“We write, we paint, throughout our entire lives as if we were going to a foreign country, as if we were foreigners inside our own families.” —Hélène Cixous
What if, back in 2007, when I requested a change of the name in my degree challenging the masculine bias of language in higher education, the administrative clerks fronting the office of the daughter of a former Nazi had performed their administrative jobs, and, rather than administratively declining my petition without reading or understanding its critical language, had instead arranged for my scholarly academic petition to receive scholarly academic review? Would the campus have been encouraged to better educate conflict resolution, or difference, at the core root of our separation, one from any other, seven years in advance of another of its graduate students tragically stomping his foot and insisting on the rightness of his perspective in his conflicts with his mother and male authority figures?
Well, you can “what if” your life away. Here is what happened next:
To establish safety with your 2015 alleged mass shooter, I responded that he could be whomever he wanted to be with me, and from that conversation onward, that patient remained Jason in my journal notes.
Have IDHW staff in Blackfoot failed to come forward, confessing their contribution to the crimes you investigated? Or were Idaho’s mental health professionals just not watching the news again, again failing to pay attention to the larger world outside that white noise fuzzing between their personal ears? Why does your alleged shooter appear to have no record of their brand of mental health treatment? Do you have access to the state’s mental health patient records? Maybe check for a Jason Hamilton instead of a John Lee or a Kane Grziebielski registered at State Hospital South in June 2014, as distinct from the Jason Hamilton who successfully completed suicide in Moscow in 2007?
Or run a search for all Asian male patients with first name Jason, John, Kane, or Cain so you might learn which psychotic side effect-inducing meds, specifically, resulted in the deaths of Dave Trail, Belinda Niebuhr, and Terri Grziebielski and critically wounded Mike Chin? What brands? In what dosages? How frequently? Longevity? Who are their manufacturers? Which pharmaceutical CEOs, sales reps, and shareholders profited from your community’s distress? Do their records need to be brought current? Maybe search not just digital records, but also handwritten notes from analogue clipboards, as IDHW seems to be taking its sweet time updating its data collection from 20th to 21st century media. Or maybe that employer is just having difficulty attracting job candidates with qwerty, 10-key, or critical thinking skills because its hiring managers feel intimidated by folks better educated and skilled than themselves-?
If IDHW employees at first deny their relationship with John Lee aka Kane Grziebielski aka “Jason” and again attempt to dismiss my memory as “delusion,” maybe smile and nod, a phrase I used to tease responses from my more lethargic students who came to class ill-prepared to ask questions if I said anything they did not understand, and remember that Idaho’s mental juridical health professionals have by now a well-established history of denying the reality of child abuse, elder abuse, trafficking, rape, and homicide without investigation of fact, evidence of which you can plainly see in my writing, with links that I’ve provided to publicly accessible record verifying my memory. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve also included digital reproductions of pretty pictures, produced in Palouse and Moscow, criss-crossing that border between Washington and Idaho, exhibited in Moscow, Lewiston, and Denver, and which Governor Otter added to his state’s art collection in Caldwell without offering professional wages as compensation for my expert knowledge.
Maybe next get a court order to closely investigate all of IDHW’s records some time prior to your next inevitable mass shooting unless the state significantly redesigns its system of education, and, when that fails, legislated solution for trauma recovery for Idaho’s “exceptional” children?
I hope you will not mishear that last sentence as a threat. My intention is not to personally threaten violent behavior, rather, to draw your urgent attention to the systemic coincident and cause-and-effect relationships between psychopharmacology and the repeating pattern of homicides in Moscow where the administrators and faculty at your local institution of higher learning from 2005–08 failed to listen to my suggestions for finding help for their enraged male students by redesigning their curricula and better educating conflict resolution across gendered violence before the next mass shooting, and IDHW employees openly boast of their efforts contributing to egregious multigenerational social harm, noting once again the prescience of my writing. Instead of exhibiting that writing in Chicago after I shoved two copies of my MFA thesis in your dusty library in Moscow in 2008, this time my writing is displayed for a global audience since 2014 not quite two months prior to your mass shootings in 2015:
In reviewing my own release notes from State Hospital South, I notice a multitude of factual errors, so your investigation should be wary of discrepancies between hospital data and reality:
First, of course, narrating my real biography, reporting crimes, professional writing skills, and generating new ideas are not symptomatic of “bipolar disorder” or any other traumatic symptoms currently labeled as “mental illness” by the DSM, with those definitions abused by your state’s trauma-uneducated so-called “mental health professionals.” While my state-assigned psychiatrist incorrectly notes that I called police – challenging to do without access to telephone – he was at least listening well enough to correctly note my real relationships to my genetic family, unlike IDHW’s Designated Examiners or the psychiatrist subcontracted through CEO Alan Miller, and does briefly acknowledge labor trafficking as “being mistreated by her sister and brother-in-law, with whom she was currently living,” yet, as far as I know, he made no attempt to refer their criminal behavior or systemic failures within Idaho’s mental juridical health services to a higher investigative authority. As if police personnel or mental health professionals are not themselves human beings capable of human error or behaviors defined within the categories of the DSM-?
Got news for that shrink: of the folks in King County’s 10,000+ homeless population, former mental health professionals number among those who appear to be the least psychologically equipped with the social tools needed for brute survival. Would it surprise you to learn that I’ve also met former mortgage bankers, both in psychiatric lockup and Seattle’s ever-burgeoning homeless community, who seem to struggle as much with simple arithmetic as a retired math teacher and former director on Seattle School Board-? Lawyers too.
Second, my release notes indicate a number of medications that, to my knowledge, I was not prescribed, did not receive, and would not have taken unless forced, much as the mental health professionals force their psychopharmacology on clients suffering from trauma, not out of “paranoid fear” as one mental health professional accused me for questioning the irrationality of prescribing psychopharmacology as a solution for poverty or familial abuse, but simply because I lead a healthier, more holistic lifestyle than folks who regularly look to pills to solve minor complaints, yet billed to the hospital by its pharmacy, hiking pharmaceutical profit still further: acetaminophen as needed for headache/minor pain, some concoction abbreviated as ALOH/MGOH/SIMTH liquid for gastric distress/indigestion, and milk of magnesia for constipation. It could be my memory is failing as a side effect of those psychotropic meds I was prescribed and forced to take under threat of needle dispensing and losing even my limited access to “privileges” like sunshine and fresh air. Or maybe the hospital pro forma prescribes additional meds hoping to hide from its patients some of the adverse side effects of its psychopharmacology or unhealthy diet?
Third, Earl Hensley, Certified Recreational Therapist, is nowhere near physically fit himself, thus not qualified to pronounce judgment on my physical fitness, yet nevertheless signed off my release notes, which include, “She considers her art and designing work, reading and writing as her carrier [sic] and only hobby she indicated was baking bread.” Perhaps Mr. Hensley intended to type “career”-? I’m certainly not reading case law for “shits and giggles,” if I may quote my prosecutor ex-husband, nor writing my expert testimony aiding your triple homicide investigation for fun and candy. Art-making provides successful recovery from trauma where the state hospital method resulted in your mass shootings in Moscow, so maybe a healthy career for me to continue to pursue, despite hiring evidence indicating our cultural abyss in assigning capitalist value to visual literacy? Our entire culture is designed, though that educated knowledge may come as a surprise to Mr. Hensley. Furthermore, this purported member of my “treatment team” never met with me individually beyond his sexually inappropriate reference to “cheap date” after I requested plain water instead of the carbonated sugar variety at the end of one of his group beeline walks to the canteen subverting lengthier strolls around the grounds, access to sunshine, fresh air, and his patients’ physical and psychological well-being; throughout my two-week incarceration never produced a yoga mat for me despite my multiple requests to staff for me to be able to more safely maintain my own physical fitness rather than spread a slippery blanket on the floor of my hard-tiled cell; never provided an opportunity for me to question the irrationality of the state depriving me of the ability to care for my cat by locking me in a room to watch his amateur video production preceded by their Certified Recreational Therapist lecturing at his patients the human psychotherapeutic benefits of caring for pets; yet nevertheless by his digital signature falsely claims, “Discussed with Ms. Brubaker leisure interests and how to access them in the community”-?
Three examples form strong rhetorical practice, but in my case there are at least four errors on the hospital’s release notes: state hospital employees decided of their own volition to designate my race as “White” much as IDHW Designated Examiners, your Meridian peers, the Ada County Prosecutor, and CEO Alan Miller’s employees, amongst themselves, invented a fictional biography for me. While I was reared white, to be sure, by my sexist, racist family so racist they are too racist for the racist pundits on Fox News, anxious to bury their more colorful inheritance beneath our Anglo-Germanic forefathers, and my skin would have paled considerably after two weeks in lockup deprived of the nurturing rays of the sun, I choose to embrace rather than deny the contributions of my Native foremothers and my Mexican-born grandmother. Released back into the free world where I again get to choose how best to treat psoriasis and enjoy religious freedoms and fled post-carceral trafficking abuses in Idaho, back in Seattle by summer’s end in 2015 men with African ancestry, features, and skin blacker than mine puzzled over my ethnic identity, asking, “Are you black?” And a woman friend who passes black all year ’round with African features and lengthy dreadlocks placed her forearm alongside mine as she declared, “You’re darker than I am.” Had IDHW employees not seemed hell-bent on erasing my identity as if they wanted to squeeze a mythical creature out of Big Pharma’s destructive pipette tips, and simply asked me who I am, and then – here’s the key to healthy communication – listened to my answers instead of privileging the responses of my abusive family, nowadays I usually choose to fill in the race-box question as “multiracial” if the graphic design of the bureaucratic form permits that option, or Native, Latina, and White if not. First the United States government invents separation and fear where there was only welcome, lessons in how to plant seeds and hunt bison, along with celebrations of thanks-giving, and now they have devised medicines to once again force their ahistorical narrative upon the indigenous population-?
Maybe IDHW records define John/Kane/Jason as white too, much as his adoptive parents saddled the Asian infant with the Gaelic name for warrior?
Maybe run a search for all male patients with first name Jason, John, Kane, or Cain?
Maybe in Idaho everybody must meet a white, male, property-owning, fundamentalist Christian standard? Has the Aryan Nation taken hold of the state’s records, nay, the entire continent? Do you embrace the values of your alter ego, or have you spent much of your adult years fighting like heck to rid yourself of that coincidental identity?
I do remember discussing with John/Kane/Jason his expertise in computer science, where I could find some commonality, having taught students majoring in what Idaho’s sporadic College of Art and Architecture refers to as Virtual Technology Design, and continually add to the coding skills I first learned in the mid-1990s while supporting the research scientists at my undergraduate alma mater; there I used to regularly confuse the Information Technology support staff in the Department of Human Genetics – at one of the four institutions nationwide that participated in the original ARPANET Department of Defense-funded precursor to the internet – how to log onto my PC and Macintosh machines wired to one monitor for office space considerations, designed databases to better track lab supplies and capital equipment purchases, and developed websites for the department, graduate-level courses, and a nationally attended research conference, pace the Ada County Prosecutor’s wide-eyed, ingenuous insistence in Kangaroo Court in 2014 that I have no knowledge of basic research.
Little did that prosecutor realize that even his ill-informed monologue on the court record only added to my deep design “basic” research increasing my postgraduate expertise in the field of trauma.
