Supporters of Mireille Miller-Young cite the "cultural legacy of slavery" and even the effects of pregnancy to explain why the feminist studies professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara would accost a teenager spreading a pro-life message on campus.
The pregnant 38-year-old who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of theft, vandalism and battery after stealing and destroying an anti-abortion poster and injuring a a16-year-old activist, says she’s sorry for some of her actions and hopes to “makes amends through community service.”
An associate professor whose course work, which includes pornography and sex work, has gained her the nickname the “porn professor,” Ms. Miller-Young was set to appear for sentencing today (August 14) before Judge Brian Hill in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
“If she appears smiling on camera, she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-presentation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.”
- Eileen Boris, Feminist Studies professor
But the hearing got moved to another courtroom before being rescheduled, perhaps Friday.
The News-Press obtained Ms. Miller-Young’s apology letter, which was part of a package of letters of support prepared by defense attorney Catherine Swysen, aimed at getting the lightest possible sentence for her client.
Three months pregnant at the time of the March incident, a portion of which was recorded on a cellphone camera, Ms. Miller-Young states, “I wish to apologize for my actions ... The Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust group had a perfect right to come to UC Santa Barbara to express their views about women’s reproductive rights.”
“As much as the images they displayed were offensive and distressing to my students, and to me, I had no right to take their poster or destroy it,” she writes.
But the letter says nothing about the battery charge, which stemmed from Ms. Miller-Young scratching teenage activist Thrin Short.
Thrin’s 21-year-old sister, Joan Short, who also participated in the demonstration, isn’t buying the apology, telling the News-Press exclusively today, “I guess I would like to see her say to her students, ‘I did a really stupid thing. You shouldn’t follow my example.’ ”
In the video, posted online by Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, Thrin pleads with the associate professor to return the sign, at one point calling her a thief.
“I may be a thief,” a smiling Ms. Miller-Young replies, “but you’re a terrorist.”
She told UCSB Police that she was pregnant at the time and was “triggered” by the graphic images of abortion on the poster.
After initially pleading not guilty, she changed her mind and in July entered pleas of no contest.
Support letters submitted by defense attorney Catherine Swysen and obtained by the News-Press laud the respect and admiration Ms. Miller-Young has among her peers as well as her generosity when it comes to students.
Some of the letters were written on UCSB letterhead, presumably on university equipment and university time. Among them is one from history professor Paul Spikard, who states that his colleague is the object of “an energetic smear campaign that seems to have little to do with her person or her actions, and a great deal to do with fomenting racial hatred and rallying right-wing political sentiment.”
“It would be tragic if Dr. Miller-Young were sentenced to jail time or mandatory anger management classes based on the press’ portrayal of her as an Angry Black Woman.”
He cites no reports or stories to back up the claim.
Another letter of support, also on UCSB letterhead, comes from Eileen Boris, a professor in the Department of Feminist Studies.
Prof. Boris seeks clemency for her colleague, stating, “she was at the stage of a pregnancy when one is not fully one’s self fully, so the image of a severed fetus appeared threatening.”
“If she appears smiling on camera,” Prof. Boris continues, “she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-presentation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.”
Pat Hardy, a member of Santa Barbara Friends Meeting (the Quakers) and president of a group called Alternatives to Violence Project California, urges Judge Hill to consider AVP’s conflict resolution workshops as part of Ms. Miller-Young’s punishment.
“These workshops are offered both in the community as well as 19 prisons throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.”
Ms. Hardy says workshops in Santa Barbara are being offered “to gang members and at-risk youth as well as a widely diverse group of adults.”
“I urge you to look beyond the recent act,” she writes to Judge Hill, “to explore the opportunity for (Ms. Miller-Young) to make a change by exploring the world of non-violence within this setting.”
Joan Short said any punishment that doesn’t include some sort of broader apology to students, not just for stealing the poster but also for the physical nature of the confrontation, does not go far enough.
“Before, some of the things she was saying was, ‘I had a right to do this. I set a good example for my students. I was showing them how to protect themselves,’ ” Joan said.
“I think she should publicly say to her students, ‘I acted completely inappropriately.’ ”