Politics & Government

Justices OK Western professor suspension

The state Supreme Court said Western Washington University acted properly when it held a closed disciplinary hearing for a professor accused of having a long history of insulting colleagues and students.

Perry Mills is a tenured professor in the university’s theater-arts department. In 2004 a faculty panel recommended that he be suspended without pay for two quarters after he allegedly told one student she was a “400-pound canary who warbles nothingness” and told another, who was undergoing chemotherapy, that failing to present a play in class would be the same as dying from cancer.

Mills said the accusations amounted to a witch hunt, and closing the hearing prevented him from demonstrating that publicly. The state’s newspaper industry filed a brief on his behalf, arguing that the state Constitution requires justice to be administered openly, including administrative hearings.

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected their arguments Thursday, overturning an appeals court decision. The high court said state law allows public universities to devise rules for peer-review hearings, Western followed its own rules .