According to my written records, along with me, ten other patients, and two interns from Brigham Young University at Idaho, on Monday, 09 June 2014, “Jason” attended Mr. Hensley’s Recreational Therapy Group session, where we passively consumed an amateur video production – or what in art theory we describe as a visual simulacrum – of a man feeding wild elk by hand, preceded by his lecture to paradoxically never never never feed wild animals and waxing if not poetic then at least sentimental on the therapeutic benefits of feeding a pet he described as Sammy the Lambie dyed bright blue while the state even more contradictorily deprived me of my Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms without access to competent counsel or fair trial and thus the possibility of feeding my actual, live feral cat, after an entire weekend of no planned psychotherapeutic activities at State Hospital South. Mr. Hensley’s amateur video selection competed for mental health patients’ drugged and thus wavering attention with professional Hollywood visual productions emphasizing stereotypical aggressive masculinity and stereotypical passive feminine roles blaring almost nonstop for those preceding 48 hours from the television in the dayroom. After listening to Mr. Hensley’s laborious introductory speech, I walked out before the elk-feeding video wound to its conclusion.
On 10 June 2014, I reported to hospital staff Jason’s unprovoked threat to knock my glasses off my face. It is unlikely staff even documented his threat, as their responses to patient-on-patient abuse seemed every bit as lackadaisical as the staff at Intermountain Hospital or my department faculty and administration at the University of Idaho or my Washington social services provider/landlord. Staff certainly made no attempt to resolve the conflict; further, in my observations of their behavior, with me, with other patients, or amongst themselves, very few staff members possess conflict resolution knowledge or healthy communication skills. Coincidentally significant in their coverage of Lee’s preliminary hearing, the Lewiston Tribune describes the crime scene at the Grziebielski residence: “Victim’s body was photographed, along with other pieces of evidence, such as live rounds of ammunition, her glasses and an overturned chair.” [emph. added] In psychoanalytic terms, Jason’s behavior toward me is described as transference, projecting his difficulties in relation to his mother onto me, a middle-aged woman wearing glasses. In Lacanian analysis, the glasses might signify that his mother refused to see the source of Lee’s distress. So he turned up the volume.
Listen to one of my favorite book jacket designers describing a similar synesthetic shift in literary terms:
“Much of what we experience when we read is an overlapping of, or replacement by, one kind of sensation over another – a synesthetic event. A sound is seen; a color is heard; a sight is smelled; etc.” —Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read
Are you seeing it now?
Challenging linguistic, semiotic, and psychoanalytic concepts for higher education administrators or mental health professionals who do not read, who refuse to see, who do not listen to their clients, but really quite simple, even poetic, to grasp once you start paying attention, don’t you think?
In a therapeutic setting, I would have asked why he wanted to knock off my glasses, and we may well have spent the remainder of that drawing session – or weekly sessions over many more years – exploring the traumatic experiences that he has suppressed, to help me better see from his perspective, to help me better understand, to help me help John/Kane/Jason accomplish the goal of hearing the Other within the Self, learning that he can choose to m/other himself, that while it is sad that his mother refused to hear his perspective, he doesn’t have to hide that sadness with rage, he can still choose to be whomever he wants to be, growing beyond the child’s need for the mother to hear him, or in other words, recovering from his trauma, building those all-important empathy skills somehow omitted from his childhood, and rematriating his relationship with the world, a neologism I coined in graduate school. If he chose to instead accelerate his threats, I would have drawn an end to the session by explaining that in order for me to be able to help him, Jason would need to refrain from threatening me, but again reassured the traumatized client of my commitment to resuming our sessions the following week if he could promise to return calm enough to work with me further. If his threats still continued, I would cease our sessions and refer him to another therapist and/or report threats to the police, depending on their severity.
Following a similar outburst in a classroom setting at the University of Idaho, I scheduled a one-to-one meeting with an aggressive male student, arranging with tenured supervising design faculty to use her office while she promised to sit outside the open door so she could overhear our conflict resolution conference. She failed to keep that promise, and only bustled in at my request, later claimed to have been unable to overhear the student’s denial after I tried to better understand why he had stomped out of my classroom after snorting his derision for my writing assignment that he crumpled into a ball and threw on the floor of the studio, while two or three of his proximate male peers shrugged their shoulders and appeared as baffled as I was by his inappropriately violent behavior, insisting that if he had stormed out I would know it because I would be on my knees begging him to stop, catered to his refusal of my suggestion to transfer him to another instructor’s classroom, and further demurred referring the student to the Dean of Students by stating that I would need evidence more than my verbal description of the student’s threats of bodily harm, his sketchbook confirming similar threats in writing, his portfolio wrapped in pornographic and gun-toting self-portrait snapshots denigrating women as his sexual slaves, and corroborative testimony from his classmates.
Had that also been her previous personal experience with that particular Dean of Students sweeping Moscow’s masculine rage problem under his office rug, or was that rug-sweeping denial limited to my home department?
Coincidentally that same Dean whose white, female “professional” mediator interrupted me and talked over me, talked down to me at least four times during a meeting in which she was paid a paycheck to mediate a conflict between an abusive white, male cohort with alcohol problems and myself, a “mediation” meeting further disrupted by my white, male then-department chair interrupting the mediator mid-sentence by shoving his chair away from the table, standing, snarling, “I’ve got better things to do,” spat out in a tone of frustration and disgust, and exiting the conference room before we managed to reach resolution, and the temporary “resolution” from that “professional” – or professionally paid – mediator only barred me from speaking my experience to our cohort, or what philosopher Jacques Derrida describes as “depriving the victim of the right to speech.”
Or isolating one victim of Moscow’s masculine rage.
Zero the promised follow-through from the Dean’s office to brainstorm a longer-term or realistic solution, leaving me with no choice other than to drop out of school or move my studio work to my off-campus apartment and endure two-and-one-half more years of my male colleague’s perpetual drunken threats and harassment during shared mandatory classes, departmental meetings, and gallery installations, and whose name, according to multiple, reliable sources, very likely appears many times in your Moscow Police Department records, renowned as he was for starting brawls downtown, getting 86’d from at least one of Moscow’s bars before the completion of even our first semester, and ripping off his shirt and offering to bump naked chests with other men in a somewhat puzzling, contradictory effort to “prove” his heterosexuality, that Dean?
Maybe also verify your records against the records of the police department out in Troy?
Refreshing my memory from my own written records from my graduate career viewed through the lens of older, wiser eyes still more experienced in placing and maintaining boundaries on abusive behavior and resolving conflicts between very challenging individuals, I trace the history of Moscow’s masculine rage problem and the institutionalized failure to resolve it:
Over midterms on or about 16 October 2005, one of my cohort, Douglas Brian Burns, poured a toxic resin product in his studio, a space lacking fume hoods or cross-ventilation through operable windows at the University of Idaho’s Graduate Art Studio, or GAS House, as it is aptly nicknamed. Our individual upstairs studio spaces were more like closets separated by locking doors with ceiling open to rafters, shared air space, and skylights above, which tended to be either stuck to their open tilt position several inches, or stuck closed. A two-story high poke stick could be wrestled between crossbeams to attempt to alter those positions by micrometer degrees, but otherwise the interior studio spaces offered no opening windows. Winters were too cold to work without space heaters. Summers the building heated up like a brick pizza oven, with the air stagnant, dusty, and stale during the best of times.
Retrospectively comparing my journal notes against the calendar for that year and your 10 January 2015 timeline, with another nod to Jung, I now note the coincidence between your mass shooter’s 14 October 20th birthday, and overhearing my graduate male colleagues posturing for the Alpha position amongst themselves in their banter after staff meeting adjourned, jocularly planning a boys’-night-in of drinking and resin pouring in the ill-used third floor storage space above the end studio in the GAS House, as that date in 2005 was a Friday, and our staff meetings were held on Fridays. If I recall correctly, the rafter storage space was accessible via a rickety wooden stair tugged down from a trapdoor between the second floor ceiling and the attic above. The men’s idea of adequate ventilation was immediately ix-nayed by a senior female colleague, a career printmaker well-versed in the appropriate use of toxic chemicals, whose private studio was located directly below.
Coming from supporting a globally renowned graduate program where my higher education staff duties included HAZMAT training and supervision of MSDS documentation for a research sciences laboratory, with professional experience and undergraduate education in the appropriate use of toxic materials common to painting, printmaking, commercial printing, and photographic media, I expected my studio space to be not merely available to me 24/7/365, but for my faculty to expect us graduate students to work around the clock. My expectations seemed to be confirmed by departmental teaching assistantship schedules, campus committee duties, and wider community outreach on top of a full time graduate-level course load, which entailed independent research projects as well as seminar classroom credits complemented by thick readings. The weekend before my first midterm grades were due, however, I learned that my department administrators and faculty would continue to demand full-time work, while failing to provide the resources to meet their expectations, when I entered the GAS House searching for the battery recharger for my laptop so I could complete and upload my students’ grades prior to the institution’s deadline, and nearly did not make it back out again.
As I exited staggering and coughing from the GAS House, I encountered a female member of my cohort returning, who stated to me that she had been working in her studio space adjacent to Burns’ studio, until the fumes from his space became too intense for her to tolerate. Tapping on his studio door, she requested that he stop using the product in the closed, shared-air space. He refused, with male posturing, if she didn’t like him causing her harm, too bad.
She reported to me that she returned to her studio, applied her respirator, and continued working in preparation for our required mid-term show, until the toxic fumes became so intense she could no longer work even while wearing her respirator. I continued across campus to the college art building that contained the department offices, coughing a deep, respiratory cough while struggling to inhale adequate quantities of oxygen even once I returned to a fresh air environment, drank lots of water hoping to soothe my agitated throat, alerted our other colleagues and department faculty to the hazard via shared group email forum named artgrad, and by the time I sent that email and my coughing still had not subsided, followed the suggestion of another female cohort to try the off-campus emergency clinic.
There, the attending physician warned me if we did not find a way to clear my airways, and if I woke in the middle of the night coughing, then, by the time I called 911, help might not be able to arrive until too late.
My journal notes from 18 October 2005, prior to heading into a meeting with my department chair Bill Woolston, where I urged HAZMAT and anger management training for Burns:
I tell myself I am working on feeling compassion for Doug, whose chemical misuse damaged my throat and lungs, making it painful for me to breathe, painful for me to speak. But in truth, am I feeling compassion? Yes and no. I can well imagine the sort of childhood environment producing that level of aggression. I can easily envision the sort of childhood shaping that ego that is a combination of [feelings of] worthlessness covered in seething rage and covered again by a thin veil of Mr. Nice Guy. But on the other hand, I do expect a certain level of adulthood once you do reach adulthood, whenever that is.
My notes of Burns’ behavior:
- lack of remorse
- lack of professionalism
- danger to self and others
Does that sound like criminal behavior to you?
On 23 October 2005, during installation for our campus gallery works-in-progress exhibit, I was slowest of all of our cohort to finish installing my work, left alone in a building otherwise deserted but for an intellectually disabled custodian and Burns on a dark, wooded campus, with the row of fraternity houses still to navigate between campus and my apartment downtown. Before he departed, Burns hefted a hammer in one hand while bodily blocking the doorway to the gallery where I stood on a rickety ladder wrestling with the department’s antiquated track lighting fixtures, asking if I needed in the other gallery tomorrow. A nonsensical question to me, with his voice noticeably slurred. Not until after he wheeled around as if turning heel in disgust rather than answer my question clarifying his intent, and deliberately locked me out of the toolroom where I visibly would need to return the ladder and various tools I’d gathered for installation without his needing to ask, had he been capable of thinking logically, did I realize he might have meant to ask would I need access through the other gallery to the toolroom that night, or should he go ahead and lock up, but that was not how he phrased his question. Of course I had no plans to access the main gallery throughout the next day (?) where his toxic resin paintings hung, not yet cured, still out-gassing. Quite some time after he left and I prepared to leave, I also noted a strong odor of alcohol lingering in the area around the desk in the foyer where the keys were kept. Pausing to chat with the night custodian as he made his rounds with a vacuum cleaner, I ascertained the odor of alcohol was not coming from him.
