U.C. Santa Barbara Professor Charged in Altercation With Pro-Life Demonstrators

March 27, 2014 - 2:48 PM

Prof. Mireille Miller-Young

Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies Mireille Miller-Young. (University of California/Santa Barbara)

(CNSNews.com) -- An assistant professor in the University of California/Santa Barbara’s Feminist Studies Department has been charged with misdemeanor theft, battery and vandalism after she admitted that on March 4 she grabbed a sign with photos of aborted babies from a group of pro-life activists who were on the campus that day to promote their cause.

Mireille Miller-Young was charged with “unlawfully taking personal property,” “the use of force or violence upon another person,” and “willful and malicious damage of personal property,” according to charging documents executed on March 21 by Santa Barbara Chief Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss. Miller-Young is scheduled to appear in court on April 4th. (See Mireille Miller-Young misd complaint (2).pdf)

According to a portion of the police report that UCSB Sgt. Rob Romero confirmed had been released to the individuals involved in the scuffle, Miller-Young demanded that a group of 13 pro-life activists led by 21-year- old Joan Short, a student at nearby Thomas Aquinas College, take down a poster with graphic photographs of aborted babies.

According to the police report, “Miller-Young said that the demonstrators refused. At which point, Miller-Young said that she ‘just grabbed it [the sign] from this girl’s hands.” Asked if there had been a struggle, she told police, “I’m stronger so I was able to take the poster.”

The professor then allegedly pushed and scratched Short’s sister, Thrin, as she followed her with a camera. The incident was caught on video and posted to YouTube:

“It was a very deliberate action because she talked about it for ten minutes beforehand,” Thrin Short told CNSNews.com, adding that the professor had been shouting at the pro-life group and had even started a chant encouraging her students to steal the sign.

The professor admitted to police that she took the poster and later destroyed it in her office because “she felt ‘triggered’ by the images.”

Miller-Young, who said she is pregnant, told officers that “one of the reasons she had felt so alarmed by this imagery is because she is about to have the test for Down Syndrome,” according to the police report. Thrin Short also recalled that during the confrontation with Miller-Young, “she told me that if her child had Down Syndrome, she’d have an abortion."

The Short sisters told CNSNews.com that they decided to press charges because Miller-Young attempted to justify her actions, likening her behavior to that of a “conscientious objector,” and telling police that “she set a good example for her students.”

“Because she thinks it’s her moral right and because she’s unrepentant, she needs to be publicly punished because otherwise people will follow her example,” Joan Short told CNSNews.com. “They’ll think they have a right to do it.”

Miller-Young could not be reached for comment. However, she recently tweeted thanks for an article defending her. Her atttorney, Catherine Swysen, told CNSNews.com that "it would be inappropriate under the rules of professional conduct to comment on a pending case. We will address the charges in court."

Joan Short defended the pro-life group’s use of graphic images, telling CNSNews.com, “What’s free speech if you can prevent the speech you don’t want to hear? If the trauma that our pictures triggered is abortion, then that’s sad, but maybe we’re preventing other people from experiencing that trauma.

“People should have more warning that abortion is a very traumatizing experience. If they warned every person before they had an abortion about how traumatic it was, then maybe I would re-think using the signs.”

Miller-Young is one of three professors who edited “The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure” Her Ph.D. dissertation at New York University was entitled, "A Taste for Brown Sugar: The History of Black Women in American Pornography," according to her website.

In response to CNSNews.com’s request for comments, George Foulsham, UCSB's director of news and media relations, released this statement: “The University is aware of the incident and it is being reviewed by the appropriate offices. It is policy not to comment on personnel matters.”

However, National Review reported Monday that Michael Young, vice chancellor for student affairs at UCSB, sent a campus-wide e-mail regarding free speech that attacked the pro-life demonstrators, who he said "peddle hate and intolerance with less-than-noble aims."

CNSNews.com was unable to reach Young for comment.