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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CMU Vs. Dennis Lennox: The Nightmare of Sociopathy Meeting Power

When I was a freshman in the dorms at the University of Illinois our room was full of hooliganism. For instance, the mother of one of my suite mates had packed him some pop corn. This was no ordinary pop corn though because it had to be made on the stove rather than in a microwave. We didn't make it very well and instead caused a cloud of smoke that eventually spread outside our room and set off the fire alarm for the entire dormitory. The entire dormitory had to evacuate at 1:30 AM as a result of our hooliganism. That was only the beginning of our trouble making. We were once directed to the head of the dormitory. It turned out we were so noisy that our suite had received more noise complaints than most floors. Our hooliganism didn't end there. The worst came at the end of the year when we decided, motivated by a drunk rage, to break each of the doors within the suite. We smashed them up so badly that we handed the R.A. the door handle, by itself. (The rest of the door had been smashed into little pieces)

I tell this story not for any nostalgia of my college years or to compare my hooliganism to others. I tell it so that everyone sees some context for what I am about to say. Last night, I chatted with Dennis Lennox of Central Michigan University. CMU has moved forward with formal expulsion proceedings against Lennox. The charges stem from this incident with English professor, Peter Koper. Lennox was passing out literature inside one of the CMU buildings on the evening of October 23rd. Passing out literature within university building is technically a violation of the student code of conduct. As such Professor Koper began picking up his literature for destruction. He then approached Lennox and demanded that he identify him. Lennox tells me that late at night he felt threatened and believed that identifying himself could endanger him. As such, he refused. This is another technical violation of the student code of conduct because at CMU, if an administrator asks for your identification, the student must comply. (There is a relatively important aside to this. Lennox mostly put his literature next to the student newspaper and the professor only collected Lennox' literature even though both were technically in violation)

For this, Lennox wasn't merely verbally reprimanded. He wasn't merely scolded and lectured. Not at all. For this, CMU has followed through on the threat of formal charges, and he has an expulsion hearing next week. Now, keep in mind that each of the things I did in the dorms were also in violation of the University of Illinois student code of conduct. Our suite could also have technically faced expulsion proceedings. Of course, we posed no threat to the administration and the administration felt no need to exercise its power to eliminate us.

Where Dennis Lennox is different from our suite, is that he has become a threat to his administration. He has been painstakingly tracking the fiasco surrounding Gary Peters, who is simultaneously teaching in a classroom and running for Congress in a district hundreds of miles away from campus. This particular incident happened only eight days after this highly publicized confrontation with Dean Pamela Gates. While that may very well be a coincidence, the cynic in me believes different.

To put this fiasco into context, I will now show everyone CMU's student code of conduct policy on alcohol ...

A student shall not possess, use, manufacture, produce, or distribute, or aid in the use, manufacture, production, or distribution of, any controlled substance except as expressly permitted by law and university policy. Violation of the Residence Life Alcohol and Controlled Substances Policy is a violation of this section. Controlled substances are defined in the Controlled Substances Act of 1971, as amended.3.2.13 Violation of Alcohol Policy. A student shall not possess, consume or furnish, or aid in the consumption or furnishing of, alcoholic beverages except as permitted by law and University policy. Violation of the Residence Life Alcohol & Controlled Substances Policy is a violation of this section.

According to their policy, under age drinking is a violation. I bring this up for two reasons. If CMU is like any campus in America, then 90% of their freshman and sophomores are in technical and constant violation of this policy. I have been made aware of NO students that are being cited for violating this policy. While Dennis Lennox is facing expulsion for putting literature in a building and not telling a stranger his name, the freshman and sophomores on his campus are likely systematically violating the alcohol policy with impugnity. The fourteenth amendment is meant to treat everyone the same under the law. Does it sound as though Lennox is treated the way all other students are treated?

If the University's sociopathic abuse of power ended there, it would already be obscene, but it gets worse. It is both ironic and despicable that in their zeal to hold Lennox accountable to technical policies against passing out literature and not identifying himself properly, the University itself broke many of its own policies as well as general protocal of investigation.

First, Professor Koper didn't know Lennox by name. He sent an email to several folks including the aforementioned Dean of Students Pamela Gates and the President Michael Rao. His colleague, Professor Voison responded by sending him a picture of Dennis Lennox from a recent newspaper article. Now, I watch a lot of cop shows and I know that a line up of one is what one would corrupt. Furthermore, why is the President of the University carbon copied on this complaint? Does the President really need to get involved in an incident where a student is passing out literature and not identifying themselves.

Finally, there is the matter of the ombudsman, Susan Radamacher. The ombudsman is supposed to represent the student in complaints against the administration, and here is their code...

The Student Ombuds Office is part of the President's Office and a place for student voices to be heard. You can expect:* Accessibility* Confidentiality* Impartiality

That code was broken in the case of Dennis Lennox. According to an email that was released to Lennox Radamacher shared the contents of their conversation that he had with her. (Lennox had inquired a couple weeks prior about potentially moving forward with action against the administration)

Finally, there is the peculiar nature of the timing of all of this. This incident happened in October. It is now nearly three months later and finally they have filed formal charges. Lennox tells me that the media pressure in October and November was much more significant that it is now. Certainly, this may just be the nature of the circumstances, however my cynical voice is screaming.

Since I am a blogger and not a traditional reporter, I don't have to hold myself to the standards of a traditional newsreporter. At this point I will drop the facade of straight news reporting and editorialize. I know exactly what is going on and that is because this fiasco is quite similar to the fiasco at Emory University. In both cases, the administrations identified a threat. In both cases, the administration used incendiary language to try and marginalize that threat. (Lennox was compared to the V. Tech shooter while Kuritzky was referred to as a sociopath) In both cases, the administrations used their student codes of conduct liberally to eliminate that threat. In both cases, fairness and due process weren't a priority. What was a priority was the elimination of the threat and each administration used whatever means they had at their disposal to eliminate each threat.