On or about 24 October 2005, Burns in undergraduate seminar attendance required by our teaching assistantships, referred to the department’s belated HAZMAT training seminar, more mandatory attendance endearing me to our entire cohort, not just those who had missed that training in their undergraduate programs, as the “little safety thingie” in a shrill, mocking tone, while sitting in the row behind me. From my studio later, I overheard Burns’ thumping rap music, interrupted by his voice on his mobile phone, “Well, sorry it had to stink, but it was necessary.”
“Stink”: a half-dozen or so days after the incident life-threatening for me, Burns remained unapologetic and convinced the toxicity was cosmetic, rather than hazardous.
At that meeting, neither the doddering white male sent from the campus OHSA-compliance office nor my department faculty seemed to notice when Burns belatedly distributed the manufacturer’s MSDS sheets, and the copy he flung in my direction sailed off the table and landed for me to collect somewhere on the floor of the conference room. I sat agape while my departmental faculty permitted my male cohort to avoid resolving a life-threatening conflict with nothing more than a passive aggressive nopology, publicly “apologizing” for my “sensitivities” to his abuse of toxic chemicals in an environment inadequately ventilated for them, rather than owning and changing his abusive behavior. Woolston encouraged this blame-the-victim behavior, dictating at me as if I was a slow, stupid child that if I should ever again encounter toxic chemicals in the GAS House I was to call 911. As I attempted to observe that the accumulated dust and stagnant air in the GAS House was always toxic to me in my current injured state, Woolston rapidly talked over me, raised his voice, and reiterated his command.
Keep in mind, at that point following my over-exposure to toxic chemicals, it was still physically difficult for me to speak. My voice was husky from the damage to my throat and bronchia and I could muster barely more than a whisper without setting off another repetitive fit of deep-chested respiratory coughing that might continue through several more hours of body-wracking pain.
While my Department Chair expounded forth, I sat quietly, remembering the seminar I was required to attend to learn how to teach, and the Emeritus Professor of Education who encouraged incoming graduate teaching assistants to be sure to pause in our teaching duties to give extra time for response from Native or other non-white students, and shut my mouth again.
Maybe the tenured, white Art Department faculty missed that pedagogical lesson?
One of those career academics unprepared for solving real-world problems, who hides out in academia without ever learning how to teach?
On or about 25 October 2005, again enduring mandatory seminar attendance with Burns, he responded to another of our cohort, asking on behalf of her undergraduate students where spray booths might be located in the department, with a menacing wise-crack, “They can use my studio.”
Approximately ten days after the incident life-threatening to me, department faculty still had not communicated to their students a solution for the ongoing problem of an appropriate location for using toxic materials.
Throughout that semester, I continued to struggle to merely walk across campus without having to pause for breath. Physically fit, and accustomed to rapidly walking first the distances between work and classes criss-crossing my undergraduate campus bordering the Wasatch Front, again as an urban pedestrian throughout Portland’s neighborhoods, and up and down the steep ravines of eastern Oregon’s Pendleton, painting en plein air at the southern base of the Palouse agricultural wheat fields, the toxic resin incident dramatically changed my abilities.
Frequently, I had to more than pause, I was forced to stop, searching for oxygen.
One time I stopped, knelt down, with my head tucked between my legs, struggling to inhale, fighting for the breath of life.
I remember falling, and students milling around my body without pausing, anxious to arrive on time to their own classes.
On 10 November 2005, while again trying to work in my studio around the plastic straps and paraphernalia of my newly acquired respirator that did little to protect my damaged breathing apparatus from the dusty, stagnant atmosphere of the GAS House but did get in the way of my focus and attention on my work, chills ran up and down my spine when I overheard portions of a faculty crit from Burns’ studio:
“Sometimes,” a female faculty member said, “I think we should just lock you all in here, and see whichever one of you kills all the others.”
Followed by Burns’ receptive, mocking laugh.
Another coincidence I found in my journal notes, similar to my 03 October dream corresponding to the suicides of the students in Ohio, and another time waking from a dream of the hazards of traveling away from Moscow in the snow in early February 2013 on a day I later learned of Joseph Wiederrick’s journey cut tragically short coincidentally another 20 January, providing more empirical evidence of Jung’s synchronicity principle, or knowledge beyond the limits of contemporary science, on 21 November 2005, I woke having dreamt of being slammed into by a semi-truck that I had not seen while walking across Jackson Street, before learning later that day that my senior cohort Ryan’s daughter was coincidentally killed by a truck while she was out jogging early that morning.
On 28 December 2005, obeying the instructions of my white, male, property-owning department chair, I called 911 when I encountered more toxic fumes at the GAS House.
Just to be clear, I hold no beef with you or the officers under your command. When they came out to campus in response to the second 911 call from the Department of Art and Design that day – the first sirens I coincidentally overheard and observed the spinning red lights of the fire department’s hook and ladder truck for an asbestos-riddled kiln that nearly exploded in another building on my way up through campus – I could readily see that it wasn’t their fault that, instead of following their instruction to vacate the building to give me time to collect supplies and leave to complete work at my downtown Moscow apartment after the university failed to uphold both federal law providing its female students with a place to work and study safe from male aggression and its contractually obligated studio space for me to prepare for an out-of-state exhibition deadline after our second encounter in which Burns again used toxic chemicals specifically defying the manufacturer’s printed instructions in a confined space without adequate ventilation, he instead hid behind a nearby building or hung out with his girlfriend in her car, and returned promptly after your officers departed in their branded emergency vehicles.
From my journal notes:
“[Despite the sirens] the parking lot to the GAS House is empty, all looks to be quiet and in order, deserted. I let myself in through the children’s playground [adjacent to the building’s side entrance], then unlock the middle door – the closest entrance to my studio. I let myself into the foyer, and immediately smell strong fumes. With the radiator knocking and rattling about in that tiny, enclosed space, it is like walking into something of a warm, chemical soup. I honestly don’t think of Doug right away, first thing. [A female colleague] has made some comments about using shellac, and hoping it hasn’t bothered anyone. Then I hear noises upstairs; whoever is working with something they shouldn’t is still around, still working. I prop the outside and inner doors open, head up the stairs, and the stench worsens in the stairwell, though is not so bad in the [upstairs] hallway. Unlocking my studio door, I hear the thumping of Doug’s rap music. The odor is worse in my studio again; gases drift over the walls and in via the open rafters above. I unload my things, backpack, carton of empty containers I’d brought up in [my truck]. I’d intended to work on my book [for an upcoming exhibition in Denver] for awhile before running errands to the copy center et al, but realize I will not be able to work in my studio until the space airs out again. If it airs out. I take a steadying breath. It will do no good to go charging down the hallway, pounding on his door, and yelling at him.
“I walk down the hall. The rap music is not that loud. I try to measure my knocking just enough to be heard over the music, not so much that it would be startling or interpreted as aggressive. Doug comes to the door, holding a sandwich.
“’What’s up?’ he asks, crumbs bouncing out of his mouth and onto his shirt.
“’So, Doug,’ I say, carefully, levelly, but firmly, ‘Whatever it is you’re using in your studio, you cannot use in this building. This building simply does not vent well enough for whatever it is you’re using.’
“He immediately responds by taking a step back, switching his sandwich from one hand to the other, and taking an exaggerated step forward again, squaring his shoulders, and throwing out his chest. It is the swagger of a guy preparing to ‘duke it out’ in the schoolyard.
“’Well, I just really don’t like your tone,’ he snaps back, speaking over my head, to the left of me, then to the right of me, never, I notice throughout the course of our conversation, ever meeting my eyes.
“The conversation only goes downhill from there, although I make a point of keeping my voice steady and even, not shouting, not breaking. I maintain awareness, although my adrenalin increases in response to his aggression. I ask what he is using, and whether he has any open containers in his studio right then.
“He tells me, ‘Bondo,’ and brings the container [to where I have retreated down the hall to my studio]. Its base is the same as the cast resin from midterm, a polyester styrene. I turn the label to read the directions for use. The line that jumps out at me, from all the fine print, in boldface type, is use in a well-ventilated area.
“I explain, again, patiently, ‘Doug, this is not a well-ventilated area. This building does not provide adequate ventilation for this product.’
“He first tries to tell me, well, he can’t smell it, so I must be ‘hyper-sensitive,’ in a high-pitched, jeering voice, as if sensitive or not-sensitive is the issue. So, first, denial. Not his problem; it’s not a problem, since it doesn’t bother him. Second, lack of respect for his colleagues. When approached by a colleague and informed of a problem, he becomes immediately hostile. In response to my ventilation concerns, he stomps down the hallway, again, that exaggerated swagger, and stares up at the heating vent that hangs down from above, between [the two end studios]. He peers up into the vent as if to say, ‘What? Here’s a vent,’ then glares back down the hallway in my direction, a sardonic sneer on face. Third, his continued ignorance – in spite of Bill’s dire lecture – of the difference between a heating vent, which is designed to spread hot air – along with any fumes that might be contained within that hot air – throughout the building – and a fuming vent, which is designed to release trapped fumes from an enclosed space.
“When I point that out, his tack is to whine, to take the attitude of martyr – ‘Well, it’s okay if [another male colleague] uses Bondo in his studio.’ As if to say, ‘poor me,’ why is he being picked on? I explain, again, patiently, that [the other male colleague’s] studio has a vent, which is exactly why he is in the only vented space in the building, because he also uses toxic materials in his work. So, fourth, rather than acknowledge the difference between safe working conditions and exposure to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals, he plays martyr – ‘everyone’ else is doing it, why can’t he? He repeatedly calls me a ‘liar.’ (?)
“’YOU’RE LYING THIS TIME AND YOU WERE LYING LAST TIME,’ he shouts at me, in response to my request that he leave open the doors and as many windows as he has access to [through the rafters above his studio], before leaving the building, so that it has a chance to air out so I can return to hopefully work later.
“Seeing that he is incoherent, unreasonable, and antagonistic, and also at this point becoming acutely aware that I am alone in what appears to be an otherwise deserted building with an angry, aggressive male who is a head and a half or so taller than me, is shouting at me, calling me names, and posturing aggressively, I walk down the hall back to my own studio, intending to gather my things and get out of the building as soon as possible. That my work place is unsafe in terms of toxicity and hostility are two issues better dealt with at another time, in another location, around witnesses. I also recall the recourse that both my department chair and the campus safety officer advised me to use should the situation recur.
“Not until I am back in my studio, gathering my things, do I realize I am not carrying my mobile phone. Typically, I would have it on me, but I had left it at home, its battery recharging. Doug follows me back down the hall, standing in the doorway of my studio, continuing to shout at me, “YOU’RE A LIAR,” and “You’re just hyper-sensitive,” in a sneering, lisping tone. Fifth, blame-the-victim mentality, rather than take responsibility for his own actions; it can’t be his responsibility to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, when it is my ‘fault’ for being ‘too sensitive.’ (Strangely, after the first incident at midterm, the MSDS from the manufacturer described all of my ‘too sensitive’ reactions as if running down a grocery list for when their product is misused.)
“Acutely aware that he is standing in between me and safe exit from a toxic space as well as between me and the only telephone on that floor, I give up trying to reason with his unreasonable accusations. I do not even bother responding to his charges against my character; to what point? Sixth, when all other defenses have apparently been exhausted, he resorts to name-calling. So much for his initial excuse for his behavior, ‘I don’t like that tone you’re taking.’ (What ‘tone’ would that be, a calm, reasoned, firm tone?)
“When he storms off down the hall back to his own studio, I use that opportunity to dial 911 from the hall phone. He had earlier stated (in the only indication of passivity in his aggression), ‘Well, fine, I’ll just leave then.’ So I wasn’t sure if I was safe to get out of the building at that point, or if, in leaving, he would follow and continue harassing me, shouting at me, and calling me names. Or worse, if his level of violence would continue to escalate, as it had escalated so rapidly on being approached about his unsafe work practices. I had completely forgotten that I had driven up to studio and parked my truck in the lower lot, as I typically walk to studio from my downtown apartment, and could probably have escaped in that, though it could be finicky in its reliability.
