Published March 22, 2014
A feminist studies professor at a California state university is facing criminal charges after a videotaped run-in with a teenage pro-life demonstrator in which she snatched an anti-abortion sign and appeared to get physical with the girl.
University of California at Santa Barbara Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young was charged with one misdemeanor count each of theft, battery and vandalism in the March 4 incident, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Friday. The charges came days after 16-year-old Thrin Short and her parents met with prosecutors.
Thrin told authorities what she told FoxNews.com earlier this month: She, her older sister Joan, 21, and some other pro-life activists were holding signs and demonstrating in a free speech zone on the bucolic campus March 4 when Miller-Young, who also teaches courses on pornography, went berserk.
The sisters say they distributed nearly 1,000 informational pamphlets during the event, which was organized by the Riverside-based nonprofit Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust. Things took an unexpected turn when, according to Short, Miller-Young approached the demonstrators and a group of students who had gathered.
“Before she grabbed the sign, she was mocking me and talking over me in front of the students, saying that she was twice as old as me and had three degrees, so they should listen to her and not me,” Thrin Short wrote in an email to FoxNews.com. “Then she started the chant with the students about ‘tear down the sign.’ When that died out, she grabbed the sign.”
With a graphic anti-abortion sign in hand, Miller-Young, whose faculty web page says she specializes in black cultural studies and pornography, then allegedly walked through two campus buildings as Short, her sister and two UCSB students followed closely behind. Short captured much of the incident, which she charged was a "deliberate" provocation by Miller-Young, on a cellphone video later posted to YouTube while her sister called campus police. Miller-Young pushed Short at least three times, the student alleges, as she tried to stop an elevator door from closing as the educator stood inside with her sign, Short said.
“I explained how I had been trying to keep the elevator door open with my foot, because I thought the police would be there any second, and that’s when she pushed and grabbed me,” Short’s email continued. “She then got off the elevator and tried to pull me away from the elevator doors so the others could get away with the sign.”
Short said she suffered minor injuries during the melee — scratches on both wrists — and said campus police are now reviewing the video.
Miller-Young did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. In the report filed by campus police, she claimed she had a "moral right" to act in the manner she did.
Thrin's father, William Short, said he would have expected an academic to engage in thoughtful debate with someone she disagreed with.
"She was free to engage in a rational dialogue with them," Short said after learning the professor had been charged. "Instead, she chose to bully them, steal and destroy their property, and hit and scratch my daughter. After doing so, she said she thought she was setting a good example for her students.
"I think the goal of this prosecution should be to set a good example for her students, one that will not only deter her from repeating this conduct, but will also deter those who approve of her actions from imitating her appalling behavior," he added.
It was unclear if Miller-Young faces any punishment from the school.
“The university is aware of the incident and it is being reviewed by the appropriate offices,” UCSB spokesman George Foulsham wrote to FoxNews.com earlier this month. “It is university policy not to discuss personnel matters.”
FoxNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.