That's why a student at Central Michigan University is being threatened with expulsion because he passed out literature and he didn't identify himself to a stranger. It isn't that this student is bad or that he has egregiously violated a policy and must be dealt with properly. The student presents a threat to a corrupt administration and now he needs to be eliminated. Emory University expelled Kevin Kuritzky because he was twenty minutes late to a class a year earlier. CMU is trying to expel Dennis Lennox because he passed out fliers where he wasn't supposed to and he didn't identify himself to a stranger. This is the textbook definition of trumped up charges, and it is text book behavior for a sociopath.

There will be those that will try to draw larger inferences and attempt to place this story into a larger context. I believe there is a proper time and place for that, however this is not the time. Right now, this is about one student, Dennis Lennox, who deserves the same rights and freedoms that everyone else enjoys. He deserves for good folks everywhere to stand up for him as bravely as he stood up to the corrupt administration of CMU. I firmly believe that the timing of this event (his expulsion hearing is January 29) is done because the administration believes the heat has finally toned down. Everyone reading this can prove them wrong by emailing and calling the administrators and demanding that Dennis Lennox be left to continue to pursue his studies, and that he finally be treated with the same consideration that each of their other students are treated with. Here is the pertinent contact information...

CMU President Michael Rao, mailto:president@cmich.eduand (989) 774-3131* Assistant Dean of Students Anthony Voisin anthony.a.voisin@cmich.edu and (989) 774-3016 * Board of Trustees Chairman Jeffrey Caponigro (R), capon1jr@cmich.edu and (248) 355-3200* Board of Trustees member Stephanie Comai (R), comai1s@cmich.edu and (734) 761-6915* Board of Trustees member John Kulhavi (R), kulha1jg@cmich.edu and (248) 737-6222* Board of Trustees member Gail Torreano (R), torre1gf@cmich.edu and (313) 223-7171

8 comments:

Anonymous said...
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mike volpe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Wohlford said...

Sigh... couldn't we have a beloved, well-adjusted Gandhi type to carry the flag on this issue?

I've talked with recent CMU grads, including one who was an anti-administration activist while on campus. The unanimous verdict is that the CMU administration needs to be changed and held accountable for any number of abuses. Equally unanimous, for those who know him, is that Mr. Lennox isn't the kind of guy you'd want to hire, or perhaps have as a neighbor.

mike volpe said...

Tim, your comment is not only incendiary but irrelevant. If you don't like Lennox' methods, that is your right. If you want to criticize them, you can here even if you like, however, whether you approve of his methods or not, he has the same rights that everyone else has. Just because he approaches the matter in a manner that you wouldn't doesn't mean the admin should target him and intimidate him and ultimately try and expel him.

He was critical in exposing this affair. He has painstakingly followed it and even created a web site to track it. Without him, Gary Peters would be teaching with no one being the wiser.

What exactly is your contribution? Apparently, it is to come on my blog and criticize him. What is the contribution of unknown unverified alumni. Apparently it is to criticize everyone. If these supposed alumni are so concerned, why aren't they out front in exposing this and not leaving it to a junior at the school.

It is pretty ironic that you can criticize Lennox without contributing yourself one iota. Anyone can stand back out of the fray and point out the faults of those that put their necks on the line. That is very easy to do. It is easy to be condescending towards the methods of another if you yourself have no methods.

The bottom line is that Lennox stuck his neck way out and now he is being threatened. The school is trumping up charges to try and expel him because he is a threat to them. You don't much care about that, all you care about is that his methods aren't the kind you like.

Great, you get out there and you expose this thing in the manner that you think is appropriate. If you aren't willing to do that, then you have no credibility in criticizing him.

Mitch said...

The bottom line is that Lennox knew the rules, broke them, and should be punished.

He's threatened to call the police on protesters of a YAF event before citing the exact article of the student code that he got burned on.

Anonymous said...

The complaint by the English professor is substantially different in terms of the facts of the incident from the blog. So I take it you're accusing him of being a liar? Also, why was this young man "threatened" by some old geezer? is he a big weeny? or was he simply threatened because he was violating university, was rude to a faculty member, and got caught?

Anonymous said...

I would first like to state that I agree, CMU needs changes, but so does every institution within our fine country.

You mention the university's substance policy and compare it to Lennox's interaction with a professor and the potential punishment for each situation. Having spend a couple of years in the residence halls, I can tell you it's difficult to catch students in the act, but the ONLY time they can be punished for underage consumption by university officials is if they are caught drinking in their dorm rooms. I can give you plenty of examples of students being punished and even kicked out of residence halls for infractions like this, only testifying to the fact that CMU does not take that policy lightly.

You used this blog to carry out your right to free speech by stating why you feel Lennox is right and the administration is a corrupt institution, then you degrade people who choose to respond in a negative way to your thoughts? Does this mean you have a right to voice your opinion but others don't?

Dennis Lennox is well known around Mount Pleasant and the political scene as a young man who chooses to go above and beyond what is necessary and, yes, sometimes even ethical, to get the reaction that he wants. The particular situation when Lennox was "assaulted" by an administrator came about as a result of his refusal to stop videotaping her when she requested he do so. He had absolutely zero respect for her as his superior.

I admittedly have had limited interaction with him, but my experience is that he acts in whatever way he feels with have the most shock value and controversy. Also, the only opinion he listens to is his own, and the opinions of people who agree with him.

Then again, this is only my personal experience.

Anonymous said...

Dennis Lennox is a joke, just like the way in which he treated his education and decisions. He has no future in the political arena. He had his 15 minutes of fame and thankfully it's over.