“While I was on the telephone with the 911 operator, Doug shouted back comments responding to the one-sided conversation he could overhear from his studio down the hall. More, ‘YOU’RE LYING!’ and ‘I AM NOT HOSTILE!’ Finally, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you’re calling the cops,’ and so on. As if conducting a battle of telephones, he picked up his mobile phone – standing in the doorway of his studio, halfway in my view – and while I could not overhear very much of his conversation, what I did hear was something like, ‘Can you come pick me up? I need to get out of here. She’s calling the cops.’
“By the time the operator put me on hold to radio the call via dispatch, I started coughing in response to the fumes, a deep-chested respiratory cough familiar to me from the incident in October. From down the hall, Doug began taunting me, ‘If you’re so sick, why don’t you just leave?’ He seems set on insisting that my injury in October was faked, and if not faked, then my ‘fault,’ somehow, for being ‘too sensitive.’
“Fair enough question, though. Why not just leave? I was not on hold for long, no more than a minute or two, just long enough for me to wonder if I should just drop the phone and escape the toxic air in the building. I did not because I wasn’t sure if they would send anyone if the operator came back and the phone was hung up. To the operator’s question, ‘Are you in danger?’ I had to respond, ‘I don’t know. I could be. He’s very hostile, and shouting at me. Maybe I’m not, but I really can’t say.’ How much more exacerbated would the situation have been if the operator had returned to a dangling line?
“Kudos to Moscow PD, by the time I grabbed my things, made my way downstairs, and out, the first car was pulling into the lot, shortly followed by three? or four? more at the curb. Doug comes out the first door just as three stocky, suited-up police are headed to the side door. He sees all the lights and cars and swears, ‘Oh, fuck.’ Then I am amazed by how swiftly his courteous, Boy Scout veneer slides into place, talking to the uniformed men. A female officer stays behind to talk to me, to get my side of the story. For awhile there it looks to be men-against-the-women, as they gaze back and forth between listening to his story – I overhear more exhaustive use of his adjective ‘hyper-sensitive’ – and gazing, solemn-faced, at me.”
You maybe see, from just that one anecdote, how my graduate school experiences informed the design of my Unplay model, where I’ve simplified the structure of Burns’ communications from six to merely four stations around the passive aggressive volvelle, once I recognized name-calling and disrespect, or the reluctance to hear others’ perspectives as denial propelled from the position of martyr amplified along the spectrum of violence from whining to raging as he cycled clockwise around a trauma narrative likely the result of an abusive childhood lacking male and female role models demonstrating conflict resolution through the healthy process of negotiation?
Incidentally, the same structure of communications followed by Ted Bundy.
And his biological mother and his adoptive father.
And everyone else in my extended clan, whenever they encounter perspectives that differ from or challenge their own.
Despite that gender disparity in your police response that I think would be better handled with both male and female officers listening to each side of a gender violence conflict if it is not possible to train men to listen to women’s perspectives, or staff your department entirely with women, who are generally very experienced listening to men’s perspectives, much as racial conflicts would best be mediated by officers with both similar and different racial makeup responding to multicultural emergency conflicts, overall, however, your officers impressed me with their level of professionalism, a far cry from their peers in Meridian in 2014. It wasn’t their fault, on or about 04 January 2006 Department Chair Woolston sent out an email via our group artgrad forum that read like a reprimand for poor schoolyard pranks, complained about the emergency response to my 911 telephone call, as if I were personally responsible for the quantity of police officers who arrived at the scene, and that he had half a semester earlier commanded me to make, and ordered us both to a meeting as if recalcitrant children to the principal’s office instead of chronologically adult graduate students, both in our thirties then.
You tell me, should a victim of criminal behavior be held responsible for police response to her reports of criminal activity, or is that illogic unique to Idaho?
Coincidentally nine years prior to the day I published my design analysis of IDHW’s fuzzy, “judicially unadministrable” math that may have been partially responsible for the untimely demise of Supreme Court Justice Scalia and the day before your 2015 mass shootings, at his office meeting on 09 January 2006, Woolston, backed by flamboyantly homosexual Graduate Coordinator David Giese, another burly white male who suffers severe anger management issues symptomatic of his unresolved internal conflicts, routinely boasting of his career history “outing” gay soldiers during the Vietnam War, while consistently siding with homophobic Burns throughout our three-year graduate school experiences, harangued both Burns and me for “not representing the department” as graduate students in his opinion should, and referred us both to the undergraduate Dean of Students despite both of us being graduate students. All for the sake of accomplishing the Department Chair’s personal goal of successfully avoiding conflict resolution, or, as Woolston so paradoxically expressed his own incapacity for leadership, taking himself “out of the loop,” because conflict resolution was the job of a dean, while simultaneously competing for the opening deanship in his newly reconstructed college that he had earlier stood by and passively did nothing besides share his martyred complaints with similarly minded colleagues while the College of Art and Architecture was illegally dissolved in a behind-closed-doors meeting of the State Board of Regents.
And safe place for work and scholarship while waiting for the Dean’s office to schedule yet another meeting? “In the meantime, treat each other with respect.”
[When had I not?]
According to my journal notes, I managed to vocalize one question in between three angry white men all interrupting and talking over each other while berating me.
“My goal is to end up with a safe place to work, could you clarify GAS House rules?”
In between the second incident of toxic chemicals and that office meeting, my senior female colleague whose daughter had died in November, thus she was no longer coming to campus to work, offered me the use of her studio, situated on the first floor instead of the second, with windows for better light and ventilation.
“I’m not going to move studios,” Woolston snarled at my suggested resolution to the ongoing conflict, “If you don’t feel [sic] safe working there, then you should find another place to work until the Dean of Students can sort it out.”
Of course, my safety had little to do with my “feeling,” and everything to do with Burns’ aggressive behavior.
To Burns, Woolston only added, “I hope you will be respectful and not use any strong chemicals in your studio this week.”
[This week? How about “being respectful” all the time??]
Later that same day, during Woolston’s stump speech toward becoming the Interim Dean of the restored College of Art and Architecture, he droned onward about the importance of “communication,” about the importance of “listening,” until I wished I had the strength to hurl in the corner, a speech propelled from what I now recognize as his perspective as a martyr. A self-identified victim of the campus administration, oblivious to his own failure to listen when the power relations are reversed, abuses his position of power.
Or a gender studies textbook example of white, male privilege.
Or one of the ways that abusive men avoid owning responsibility for their behavior: by blaming their racist or sexist behavior on the other’s “feelings.”
Worth noting, nine years to the date precisely of your 10 January 2015 mass shootings, in my journal I quote my prosecutor then-husband – or “delusion” according to Idaho’s mental health court judge who judged my psychological well-being on my socioeconomic class prior to my ever shuffling into her courtroom in shackles and chains coincidentally 14 years after the date of our “delusional” wedding – and, coincidentally nine years and 10 days prior to the Supreme Court hearing oral argument in Armstrong v. Exceptional Child rendering “judicially unadministrable” Idaho’s mental health mathematical gymnastics: “You can’t put a whole lot of credence on someone who judges you without ever asking for your version before making up his mind.”
Did the very best job I knew how to do to lop off his abusive ex-FBI mother’s umbilical cord. Of course his emotional maturing is not entirely to my credit; he put in his own hard work to change his behavior too.
So proud of him to recall that conversation, thanks to my journal writing.
Of course from there on out, while I continued to respect the authority of Woolston’s position, I placed zero credence on his personal opinions.
Listening to a more balanced perspective, a colleague’s multiracial military veteran husband summed up the institution’s tactic for avoiding conflict resolution and abuse of power as “doing the military number” on me.
According to my journal records, on or about 27 January 2006 I attended first a pre-mediation solo conference with Elizabeth ______ in Dean Pitman’s office, during which she remarked on the audible rasp of my breath, and attempted to dismiss the university’s responsibility for upholding Title IX by blaming my breathing difficulties on first my age, then on Idaho’s environmentally unfriendly practice of crop-burning, asking if I came from someplace out of state, new to the agricultural region.
If “age,” then I aged overnight, and my symptoms of “aging” identically matched the MSDS sheet provided by the manufacturer of polyester styrene-based resin. And of course my “delusional” husband and I were then trading weekends back and forth along the rolling country highways between Moscow and his position as Deputy District Attorney for Umatilla County, Oregon, where I had lived for the previous three years at the southern end of the agricultural region responsible for half the production of wheat in the United States. More wheat than Kansas. More wheat than Texas. So much wheat that, during harvest, the grain is loaded onto trucks or rail cars, and driven west to the port city of Seattle, where the wheat is siphoned into shipping containers, and transported to port cities worldwide. Her eyes squinted, perplexed, as if casting about for still a third way of blaming the victim of toxic masculinity, though she also complimented me on my preparedness for our conflict resolution session, having made a selection from the business section of the local bookshop titled Difficult Conversations, which may have first opened my eyes to the similarities between business and intimate negotiations.
I recall briefly shaking hands to meet the white, male Dean himself though he did not deign to meet my eyes and seemed to be trying to peer somewhere over my shoulder as if I were a wallflower late to the dance.
Leading the formal conflict mediation session, Elizabeth introduced the concept of mediation as something that should include everyone in the department and would take eight hours or longer. In healthy, real-world communications between colleagues prepared to meet on a level of mutual respect, mediation is an ongoing process of negotiation, hearing and being heard, rather than a one-time occurrence or a dreaded chore.
In response to her suggestion, both Woolston and Burns balked, pushed back in their chairs, physically shifted away from the conference table, their eyes widening in shock, distaste, disbelief. Communicate? You mean communication doesn’t mean top-down dictatorial command? Each shook his head and uttered wordless noises of protest. I sat across the table from the two of them, with my laptop, taking notes, and watching the show. They performed like mirrors of each other, no small surprise Woolston believed Burns’ version of the incident over winter break as if deliberately plugging his ears to my perspective.
“But acknowledging the reality of your schedules,” Elizabeth continued, “I will try to condense this into an hour.”
Whereupon both men visibly relaxed, heaving exaggerated sighs of relief. I privately wondered for whom were they performing – each other? Was Burns mirroring Woolston’s reaction to cement the bond between them, to more firmly establish his position? Or were his actions mindless mimicry, monkey-see, monkey-do, one generation after another?
Well worth including here to compare/contrast my design research of the communication models available through IDHW, its subcontractors, the curricula designed and maintained by Liz Claiborne’s global portfolio of brands, the Department of Education victim/bully dichotomous labeling model, the United Way fronting ExxonMobil global slave labor and civil war profiteers and their victim/abuser wagon wheels model lumbering out of Minnesota and funded by the Department of Justice, against my Unplay model based on the structure of trauma, Elizabeth began by handing out the Dean’s hierarchical list of “rules for mediation”:
- we will take turns speaking and not interrupt each other
- we will call each other by our first names, not “he” or “she”
- we will not blame, attack, or engage in put-downs and will ask questions of each other for the purposes of gaining clarity and understanding only
- we will stay away from establishing hard positions and express ourselves in terms of our personal needs and interests and the outcomes we wish to realize
- we will listen respectfully and sincerely try to understand the other person’s needs and interests
- we recognize that even if we do not agree with it, each of us is entitled to our own perspective
- We will not dwell on things that did not work in the past, but instead focus on the future we would like to create
- We will make a conscious, sincere effort to refrain from unproductive arguing, venting, or narration, and agree at all times to use our time in mediation to work toward what we perceive to be our fairest and most constructive agreement possible
Those words sound nice, don’t they? Who doesn’t want to be respected?
