Friday, June 20, 2014

Free Speech Zone

“The earth is warm next to my ear
Insect noise is all that I hear
A magic trick makes the world disappear
The skies are dark they’re dark but they’re clear.”
    “The Finish Line,” Snow Patrol
The Scottish band Snow Patrol formed in 1994 during the heyday of alternative rock.  “The Finish Line” is on their 2006 album “Eyes Open.” whose most famous cut is “Chasing Cars.”  I have “Eyes Open” on heavy rotation along with Robert Blaszkiewicz’s top songs of 2013 and CDs by Collective Soul, Sugar, Smithereens (coming to Valpo in November).
 above, IUN grads; below, exterior of Gary Genesis Center
Prior to IUN’s commencement exercises at Gary Genesis Center, three sources have confirmed, administrators got wind that members of the LGBT group Connectionz were planning to protest English professor Anne Balay, their adviser and an open lesbian, being denied tenure.  The administrators consulted with IUN’s police chief, who warned the students that a demonstration would only be tolerated if it took place in a designated Free Speech Zone. The area IUN authorities had in mind was outside the Genesis Center, out of sight or earshot from those inside participating in graduation.  WTF?  The students declined to accept those Orwellian conditions.  The very concept of Free Speech Zones seems an abridgement of First Amendment rights.  The Supreme Court has ruled them to be constitutional only in cases where they were necessary to protect the safety of those attending public gatherings or the protestors themselves.  Obviously, neither case applied to what Connectionz members had in mind.

Five days ago I sent the following email to IU president Michael McRobbie.  So far, I have not received a reply:
President McRobbie                                                  

It has come to my attention that members of the IU Northwest LGBT student group Connectionz petitioned to demonstrate at graduation in protest the termination of their faculty adviser, English professor Anne Balay.  After meeting with campus officials, they decided the least disruptive procedure would be for graduating senior Amanda Board to present you with my Steel Shavings magazine.  It has Balay’s nationally acclaimed book “Steel Closets” on the cover and discusses her being unfairly denied tenure because she is an open, outspoken lesbian.  Prior to the ceremony, I’m told, IU Northwest’s Alumni Relations director snatched it from her and, citing an unspecified rule, refused to allow her to give it to you.  As a result, I will be mailing you a copy.

For the past year, when I have railed against the unjust treatment of Balay, who received neither mentoring not adequate warning about alleged teaching deficiencies, administrators I trusted advised letting the process play itself out.  An obvious compromise, given the English Department chair’s intransigence, would have been to transfer Balay to Women and Gender Studies for a probationary period and have IUN Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Cynthia O’Dell and CISTL director Chris Young mentor her.  Maybe this is still possible.  IU Northwest’s Faculty Board of Review recommended that she be awarded an extra year severance pay; this has not happened.  One solution, even at this late date, might be to pay her what the Faculty Board of Review recommended in return for her studying ways to coordinate Women’s and Gender Studies programs at all IU campuses.  That way she’d be earning her pay and be available to lecture at various campuses about gay and lesbian steelworkers. Otherwise, tragically (and embarrassingly, for IU) instead of celebrating the publication of “Steel Closets,” we are allowing Anne’s detractors to rid the university of a valuable faculty, who has won teaching and service awards in addition to her sterling publication record. 

You don’t need to answer this letter, but could your secretary please acknowledge that you received Steel Shavings when it arrives?  A campus insider predicted that it would never reach your desk, and Connectionz members share that skepticism.  I believe it would be extremely negligent for an underling not to pass it on for your examination in the event you are asked about it by the press, interested faculty, legislators, IU Board of Trustees members or alumni. 

Sincerely, Jim Lane  (

At Miller Bakery Café with Balay, who was wearing a Gary t-shirt, I waved to George Roggie, who came to our table and greeted us warmly.  He and Anne had been at Flamingo’s Sunday watching the American team’s World Cub victory.  I told him I was also rooting for Brazil, and it turned out he was as well, and that we both had Brazil t-shirts emanating from visits there.  I wore mine, purchased 12 years ago in Rio, for Brazil’s match with Mexico, which, though tremendously exciting, ended in a 0-0 tie.  Goalie Guillermo Ochoa made several unbelievable saves, including one on Brazilian star Neymar.

Back in the Reagan Eighties, Anne’s father was head of reference at Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library when clerical and technical workers went on strike.  Coming from a union family background, he disobeyed orders not to rehire those participants and was fired.  “On Strike for Respect” (!988) by Toni Gilpin, Gary Isaac, Dan Detwin, and Jack McKivigan provides details of the 1984-1985 work stoppage.
On Chicago NPR station WBEZ to discuss“Steel Closets,” Balay mentioned being denied tenure and that the four open LGBT faculty who went through the process before her suffered the same fate – fair warning to those entering academia, at least in Indiana, which has no comprehensive law prohibiting employment discrimination.   Nine years ago, Governor Mitch Daniels issued an executive order protecting state employees from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  As Anne has discovered, however, Indiana’s Civil Rights Commission and the Indianapolis District Office of the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have very little enforcement power.

Johnny Carson’s former attorney, Henry Bushkin, has penned an unflattering portrait of the legendary late-night host.  Bushkin’s first assignment was to help dig up dirt on Johnny’s second wife, who was having an affair with former football star Frank Gifford.  Carson could deliver comedic lines with perfect timing and engage in clever banter with celebrity guests, but there was a dark side to his personality.  He was a womanizer, frequently drunk, a heavy smoker, had few friends, and blamed his lack of feelings on a domineering mother.  He evidently had good reason.  After Carson paid for his parents to go on a 47-day trip with first-class accommodations and a credit card for anything they desired, they didn’t bother to notify him when they returned. When Carson called his mother, all she said was how glad she was to be home.
Miranda called on her way to a birthday celebration for boyfriend Derek.  At first I thought she had posted a selfie of the two of them, but on closer examination someone else must have taken the photo.

Singing the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field accompanied by “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks was Rage Against the Machine frontman Tom Morello, who has been touring as part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  Morello grew up in the Chicago suburb of Libertyville.  His mother was an American History teacher and his father, Ngethe Njoroge, Kenya’s first U.N ambassador.  Njoroge, the nephew of Jomo Kenyatta, participated in the Mau Mau Uprising that led to Kenyan independence.

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