are) banned from setting foot on a UC Campus, due to the power of the Regents over their property.

Posters are explicitly regulated in the regulations for the UCSB campus. They must all be approved. Student groups that post without approval face penalties. Outside groups have no right to place posters on the UCSB campus.

You may not like the fact that a UC Campus is not actually a public space, and in fact is a space controlled by a corporation (the UC Regents). But logically if you argue that `anything goes' on the UCSB campus, you must also agree that `anything goes' on property that is owned by Exxon, or the Heritage Foundation, or perhaps inside the worship area of the Saddleback Church.

I wouldn't agree with you on that. The US Constitution does not permit arbitrary behavior in any space imaginable.

As to `touching' constituting battery, that sounds like 5-year olds arguing on a playground. I guess people who want to prosecute touching as battery want to clog our courts with pointless idiotic matters. The trial lawyers love you.

TB said...

Wow. I must say I am really troubled by how quickly some people turn against the freedom of speech/expression the moment it disturbs them. A picture of a mangled fetus causes a gag reflex? I am sympathetic, but I can think of a number of ways of dealing with it that does not infringe on the offending party's freedom of speech. Do we really want to go the legalistic route of arguing whether this speech is indeed protected? (I believe it is, although I strongly disagree with its substance.) And what about people who find any public displays of homosexuality disgusting (and some may even argue that even thinking of that will make them lose their lunch)? Are you really willing to try drawing an *objective* line separating the 'righteous' disgust from the 'retrograde' one? If not, then please maintain your intellectual integrity and stop defending the indefensible behaviour of those whose views you sympathize with.
Here is an honest look from the academic left, I wish you had written something along these lines yoursef:

Anonymous said...

Thanks TB, it brings up a great point. The slippery slope of any argument against free speech is the elephant in the room.

To have a truly free society you have to accept that you are going to be offended at some things in life. Once offended the true colors of your being will show. You either accept it, like an adult, and pose your own point of view, or you try to silence it by force. Which is what the Professor did in this case.

What happens when the shoe is on the other foot? What happens when the rights that the Professor fights for, for women, for African-Americans, for sex workers, get trampled on or silenced?

Anonymous said...

One objective line: UCSB has clear regulations about exhibiting posters on Campus. Outside groups may not do so. UCSB affiliated groups may do so. A real rookie error on the part of these protestors.

TB said...

And Miller-Young's actions were the proper way of enforcing these regulations? Puh-leese...
Also, it does not seem to me that this debate is revolving about what campus rules the girls may or may not have broken.
Once again, I have little sympathy for the protesters' point of view, and if there is a proper route for moving the abortion debate out of the lunch area -- one should probably go ahead and take it. By the way, just like the second poster on this thread, I am not too troubled by Miller-Young's actions - people do get carried away. It's the subsequent attempt to defend her actions by vilifying her opponents that troubles me.
P.S. Here is a very good follow up to the post I have linked to earlier:

Anonymous said...

Not sure how many times this has to be said...

University regulations have no bearing on people not employed or enrolled at the University. Within the walls of the University you can be asked to leave and/or charged with trespassing but the open areas of public universities are open to protesters and public.

University regulations also are not law and many regulations are in fact, unconstitutional. The idea of "free speech zones" is an unconstitutional one. Every college that has been legally challenged on their "zones" has been defeated or settled out of court.

Also, the First Amendment is pretty broad, for example...

Here's some good info on Colleges and the First Amendment.

Anonymous said...

It is a regular occurrence at UCSB and at the not-too-distant Vandenberg Air Force Base for protestors to gather on the public street at the entrances of those institutions. However, in both cases, the land of those institutions is strictly regulated. It is not public space at all.. in both cases it is owned and operated for specific purposes. There is no requirement that *every* piece of property be available for free expression, but public streets are usually (subject to safety, etc) available.

UCSB has a blanket policy that no external groups may post material on its campus. That is not specific to any political viewpoint; all viewpoints are treated equally… none can post posters on campus. It is not a content-based requirement. Even UCSB affiliated groups must seek approval for what they post. The maintenance staff regularly removes signs and posters that have been placed without authorization.

Pat said...


Thank you very much. For a group that claims to want to protect the weak, they're certainly willing to upset a pregnant lady without any intelligent purpose or point. Certainly without any human compassion or consideration.

Anonymous said...

Hmm… seems to be the case that posters brought to campus by SAH were in violation of Regents Regulation 100014 of...

So the real narrative: University Professor enforces regulations, encounters stubborn resistance from protestors

Shouldn't UC be using its legal defense team to defend Miller-Young's activities in enforcing Regents Regulations? Shouldn't the faculty association weigh in on her side?

Or is the point that faculty have become so marginalized that they cannot enforce campus rules, particularly if they are not big WASPy men?

Laryssa Kathleen said...