No wonder her mediation sessions typically took all day and she failed to condense this much verbiage into only one hour. Maybe the Dean’s office could have sent around this numbered list so the men could’ve done their homework the night before and come prepared to class to resolve our conflict? With Unplay, participants really only have to remember the first rule: the rule that the Dean’s own mediator lacked the discipline to follow. It’s not that I broke her Rule No. 8 of excessive narrating; at that point, it was still physically challenging for me to speak. In person, I tend to be quiet, more of a writer than a speaker, and usually take up the least amount of verbal space in any given room. My Unplay model itself visually communicates how to practice the communication that leads to genuine respect, which to me still means not kowtowing to abusive men or the women who uphold them, but each party hearing and being heard, starting from the big red dot and moving counter-clockwise:
By then, knowing what psychology I already knew upon entering graduate school, as well as observing his speech in classes and other group settings, I recognized that beneath Burns’ violent behavior very likely lurked one of two human emotions: sadness of separation from the other, or fear of losing his studio.
So much for his department-mandated nopology, Burns came to the table prepared to cling to his hard position that I should be expelled for disrupting his coursework-!?! It would have been laughable if my chest did not still ache too much to laugh and my breathing didn’t sound at that time like Darth Vader’s.
Or passive aggressive communicators must learn how to own responsibility for their behavior?
Lacking my laptop notes since Governor Otter added not only seven years of my professional oeuvre to the state’s art collection but also gained almost all of my worldly possessions when I successfully maintained a healthy boundary prohibiting still more labor trafficking by one of his state’s failed psychopharmacological test subjects, as I recall, I came to the table asking for nothing more than: 1) a genuine apology from my male colleague, which would have meant an abrupt 90° shift from his harassing, threatening, intimidating behavior toward me, 2) for the department to follow its own policy and heed manufacturers’ MSDS instructions, limiting the interior use of toxic chemicals under fume hoods, and 3) a change in my studio location to downstairs with adequate windows and ventilation to better accommodate my new respiratory challenges.
Even without my laptop notes, I still recall the information I gleaned from that Dean’s mediation failure: Burns described using the same toxic resin in his youth making surfboards in Hawaii, working in a garage or warehouse with roll-up doors. As maybe a clue even that environment much better ventilated than the GAS House may have been still inadequate protection, his own testimony provided me with another window into Burns’ struggles to think critically and act responsibly. In my third year I froze in the wood-shop in the midst of building biscuit-joined frames for my Lolita triptych, overhearing the shop master and a senior architecture student joking about a former colleague’s delayed speech and thought processes following his years of working with toxic resin in enclosed spaces; that poor fellow was at least still intelligent enough to recognize gaps in his cognitive abilities, though sadly too late to repair them.
For now, pertinent to your investigation into motive for triple homicide, in particular, notice the institutionalized rug-sweeping built into the Dean’s Rule No. 7: failing to correctly identify the problem or learn from history.
While some readers might describe this account as “dwelling in the past,” from my perspective, I dealt with my past traumatic experience when it was present, through writing and image-making, while my colleagues, faculty, and administrators across the institution failed to uphold federal law, and each successive white, male academic CEO in Moscow continues to cut-and-paste the same deny-avoid-blame-the-victim response to each subsequent act of masculine rage. Like cardboard cut-outs clad in interchangeable black suits with yellow ties, unprepared to roll up their sleeves and get to work earning their executive salaries. In 2011, according to the Idaho Statesman, the top five male executives at the University of Idaho raked in a total of $1,143,584 in take-home pay, yet were still unable to model healthy conflict resolution for a Kane Grziebielski, reportedly paid a mere $14.71 per hour for his graduate student stipend that year, despite coverage immediately following your 10 January 2015 mass shootings that reported your alleged shooter returning to Moscow not until 2013-?
Institutional denial only exacerbates the masculine rage problem. Denying the problem, trauma repeats, avoiding resolution; blaming the victim, abuse accelerates, culminating in events like your mass shootings in 2007 and again in 2015.
I only return to my journals from 2007 to reexamine with older, wiser eyes my Idaho experiences, wholly prepared to offer solutions healthier than the institution’s same failed response to our global community’s ongoing problem.
By early February of 2006, my written documentation of the University of Idaho’s abuses began to mutate into wordless scribblings that loosely followed the skeletal structure of the ribcage I had learned in undergrad, or lungs, deeply engraved into notepaper, as breathing in and breathing out remained a daily struggle for me:
Having conquered smoking years earlier, after my over-exposure to toxic chemicals, I could no longer tolerate even second-hand smoke. Living above a smoke-filled bar, one of Moscow’s liveliest nightspots, became another challenge, hence my move to Palouse and first escape from Idaho the following year. Automotive exhaust fumes, campfires, and, yes, those burning agricultural fields, heavy perfumes or heavily perfumed soaps, laundry detergents, lotions, candles, anything that added too much weight to life-sustaining oxygen, the list seemed endless and I frequently added to it, like learning a new vocabulary.
While my faculty avoided finding a healthier solution to the problem, I gave up trying to work in the dust-filled, socially and chemically toxic environment of the GAS House.
When spring arrived, even the blossoming trees proved too toxic for my damaged respiratory system.
I grew to equate flowers with pain.
Even my preferred media in those days, painting with acrylics – in my apartment with tall windows that overlooked Main Street, but offered limited cross-ventilation – became off-limits for me
Meanwhile, an exhibit in the campus cafeteria gallery in what was then known as the Student Union Building, or the SUB, in early May of that year included the immature paintings of a young, white, male undergraduate student whose output resembled what might happen if you combined Willelm deKooning’s abstractions of women in a blender with the work of German Expressionists Max Beckmann, George Grosz, or Otto Dix, savaged by their experiences through the first World War. Dismembered body parts of women and children. Lots of cadmium red. Or some kid who closely followed Ted Bundy’s career without first learning my undergraduate tools of drawing from life and empathizing with the object, beginning first with twigs and pine cones before graduating to the more complex structure of the human figure.
My scribblings of lungs made their way out of my journals onto slips of fine printmaking and watercolor papers, scrap materials from my “real” artwork. These I gridded together with bookbinder’s thread and metal grommets, and hung on the outside of my former studio door in mute protest for our end-of-semester departmentally required open studio review. Alternatively, I invited faculty, staff, and students to my downtown apartment studio for wine, cheese, and intelligent conversation surrounded in the slim remainder of the work I’d managed to produce that semester.
While I was in the midst of cleaning, prepping food for guests, and installing my work throughout my own apartment to meet the department’s deadline, a senior female colleague called, agitated. Our angry white, male tenured faculty had reprimanded me over the public artgrad forum for a second time that semester. This time for designing and distributing party invitations without his advance permission.
From my journal notes: I am going to school in a place where an invitation to a party is viewed as a threat or a chore, rather than a cause for celebration. The department that failed to supply a safe place for work and scholarship insisted that I must nevertheless receive them in a place too toxic for me to work.
Two of my female cohort discussed the issue without me, and together had arrived at the conclusion that our department faculty’s response was akin to demanding that a rape victim return to the home of her rapist. As well as an ADA violation; with me on physician’s orders to avoid dusty spaces or anything that exacerbated the damage to my bronchia, our Graduate Coordinator’s command was the equivalent of insisting that a student in a wheelchair crawl up to the second floor to her studio.
At 9:30 on a Sunday night prior to the following afternoon’s deadline for the semester’s portfolio review, my thesis committee advisor called to tell me, after much brouhaha, the faculty had reached a compromise – amongst themselves, without communicating directly with me to consider my perspective prior to issuing judgment – that they would permit me to re-hang my work in another of the art buildings. So I could do twice as much work as my male colleague for the same evaluation. Bless his digital technology soul for going to bat for me at all, but professional installation is a professional job; hanging analogue media had taken me all the previous day. With our departmentally required group oral presentations still to prep, design, and attend the next morning. Not counting the time of designing, printing, and delivering invites to a community larger than just my severely narcissistic department faculty, who had oh so generously decided they would also permit me to show my work in my downtown apartment.
But not until the required review at the end of the following semester.
And only because I lived over a bar they all liked to frequent.
My lungs could wait to breathe until autumn, according to my department faculty’s consensus.
My faculty made a bigger stink over my party invitations than my male counterpart’s abuse of toxic chemicals, ongoing harassment, and threats.
That summer, according to my journal records, one of my female cohort approached me at the obligatory department Fourth of July celebration that Giese hosted at his private home. Her eyes wide, terrified, glassy with too much wine, she started to tell me something, “I don’t know what’s going to happen…” she said, “I tried to be friends with Doug, but he is too… violent.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” abruptly, as her mousy boyfriend returned with another cup of wine.
“Why?” I asked, naïvely, not yet recognizing, at the beginning of my second year of grad school, the compulsion of the trauma monologue, as the trauma victim vacillates between wanting to tell and not-telling, speaking, and denying her speech, “David’s all the way over there [on the other side of his L-shaped backyard].”
“I don’t want to talk about it here,” she repeated, her eyes wide and frightened over the cup of wine her boyfriend had fetched for her.
For me, that party was just another of those obligatory departmental functions where I arrived late. Made an appearance. Left early. I had also misunderstood, I see now, my colleague’s trepidation in discussing Burns’ violence, not in front of faculty, but before her boyfriend.
What violence had Burns committed against her, despite their bonding through smoking and lowered inhibitions through drinking, that she didn’t want her boyfriend to know about?
In your investigation of the history of Moscow’s masculine rage problem, you might try pulling his thesis from your campus library. See what clues his writing might add to the scribbles on preprinted maps that he showed, in addition to those poured toxic resin paintings, finally cured, at our MFA exhibition in 2008, an occasion he interpreted as a retrospective of his three years of drunken debauchery in grad school, instead of showing a newly produced body of thesis work.
Maybe those maps and his writing will direct you to another body in Idaho, along with the body allegedly abandoned there by my eighth cousin twice-removed Ted in the mid-1970s? Maybe not. Maybe I am only projecting my own experiences onto a female colleague too terrified to speak in front of her boyfriend. But I can testify to more of my experience:
Three years after threatening my life, Burns sat on a bench while I was in the midst of installing my work in the gallery otherwise emptied of our cohort or staff, I noticed when I turned to the sound of a crash behind me. He hefted another hammer while glaring evilly at me.
Or maybe he wasn’t glaring at me. Maybe he stared beyond me. Maybe it was the faces of girls returning the male gaze that enraged him?
So I can well appreciate your frustrations with the lack of communication between the overlapping university departments and your own office that resulted in Katy Benoit’s murder. After all, what could you do? Does Moscow Police Department – or any police department across this nation – receive funding adequate to offer one-to-one 24/7 armed protection to all female students at the University of Idaho – or regional campuses – while the state’s flagship institution of higher learning fails to better educate its male aggressors? Could university women check out taxpayer-funded bodyguards the way we might return a book to the campus library? What happens if the uniformed beefcake becomes abusive? In a state spending less on mental health than any other state in the union, was it Benoit who needed domestic violence education, or was it Bustamente? Or both? Maybe we all need a healthier model for communication and resolving conflict than the passive aggressive victim/abuser model designed by the charitable nonprofit subsidiary of ExxonMobil and funded by the Department of Justice?
That same white, male Dean whose conflict negotiator recommended silencing victims and whose website as recently as 2014, more than four years after Benoit’s homicide by her suicidal male professor amped up on psychopharmacology, continued to boast of his dedication to his students, did you mean the records of that Dean? Visually communicating his dedication to his white, male students at any rate:
He may well seem like a holly-jolly fellow to many of his students, staff, and colleagues, with “humble” the character judgment shared by his own daughter, but to me it is morally repugnant that same Dean is honored with the student union building name changed to his in coincidentally the same issue of The Argonaut that mourns still more murders allegedly committed by coincidentally yet another of his former male students in 2015:
Yet another example of institutionalized hypocrisy, upheld by both men and women suffering something akin to Stockholm Syndrome, speechless under patriarchal abuse, with one set of rules for the powerful, an altogether different law governing their target objects:
Or did you mean the published records of the campus newspaper, which by January 2015 seems to have misplaced its archives for the entire semester of Fall 2007? However, as this young Editor-in-Chief suggests just five days prior to your mass shootings that month, you might try the microfilm version at your local campus library:
In the mid-20-teens!
