Indianapolis University in Libel Suit against one of its own students
27 October 09
Butler University in Indianapolis is currently involved in a libel and defamation suit against one of its own students, one Jess Zimmerman, a college junior. In a controversy that has shown once again the darker side of censorship, Zimmerman's 'TrueBU Blog' is at the centre of it all.
Zimmerman started up a blog about the inner-workings of his university under the ironic name "Soodo Nym". Though the first blog contains numerous statements asserting that the forum should not be used for making ad hominem attacks, the university administration deemed some of the comments about faculty members and decisions of faculty libelous and defamatory and sued "Soodo Nym" in January.
The case recently became public knowledge when Butler University English Professor Bill Watts wrote an article about the issue in the student paper and an email questioning the practice of "suing our own students for their utterances".
The issue has raised numerous questions about the limits to the apparent freedom of the internet, as well as the issue of free speech in general. As a blogger, Zimmerman's criticisms have not been viewed in the same way as the printed news, a point made by one of the university's lawyers, Michael Blickman. Blickman argues that the internet is not rule-free.
The University claims that it didn't know that Zimmerman was a recently dismissed employee's stepson, and hoped that the suit would force the blog's author to come forward. Zimmerman maintains that when he heard of the the suit against "Soodo Nym" he ceased blogging, but only found out that he would be filed with a suit himself in June.
The complaints against the suit have centred in on the fact that a blog does not pretend to be news, or fact, but instead is a recognised vehicle for opinion.