I cannot even believe the disgusting comments I am reading, on this blog post and elsewhere. It is repulsive that human beings still believe that fighting fire with fire is the best option. Also, thank you Dr. Newfield for acknowledging what I, and the rest of the LOGICAL THINKERS, were pondering: "Who knows--Thrin Short might even stop ditching high school to protest abortion.". My first major concern is "Anonymous" who was so compelled to call the people on the Left "HIPROCRITS" - need I say more? Resources, people. That Internet you are using to spew your illiterate argument is a handy-dandy resource for acquiring better language skills. Secondly, on what grounds does "Anonymous" feel they are able to solidify such a serious statement: "If the test came back positive, she was probably going to kill the baby - why else would you have the test? She was confronted with the reality of her horrible plan and snapped." NONE. You do not know Professor Miller-Young's intentions, you do not know her past, you do not know her present, and you are most certainly unaware of her future - why? Because she has no intentions of involving you in any of her life decisions, as it should be. Guess what? You have the same freedoms, exercise them as you so desire. One of the most ridiculous arguments that the Short sisters used was Miller-Young's area of focus. I have taken courses with Professor Miller-Young, and I would do it again, and not once did Professor Miller-Young thrust me into an uncomfortable arena in which I would have to view any images, hear any opinions, or engage in any activity that was against any of my beliefs, convictions, or outside of my personalized comfort zone. Professor Miller-Young maintained her classroom as a "safety zone" and I was free to remove myself from any situation that challenged my personal boundaries without repercussions. Side note for you conservatives: no, we did not watch porn in her classroom (as I know you are all thinking at this point). It is also interesting how all of a sudden people are OUTRAGED by pornography - a MULTI-BILLION dollar American industry. Yes, you read correctly. BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Are you really trying to convince me that all you Conservative Pro-Life Christians are not participating in this "lewd" behavior? 83% of Americans identify as "Christians" (in quotations because I am using it as an umbrella term). Am I supposed to believe that the 17% of non-Christians in America are supporting the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR PORN INDUSTRY? I am not a mathematician, but the figures are not adding up. Should I laugh now or later?

Laryssa Kathleen said...

Onto my next area of concern, I am APPALLED that these Pro-Life groups a.) so casually utilize the word HOLOCAUST to describe their movement and b.) still think that they are advocates for life. Unfortunately for many, it is an insult to my intelligence to sit here (on my 300 pound lazy ass - I have been told this before yet the funniest part is that I am an advocate for healthy diets and daily exercise and have a body fat percentage of 18% - do I sound ostentatious enough yet? GOOD. I digress.) and discuss how deliberately insulting, not to mention INACCURATE, it is to even attempt to compare and contrast the ways in which the abortion "epidemic" (for lack of more effective relatable words) and the "systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of" millions of people in Nazi society. These groups should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for even considering to make such an inappropriate comparison and use it on the forefront of their advocacy. It is also incomprehensible to me that these Pro-Life groups use graphic images of aborted fetuses to support their cause rather than the graphic images of HUNGER, SICKNESS, PHYSICAL ABUSE, POVERTY, etc that is rampant in our modern world. You are not Pro-Life because you do not support live or advocate for life, you are Pro-Birth and it would serve you well to reconsider, reorganize, and re-strategize your stand.

Again and again, we return to: "Persons on University property have the right to be protected from becoming part of an audience for an event or activity against their will." and this grotesque display of dismembered fetal parts violated the rights of the students in the Arbor Mall that day. I do not want to be forced to ever see this at school, at the grocery store, at the mall, at the movie theatre, or any place else. It is my right to view these images as I consent to do so. It is so bewildering to me that scientific factions have mastered the art of disclaimers and warning statements but religious sectors have yet to hone this craft.

Laryssa Kathleen said...

Typo in first paragraph posted at 10:39 AM: "...you do not support life*..."

Laryssa Kathleen said...

Also, edit in first paragraph posted at 10:39 AM: "and discuss how deliberately insulting, not to mention INACCURATE, it is to even attempt to compare and contrast the abortion "epidemic" (for lack of more effective relatable words) with the "systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of" millions of people in Nazi society." **

Damn this feed for not letting me edit my posts! At least I recognize that I am a mere human and capable of making mistakes. GASP.

Anonymous said...

its amazing how you people on the right say you value life yet want to take anyway any possible resources to help a needy person raise that child. if you are gonna talk about a moral compass go read on the history of that in africa during colonization and its odern day legacy. @Anonymous

Anonymous said...

SECTION 100000. INTRODUCTION - "These regulations may not be utilized to impinge upon the lawful exercise
of constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech or assembly, or the constitutionally
protected right of personal privacy."

Anonymous said...

I love that people are trying to justify the assault. How far off the reservation have you all gone?

The fact is that unless the professor gets a plea deal she is going to be convicted. If that happens the University will probably be forced to fire her. Actions have consequences.

Anonymous said...

Numerous students and non-students have been convicted for having violated the UC Regents regulations on on-campus expression, for offenses as small as putting up a table for advocacy in the wrong spot on campus. Or displaying a small sign with `F**K on it. Many have spent significant time in jail, 30-120 days, usually at Santa Rita because the most violations have occurred at UC Berkeley. The small F**K sign got 30 days for the guy who displayed it.

There have also been numerous appeals all the way to the US Supreme Court, including the F**K sign displayer. Never overturned any of the actions.

Anonymous said...

Please show sources. I have serious doubts anyone got jail time for displaying something like that. I also have doubts the appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

John Thompson and the `Filthy Seven'. http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt687004sg&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=d0e8112&toc.id=d0e353 .

Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal and he served the time.

Anonymous said...

Different culture now, try arresting students today because of that...FIRE and the ACLU would be all over it. The tide has turned.

Anonymous said...

Please show sources. I have serious doubts as to whether there are court cases that support the assertions you make.

Anonymous said...

That source provides no proof that UC Regents regulations are unconstitutional.

Anonymous said...

*Hypocrites. Next time you try to defend your opinion while bashing someone else's in the process please learn how to spell so people can take you seriously. Thanks. @Anonymous

Unknown said...

Good post. I read somewhere recently that effects of abortion having two or more abortions significantly increases the risk of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies that are intended to be carried through to term - it's tragic that a consequence of "choice" is that it can lead to not a woman being able to have a healthy pregnancy when she wants to have a baby, with all the complications and severe effects a premature birth can bring.

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