Or may we learn from history while using 21st century technology to better design future generations?
Of the trio of your 2015 homicides, Belinda Niebuhr’s murder is the most difficult to analyze, particularly with what little information I have been able to unravel from publicly accessible sources, while noting the coincidence of her first name matching the first name of the IDHW employee too deeply traumatized to respect my educated expertise, but I think motive for that crime can best be understood in psychoanalytic terms. Perhaps she had earlier seemed to be an empathetic listener, a nurturing maternal substitute to severely traumatized Lee, on which he later transferred his rage, his insistence that somebody hear the depth of his psychic pain, imprisoned behind a wall of psychopharmacology, demanding that she listen to him at his convenience? If her family is looking for evil to hold accountable, maybe in honor of her memory they can give her alleged killer the benefit of the doubt, while I demonstrate that 21st century evil is much more dispersed than the mass shooters wielding guns to loudly communicate their psychological distress? John/Kane/Jason’s finger may well have pulled the trigger, he may be the hit man, but who, according to globally respected psychiatrists, was the equivalent of the mob boss of the drug cartel ordering the hit?
On 11 June 2014, John/Kane/Jason attended with me a Medical Education Group at State Hospital South, i.e., a Skittles School psychopharmacology propaganda session, wherein even the taxpayer-funded pharmaceutical propaganda specialist acknowledged the severity of side effects of antipsychotic meds that can produce symptoms resembling psychosis. During that session, Jason again impressed me with his intelligence as well as his attention to detail, despite twitching from the ill effects of those psychotropic meds, asking direct, provocative questions about their efficacy and dangers that the state’s expert squirmed to answer.
Dialogue from that session relevant to your investigation:
…Jason: “I have a question about the handout, where it says ‘terror’, is that supposed to be ‘tremor’?”
Daniel (staff): “Yes, yes, that’s supposed to be ‘tremor.’”
Though my notes fail to indicate, I think I may have smothered laughter. Then, remembering the fragility of the egos of my brother-in-law as well as some of my former male students and their misinterpretations of my laughter as an attempt to incorporate humor in the classroom, not in jeering derision but recognizing myself in their youthful attempts toward visual literacy, hastened to compliment Jason on his attention to detail, a useful job skill in any design studio or letterpress printshop worth the paper its product might be printed on. The dialogue continued:
Jason: “Do you really believe in medications?”
Daniel: “I believe they have a purpose… [insert lengthy soliloquy rhapsodizing the glories of psychopharmacology, paradoxically interwoven with descriptions of their harmful side effects and our present gaps of knowledge in the field of neuroscience] Other therapies can also be effective… talking therapy…”
moi (that’s French for me): “Is this institution interested in developing other therapies?”
Daniel: “I believe they have other therapies, classes, and so on, right?”
moi: “None that I’ve seen so far is more expert than I am in psychoanalytic theory. So I could fill out an application, do you think? Maybe you’re hiring?”
Daniel: “Maybe. You can get online, fill out an application.”
moi: “Except that I can’t get online. Yesterday, this institution gave me about two seconds online. Not long enough to even check email, let alone apply for a single job. Just long enough to notice there was another school shooting in Oregon. Not long enough to click on the story.”
Daniel: “Oh. Oh, really? I didn’t hear about that.”
moi: “Now you have.”
As you can see even from the state’s own badly designed matrix of psychopharmacological harm with the typo I’ve highlighted, the dosage of John/Kane/Jason’s meds should have been decreased or stopped. They are causing irreparable harm to his neurotransmitters and what I misheard as terror or perhaps Jason’s hands were shaking too badly to read “termor” in your community:
So why is the psychiatrist servicing Latah County Jail still visibly prescribing them?
Typographic errors maybe a side effect of the mental health professionals’ own trembling hands?
Or just a general, wide-spread lack of attention to detail?
On Friday, 13 June 2014, John/Kane/Jason attended Kathy Duncan’s Conflict Management Group, but by the luck of the draw or the clinician’s decision to count off alternating clients from our randomly chosen seating positions, he missed out on his last opportunity to attend one of my classes or benefit from my professionally educated design direction to competitive success, working with an all-male team of two military veterans, another homicidal trauma victim, and a former middle manager for an information technology firm, while we designed and built a golf-ball catcher in fewer than 20 minutes.
Jason’s team cheated, and still lost.
It’s not his fault, I am sure, as I would have appreciated benefitting from his attention to detail on my team. It is that his group lacked the guidance of an artist and designer professionally educated in psychoanalytic theory with three years of what amounts to clinical practice in psychology from teaching in drawing and design studios at the university level.
How well did Ms. Duncan’s pedagogy, standing to one side and scribbling notes on a clipboard while surveilling her patients’ behavior, help “Jason” learn to resolve his external or internal conflicts?
How about those side effects of psychopharmacology?
How well are the side effects of “anti”-psychotics and “anti”-depressants working for communities across our nation and around the world? In Germany, one young pilot’s psychiatrist encouraged him to keep a glückstagesbuch, or “happiness” journal, so tragically similar to IDHW’s grimly peppy interpretation of cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, avoiding childhood trauma or any honest, in-depth self-examination, and kept him coked on SSRIs, but where or when or with whom was he permitted to express sadness or anger masking his fear that maybe flying was not the end-all, be-all of existence as his adolescent self fantasized, learning healthier ways to communicate those darker emotions, and either finding meaning in other areas of his life, or changing careers instead of deliberately plowing a commercial passenger jet into the side of a mountain?
What other educator role models helped shape your triple homicide suspect’s conflict resolution skills?
We seem to share common research interests, with publications to his credit on visualization and graphics, and concerns for collaborative learning environments or peer-to-peer communications. I can certainly empathize with his give-up-and-go-off-campus compromise for his National Science Foundation-funded project in lieu of conflict resolution skills in each successive administration since I fled Idaho the first time: “UI’s new aggressive firewall policies shut off our… primary server’s accessibility from off campus in early 2012,” the tenured computer scientist writes, “We’ve moved to a temporary host server and are evaluating new server home alternatives.” I must confess even I am a bit surprised to find anywhere in the nation a university that does not provide better tech support for its computer science research in 2012 than it did for its art and design research between 2005–08, when they unilaterally stopped hosting Pine, a simple, Unix-based emailer that ran over Telnet and preceded browser-based mailers, and their razzle dazzle tech team suggested that I physically queue up in their office with a 3.5-inch floppy disk to retrieve my mail files.
Floppies! In the double-aughts!
But who, pray tell, is going to teach Dr. Jeffery’s students visual literacy, or how to communicate using a vocabulary of visual elements organized by the principles of design, or visual grammar? From his homepage, can you see a link to his institutional award-nominated teaching curricula?
I’ll give you a hint. This is what his source code corresponding to that link looks like:
<body background=”unicon/sandpaper.png” bgcolor=”#666666″ link=”#609960″ vlink=”#60AAAA” text=”#000000″>
link to personal page </A>
Why is his teaching portfolio nearly invisible as if an embarrassment buried beneath his professional activities, further obscured as “personal,” and by type size and value nearly blending into the repeating background image he has chosen for his page?
In case you were wondering, this is what HTML written content looks like buck naked of CSS visual form, or what your virtual world might look like without graphic designers working with the tools provided by computer engineers, from his “personal” page:
Even the tenured computer scientist openly recognizes that, “Design is more difficult than coding,” and I wholeheartedly agree with his rule of engagement for students of his upper division course, CS 383 Software Engineering, “E-mail is not a good medium for resolving problems,” long before my electrical engineering brother-in-law’s face-to-face, one-sided raging and my genetic sister’s snarled judgments dutifully seconding her husband’s opinion, together successfully avoided in-person conflict resolution, and reduced me to that electronic communications medium as a last-ditch effort to regain access to toilet paper, tampons, and cat litter, deploying its capacity for including geographically distant witnesses as a leveraging tactic. More benefits of email are chains of time- and date-stamped communications for later reference.
From the cartoon figures he included, albeit borrowed from another scientist, to better illustrate his expectations for his students, Jeffery might even be tempted to plagiarize my vector graphic, print-ready, chalk-on-blackboard stick-figure representations of healthy intercommunications between intersubjective human beings for his own course material. Notice where the computer scientists station their systems administrators in relation to their “Ordinary User” as well as the nomenclature of their field that persists in dehumanizing machine-mediated Ordinary Human communications?
I can further applaud his Software Engineering Quote of the Day, which he attributes to Assaad Chalhoub, adapted from a Japanese proverb, though I might choose the adjective profound instead of pithy:
“Design without Code is just a Daydream. Code without Design is a Nightmare.”
STEM-isolated coding skills atop traumatic childhood experiences combined with IDHW’s badly designed “treatment” for trauma recovery resulted in how many nightmares for the Moscow community?
Of course I did not land on Jeffery’s homepage, but encountered his cv by back-tracking through his site architecture from a Google search for Kane Grziebielski. Of the 46 boys per million in the United States named Kane in 1986, do you suppose there were two Kane Grziebielskis who could have been in northern Idaho and enrolled in CS 383 as of 18 September 2007?
“L33T fills a current void in education and recruitment with an interface that is intuitive and fun for individuals much younger than the ages for which the current U.S. IT curricula is tailored,” your alleged homicide suspect and his classmates write, boasting that their product, Little Elites’ Extraordinary Tutor, will be “an interactive environment where children (grades 4-8) become familiarized with computer science and its concepts.”
But the computer scientists will successfully attract and hold the attention of elementary- and middle-school-aged children without the use of visual communications?
In the introduction in a Microsoft Word document I opened with an open source word processor and left unedited save for my highlighting [and comments in brackets] prior to printing to pdf, imported into Adobe Illustrator, and added white dissolving gradient to further focus your attention on problematic flaws in their logic, before exporting as imagery suitable for web viewing, Jeffery’s upper division computer science students solve a design problem by “educating” and “recruiting” elementary school children to the field of computer science by blazing nine- to 13-year-olds right on past secondary school and leaving emotionally immature minds and socially underdeveloped individuals prepared to enter a university level computer science program, they hope:
Forgoing design research of currently available competition for their intended product, the computer science students in Jeffery’s upper division course instead examine a model for teaching library science, thereby comparing apples to oranges, or changing the design problem from their goal of getting young children excited about computer science to introducing the simulacra of analogue materials catalogued within libraries:
On pdf Page 10 of their unpaginated Word document, Jeffery’s students shift their design goal still a third time, from a game to entice young children that requires visual communication skills that their professor visibly lacks, to a simulation of library science, to a fantasy product that sounds as if they would really like to acquire the design skills to compete with academic tracking databases already redundant on the market, such as PeopleSoft or Blackboard, without explaining how their amateur product might be superior or identifying a market audience they might hope to attract:
Further in their product description, Jeffery’s students refer to the Jewish Virtual Library, “a project of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise,” as a design (!) guideline. In my visually educated design analysis, that site communicates screaming visual pain, as well as, coincidentally, another global-historic example of long-running, unresolved conflict, omitting the perspectives of Palestinians or African-Israeli refugees or provides still more qualitative data to add evidence to my theory of the correlation between visual illiteracy and victims spun around their trauma monologue to their new position as abusers.
Still further in a long-winded report filled with contradictory, ever-changing design goals and written references to graphics, gaming, and interface design, but visibly lacking a game plan for actually acquiring the visual communication tools needed by each of these design specialties, your alleged homicide suspect and his cohort announce their grandiose scheme for making their introduction to computer science for young children “something similar to the ‘gaming sensation’ World of Warcraft” (in a single semester?) and rewarding the rote-memorization skills of their hypothetical young students with “the chance to play a simple Oregon Trail shooting game adventure.”
“The animated lectures will be a fun way for students to learn,” triple homicide suspect Kane Grziebielski and his all-male computer science peers boast, while in the very next sentence confess they lack the imagination to envision a learning environment beyond digitally replicating the experience of a lecturer at the head of classroom, obviating the paycheck, retirement plan, and health benefits of flesh-and-blood faculty. The simulation of a lecturer and chalkboard would be built with C++ and Flash, Jeffery’s students decide in 2007.
While it is true in 2007 I was only belatedly bringing myself up to speed with CSS, I had anticipated the writing on the wall for Flash long before I ever laid hands on it, and only reluctantly added it to my visual communications skill set in 2011 because potential employers still listed that bloated and crash-prone desktop visual communications software in their job descriptions. My prediction was belatedly confirmed by tech industry watchdogs in 2012, and the business press appeared by 2015 to have finally caught on to Steve Jobs’ 2010 rationale for not supporting Flash on an increasingly mobile web of interconnected computing devices.
The only frame that still interests me in my own visual production replete with a whole host of stop-motion instructors from Seattle K–12 schools, with the shop windows at University Village Apple Retail substituting for a blackboard, is this screen still of a software idiosyncrasy that I could not replicate twice in the same place while exporting from Flash before shrugging, Seattle school teachers have already got considerably more out of me than what they paid for, inserted a quick tribute to Apple’s founder, coincidentally deceased that same week, and posted to my Vimeo channel:
Maybe Jeffery could help me troubleshoot the reason for that digital technology failure?
Similar to the visually uneducated, unrealistically high expectations of the students in Jeffery’s classroom, Seattle’s visually illiterate school teachers expected my visual production to take no longer than a weekend.
Of fun and candy.
Thankfully, Adobe has since improved its software engineering, and I have encountered no similar flaws in After Effects.
Where is the World of Warcraft developed by Kane Grziebielski et al for “improving” early child development? Is the computer science product of this pedagogy available for online design analysis to better assist your criminal investigation? Are you still looking for a clue as to why John/Kane/Jason decided to try communicating, still feeling unheard by his late twenties, with that same aesthetic in meatspace, at 1:1 scale?
What was the professor’s goal for his HW No. 2 assignment for his 2007 CS 383 course? Because his global communication from his lecture notes only says, “Yeah, due in a week,” and clicking on the assignment’s link now only directs his students to learn PlantUML, leading to yet another visually heinous site, nothing about child development or library science or teaching graphic communication visually appealing to elementary school students or, better yet, with even the Jobs family reared in a low-tech environment and Apple’s head designer Jony Ive criticizing design school graduates for spending too much time on their computers thus becoming less and less capable of thinking with their hands, maybe more critically thinking that perhaps early childhood development needs to focus on learning healthier human-to-human interactions before mediating so many of our communications via computer screens?
How did Kane Grziebielski and his peers get so far off track?
Where is the grading rubric for this assignment?
Here is one of my rubrics that I developed as a lowly graduate teaching assistant assigned to independent studio teaching after I observed tenured graphic design faculty starting her crits by writing on the chalkboard the visual vocabulary and grammar she oftentimes vainly hoped her students would have learned four weeks after handing out product-driven assignments that made no mention of the visual elements or principles of design she expected them to learn.
What usually happened after she passed out her assignments was her students would spend three-and-one-half weeks gossiping about their other classes and outside social lives, then she and I would alternately race around the classroom at the last minute before their deadlines, all but pushing the students’ mousing hands for them. Her assignments gave no indication of the tools she hoped her students would add to their visual vocabulary, and even I, as a graduate student, was frequently puzzled about what she hoped our undergraduate students would learn from her oral or print collateral delivery. Asking for clarity resulted in pouts, eye-rolling, or long, exaggerated martyred sighs. Yes, from the faculty, rather than her students. Her written evaluations of her students’ work disintegrated still further, ever racing against the speed of her own deadlines aligned to the academic calendar, scribbling notes on torn scraps of paper. Rather than repeatedly rewrite the same feedback, because beginning visual literacy usually results in students making common mistakes, by my second semester teaching graphic design, I decided to incorporate graphic design into my graphic design pedagogy:
While it took a little more time up front than torn scraps of paper, graphic design saved me worlds of time on the back end, rewriting the same or similar comments on beginning students’ work.
Plus resulted in a much more professional feedback experience for my students.
Inspired by my undergraduate faculty painting mentor, because I never worked so hard for a letter grade in my life as to receive his rubber-stamped “whale” of a good drawing, and no student who passed through his classes ever wanted the shame of one of his housefly stamps added to her efforts during hallway crits for the entire department’s learning, a visual grading system has the added benefit of encouraging students to focus their attention – particularly their Bill Gates- and Sam Walton-driven, sanctified by bipartisan No Child Left Behind legislation, teach-to-the-test, data-obsessed attention – away from letter grades to the skills I wanted them to learn through my teaching efforts. Notice how I distributed my evaluation evenly across class participation, design process, and end product, instead of focusing solely on end product to the sacrifice of collaborative learning and creative thinking, and provided examples of more precisely what I meant in each of the three grading categories so my students were not left at the end of the semester scratching their heads, having learned little more than make pretty posters?
As a critically thinking designer, I would back up to the top of the computer science assignment and start by asking, what problem are you trying to solve? What tools do your students need to be able to solve the problem? Software is fun and all, but if you’re trying to solve a communications problem in the 21st century, that solution is also going to require visual literacy.
Maybe bring in visually educated artists to assist with the development of computer science curricula if STEM faculty hope their students will be ready to provide competitive visual communications solutions to any problem? Instead of setting up your students for failure, by expecting them to learn skills the faculty are visibly not qualified to teach?
So the next generation of computer scientists can use their skills to actually work on solving real-world design problems instead of exacerbating the problems created by past generations of technologists?
Thinking back to my college alma mater that also produced the founders of Adobe, and my senior art seminar class that included a field trip to their home department, I wonder, how did the original computer scientists ever become interested in computer science before there was such a thing as computer science?
How might Jeffery continue his job search after being held for a month without arrest, access to competent counsel, or fair trial, if the chronological adults throughout his state’s entire mental juridical health system described the results of his Great Recession-era job-seeking efforts as “delusions” with no attempt to use 21st century technology to fact-check those efforts, do you suppose? Would that seem to the white, male computer scientist a valid reason for blogging his job application cover letters, speaking openly about what I learned through our national lapse in the rule of law, albeit significantly redefining my target audience? Or would he just continue sending job application cover letters to an audience of one? By one? By one at a time? Or would he give up altogether? For how many years would he try the same thing while hoping for a different result? Can a white, male computer scientist even fathom spending nearly a decade of his income-earning potential career writing job application cover letters?
Can he empathize with my perspective, or would he only smirk, then you should have majored in STEMs?
Are we as a nation still sure you want to snip the blooms off those STEMs?
While you’re searching through the University of Idaho’s records to better assess the institutionalized failure to solve your community’s masculine rage problem, maybe also check the registrar’s data for my Foundations Drawing course one year prior to Kane Grziebielski’s enrollment in Jeffery’s CS 363?
According to my written records, on or about 10 September 2006, tenured Professor of Art David Giese disrupted my drawing class by bellowing from the next studio, “SHUT UP! YOU’RE BEING VERY RUDE! STOP THAT THIS INSTANT!” Difficult to differentiate that tirade from his usual pedagogy of arriving late to class and raging his jeering crits at his students for their youthful painting efforts, during the admittedly raucous task of my students pulling out easels and preparing the adjacent studio for drawing. Any healthy painting instructor might have appreciated my effort to place an advanced foundation under our students’ feet, where many of the drawing instructors – tenured or otherwise – made do with students slouched over their drawing boards placed at 90° odds to the objects they were assigned to represent on paper while standing before wobbling donkeys, or alternatively seated on those dirty, antiquated pieces of furniture which made for difficulty drawing down the lower third of the page and blocked their developing adolescent brains from finding the commonality between figure and ground, or subject and object, or comprehending drawing as a process and their learning environment or the corresponding entirety of the page as a composition, when of course learning to draw is learning to see, which means the position of your body in relation to your work is integral to the integrity of your work. But then, with degrees in sculpture and photography, Giese is not a painter, unfamiliar with the skills needed to represent the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface in the wet plastic material of paint, so why did his colleagues, in their collegial wisdom, assign him a task for which he seemed so ill-suited?
Making sounds like a wounded bull, Giese came charging down the hall to my classroom, where he completely ignored my supervising presence, and stood berating my students for several more minutes, more of that two-year-old-in-footed-pajamas behavior, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”
Until finally his tantrum exhausted itself, and he retreated while one of my students – I forget which one; I hope s/he earned an ‘A’ for the term – mumbled, “Well, you’re rude,” right back to him, reminding me for all the world of my nephews in their toddler and young childhood years, speaking back to their abusive fathers and my brothers-in-law, which Giese of course also ignored.
From my journal notes:
“Ignores or does not hear, but I’m going with ignores, because I think he does not miss much. He does not miss much, but he only acknowledges that which he wants to hear. I draw myself up, inhale, debating how best to respond to this screaming, abusive professor who has just interrupted my class. All of my students’ eyes swing from him, to me, anxiously, looking to see how I will respond.
“Then I realize, I do not need to respond to him at all. To respond to his screaming would require shouting over him, and I decide to not stoop to that level. Besides, all of my students very clearly see he is just an abusive, impotent old man. I stand, watching his temper tantrum, watching my students watching him, watching me, and I exhale, while thinking compassionate thoughts for David.
“Poor David, very clearly he was brought up in a home where an accepted form of communication was to scream at each other from one room to the next. Poor David, he never learned any other tools.
“He finally finishes stamping his feet, petulantly, and flounces back to his own classroom. Several of my students ask, collectively, ‘Who was that?’ wide-eyed. I smile, compassionately, reassuringly, well aware that David is still within hearing range if he chooses to be, ‘One of our faculty members.’ It is a serene moment for me.”
Relating the incident to one of my junior female cohort later so she could alert her students to lifting their easels instead of dragging them across the concrete floor of the studio, she responded that she probably would have screamed right back at him.
I could be wrong after all these years, but what I remember were several of my students, from departments outside art, dropped my class that weekend. I was sad to see them go, where oftentimes my better students, those who accomplished the most breakthroughs in their visual literacy in my classroom, were those majoring in virtual technology or computer science, taking a drawing class for “fun,” and once they got over the hurdle of recognizing that drawing is actually real work that takes real time and learned skills, and to stop dismissing their new-found knowledge as mere “talent,” their intuitive digital technology skill sets seemed especially able to adapt to – even to revel in – the demands of analogue media as a welcome reprieve from their computer screens.
Curious to learn if perhaps, coincidentally, Kane Grziebielski may have tried to acquire visual communications skills to expand his repertoire for his computer science classes, only to be put off by a rampaging male authority figure representing the art department to the wider campus community? Maybe, with your law enforcement authority, you could access the university’s records to determine that lapse in educational care for at least one of Idaho’s exceptional children?
So hard to know just the right boundary to place on abuse at just the right moment that will work just right for everyone who witnesses the abusive behavior.
Rethinking the incident later, I wondered if I might have been more successful still had I applauded Giese’s tantrum, shouting, “Bravo! Bravo!” and tried to pass off his theatrics as planned teaching and learning activity by later explaining that Giese was practicing a performance art piece commissioned for the university administration? Would the two-year-old in footed pajamas finally have felt heard if my students had joined in, shouting, “Encore!”-?
Another of John/Kane/Jason’s high school peers can be credited with my response to the campus massacre across the nation the following spring, when I attempted to corral that evening’s class discussion of the tragedy back toward their drawing assignment by commenting, “Okay, we’re not going to solve the world’s problems in drawing studio tonight.” She challenged my authority by asking in a tone reminiscent of the child who observes for all the village the emperor’s nudity, “Why not? Why can’t we?”
If my emotional intelligence were similar to my family’s, my department faculty and the central administration at Idaho’s institution of higher learning, IDHW’s mathematically challenged employees, and your peers in Meridian, I might have snarled, “Because I said so,” and repeated my same interpretation of the departmentally assigned collaborative curricula from the prior semester, while hoping for better results.
Instead, my students and I spent the remaining few weeks before summer vacation working on 1) identifying the problem of social isolation, 2) finding commonalities across sometimes explosive or seemingly rigid differences, and 3) crossing that boundary that does not, in practice, actually disintegrate entire cultures, but instead makes us stronger when we find the courage to share our vulnerabilities, exploring some of the multitude of possible visual communications solutions.
It is one thing for communities to bond immediately following tragedy, and a whole other challenge to continue moving that dialogue forward as time moves rapidly along, and our natural instinct for coping with trauma is to repress it.
My diverse group of students fairly quickly divided into two camps, one that decided they would rather “screw the world” and get back to working on their personal projects, and the other that wanted to continue exploring ideas that might “save the world.” Right back to that dichotomy similarly identified by Moscow attorney Tim Gresback, a world divided into polar extremes of narcissistic “psychopaths” or empathic collaborators.
Each camp began to argue valiantly, as lawyers in a courtroom, or political leaders on the global stage, or parents versus adolescents, for their “rightness” over the opposing side’s “wrongness.” If only they insisted on their “rightness” long enough, then the other opinion would change, and the whole world would be better, right-? Lots of interrupting, and talking-over, talking-down-to, as the schoolteachers I would later observe in Seattle, or the executive decision-makers described by an engineer from Boeing at a design conference I attended in 2010, or the public-private “partnerships” that birthed tunnel-boring Bertha and her attendant lawsuits waiting breathlessly in the wings.
As most educators will recognize, one of their greatest challenges in the classroom can be persuading students to engage themselves in their learning. My experience was the opposite, where I rapidly learned that my biggest challenge with teaching collaborative working skills was not to coax students to form opinions on world problems – those they already quite strongly held – but simply to mediate between the two sides, to persuade each to listen to the other, find commonalities despite their differences, while challenging more critical self-reflection on the basis for our individual opinions.
Where they had spent not quite a mere semester on learning the basics of visual communication, how an element as simple as line might communicate the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad to angry, now they were tasked with applying those basics in a group setting. Under deadline pressure. Hoping to bridge the gap between talking – which is all most group meetings accomplish – and doing, I started one session by regrouping before our classroom “mural,” and asking for a volunteer to draw a collaborative line: what does collaboration look like in practice?
I cannot remember now whether I prompted my brave volunteer’s indecision by suggesting that it was okay to ask for help if he wanted, or two other students eagerly raised their hands to also volunteer, or maybe he realized all on his own that collaboration requires mutual help, but I can still tell you how very proud I felt of my students as they gathered for a moment before their tools, each selecting her or his preference, before moving across the page in unison, drawing three separate but entwined lines across the gap between two radically opposed points of view.
Can you see the commonality between their beginning efforts and the more sophisticated, three-dimensional media of my Design-As-You-Go “re-thinking cap” – made with supplies found and tools donated along my journey – that nets warm reviews everywhere I go, from little old ladies to adolescent boys, to full grown, adult men stomping on the brakes in their big pickup trucks to holler out their windows at me, commenting for a refreshing change on neither my breasts nor my derrière, but, “I love your hat!”-?
In the remaining session before crit, my students added more personal narrative to the gap between opposites:
One possible visual communications solution of the multitude of “right” answers for learning collaborative working skills:
Feedback from my students that semester:
“You’ve given me all these tools!” from a student who had failed the same course when taking it with another instructor.
“A lot of classes talk about ‘collaboration’ but in here I think I finally learned what it means to collaborate,” written in another student’s sketchbook.
A third student, the son of at least three generations of military men, had been determinedly failing all of his other classes that semester to prove to his parents that he was not “college material.” He waited until most of the other students dispersed after final crit to shake my hand, vowing that he was not returning to the University of Idaho campus in the fall, “but if I was, I’m definitely taking a class from you again.”
(Verb tense changes in the original.)
I feel heartsick to return to my journal notes today to note what I was still too naïve to realize then the effects of psychopharmacology on our ability to resolve internal and external conflicts. Big Pharma has yet to develop an empathy pill, as Gresback rightly points out, but it seems that science and technology and market forces, working independently, each camp not paying attention to the other, or engorged on their own narcissistic greed, or failing to connect the disparate dots, have devised an entire suite of antipathy pills: the students more inclined to “screw the world” were those taking medications for depression or other “mental illnesses” as they confessed in private conversations to me or that I gleaned from perusing their sketchbook writings; the students working to “save the world” were more likely to be those, despite their personal life struggles, I had observed making big breakthroughs in their learning that semester, visual literacy coincident with trauma recovery.
Since I was too trusting, then, of the benefits of psychotherapy and, by extension, psychiatry with its prescribing authority, maybe the first blind study of the effects of visual literacy versus psychopharmacology on trauma?
Or have there been others?
And, no, I am not talking about “art” therapy as psychology’s belated attempt toward visual literacy, the capacity to visually communicate with an external audience, having acquired visual vocabulary and grammar, much as I am able to communicate with you through an organization of letters and words into sentences and paragraphs into meaningful ideas, as opposed to chimpanzees randomly chattering away at a keyboard.
With an internet connection and a web browser, my visual literacy allows me to see communication problems anywhere in the world.
Simultaneous with Kane Grziebielski’s struggles to solve computer science problems the following fall, I submitted A Double Petition to the graduate college on 23 September 2007, requesting to 1) design, print, and hand-bind my MFA thesis, furthering the interconnections between form and content, and 2) rename my degree, challenging the discriminatory bias of masculine language in higher education coincidentally five years after President George W. Bush renamed Title IX the Equal Opportunity in Education Act after Patsy Mink, coauthor of the 1972 legislation that was supposed to guarantee my campus as a safe place for me to work and study.
On or about 14 October 2007, coincidentally John/Kane/Jason’s 22nd birthday, I installed my work for our midterm show. As you can see from this installation view at Ridenbaugh Gallery, where I left the petitions open for viewing instead of protecting the bound book under a vitrine, the new Dean of the College of Art and Architecture could have easily chosen to find healthier solutions for Moscow’s masculine rage problem by paying as close attention to the written content of my petitions as to the form of my companion series of Ragdoll drawings when he complimented my work, “This is a strong voice.”
Instead, his administrative assistant only rubber-stamped a representation of his signature on my completed thesis the following spring.
Sorry to have missed your 18 October panel discussing better resolutions to Moscow’s masculine rage problem (pdf). Having now experienced what University of Idaho criminal law professor Mark Anderson described as a – statistically unrealistic – fear that people might have of the state “grabbing someone off the street” and Meridian Police Department forcing me into IDHW Director Armstrong’s version of psychiatric treatment for the “mental illness” of writing, critical thinking, and reporting crimes as serious as trafficking and homicide, maybe I could help expand the perspective of then-District Court Judge John Bradbury or his successors? While that judge readily recognized in 2007 the link between parents abusing their authority over their children, it sounds like he hadn’t quite yet connected the dots between “mental illness” as behavior symptomatic of childhood trauma, and mandatory medications with no reprieve from abuse as sometimes – with rather alarming frequency – replicating and amplifying those abusive behaviors?
Did any members of your panel attend my MFA Thesis Exhibition at the Prichard Gallery the following year? It appears we were working from different perspectives to solve the same problem, me with the tools of visual communications and psychoanalytic theory and you with your weapons and uniformed authority.
Halloween 2007, working from my studio in Palouse, Washington, overlooking the community’s annual haunted house fundraising event, thus against a backdrop of screaming young women from both universities, I completed a portrait of Miranda Gaddis, who was coincidentally born on the exact date in history as my marriage to my first husband. One of the Oregon City girls raped and murdered by Ward Weaver in 2002, I included her likeness in my series of 24 portraits of girls and women, You Have Seen Me, more work Governor Otter added to your state’s collection via theft acquisition in 2014:
By late October, with the Graduate College effectively stalling its review of my petitions, making it still more challenging for me, with not just writing but also designing and full press production of both letterpress and archival ink-jet printing and hand-binding, to meet their thesis publication deadline the following spring, one of my supportive graphic design students put me in touch with one of her journalism classmates at The Argonaut, which published the story in its 09 November 2007 issue in an article titled, “The Mistress of Fine Arts.”
So the entire campus had yet another opportunity to embrace healthier pedagogy and better solutions to your community’s masculine rage problem.
The article in the campus paper prompted some intense discussion behind closed doors, from what I heard from a reliable source, and the campus conservation librarian overrode the snarling administrative disapproval of the form of my thesis content on or about 16 November 2007.
Yet even the conservation expert from Montana was unable to convince the campus administration to uphold the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act or to understand that masculine rage harms men too.
If my departmental and institutional faculty and administrators were, indeed, “doing the military number” on me in their approach toward resolving Moscow’s masculine rage problem, Idaho’s definition of “military” sounds very like the pedagogy of its College of Art and Architecture, more than a little shaky in its foundation: in the mid-00s, still trapped in the 1970s. In sharp contrast, even the United States military brass now marches proudly into the 21st century, as indicated by the recent Senate confirmation of the first openly gay Secretary of the Army.
Call me crazy for asking for mutual respect instead of abuse of power by the standards of Idaho’s mental juridical health system in May 2014 – as long as you don’t lock me up again without access to competent counsel or fair trial before a jury of my intellectual peers – but with the Department of Justice finally removing its sexist tagline from its global web communications collateral, although not until later that same year; the Department of Defense integrating women into all military positions, including combat roles, but not until December 2015; and the Secretary of the Navy finally recognizing the importance and power of language toward reaching the goal of mutual respect for all personnel under his command, while scratching his head for suggestions to extend the limits of his own knowledge for gender-neutral job descriptions by January 2016, maybe I am “mentally ill,” or maybe I am just a little ahead of the curve:
Just to be as clear as reducing all of human communication to five little dots, I was not then and am not now recommending flipping the dichotomy of power relations between men and women upside-down, as that would likely result in still more abuse of power. Rather, turn power-over relationships just 90° for power-with, transforming a relational stoplight into green-means-all-systems-go:
I could still be wrong, and as an emotionally mature, adult human being I am very comfortable with acknowledging when I am wrong and changing my behavior if that is what it takes to right a “wrong,” but with the Department of Justice also law-splaining to Boise’s bureaucrats by August 2015 that dire poverty is not a crime, I suspect it is just a matter of patiently waiting for federal lawyers to catch up on their workload and craft a memorandum to still-slower-moving Idaho that homelessness also does not, de facto, equate mental illness. Especially not in our post-Great Recession era.
Or maybe more actively engaging in the field of law.
Three years of law school, followed by a one-year judicial fellowship or clerkship, by then we should have another election, if all goes well, as well as a President who is not a raving lunatic, and maybe instead of patiently waiting for those federal lawyers to catch up on their workload, I can actively engage in that work.
Prior to the 2016 election, I might have said maybe even a fun bet to lay odds on which will come sooner, the United States Attorney officially recognizing that poverty is not a mental illness, or psychiatrists and neuroscientists worldwide miraculously discovering that behaviors they currently define as “mental illness” are merely symptoms of repressed trauma, reiterating the humble conclusions of my 2008 MFA thesis research in Moscow with their painstaking, global statistics?
How much longer after that before they come up with a repair for that trauma that teaches empathy-building skills ahead of profit feeding ever-hungry pharmaceutical industry greed?