I’ve got to return to the matter of Mark Houser’s role in your decision to fire Varlo. As I mentioned in the last installment, whatever his protestations to the contrary, there are very good reasons to doubt the purity of Mr. Houser’s motives. Obviously the fact that he didn’t talk to Varlo about what was going on, even though he knew it could cost Varlo his job and perhaps even his career, is quite telling. And it goes beyond that, because it’s clear that he pushed for the most extreme conclusions to be drawn (i.e., that this was a criminal act) and for the most extreme action to be taken (i.e., firing Varlo immediately). We know he did this, because when the alleged victim’s family met with Don Reid they told him “when we met with Mark earlier today he said there had been a lot of other complaints about this professor.” Further, they say, “Mark made it clear that this was not an isolated incident,” and that Varlo is a “bully.” What’s more, Don Reid’s comments to the alleged victim’s family suggest that Mark Houser referred the case to him. He says he (Reid) even told “Mark” that if he (Mark) thought the situation was being handled administratively he didn’t need to refer it to Reid. But Houser obviously was adamant about referring it to Reid and did so. And again, all of this without pausing to mention to Varlo that a student was accusing him of “assault” (one is tempted to say without even pausing for breath). One sort of begins to wonder just how the alleged victim became convinced that she was “assaulted” in the first place. At any rate, I don’t know what you think, Biff, but I think this doesn’t look very good vis-à-vis how this was handled. It looks very, very much like Houser was pursuing a rather malicious agenda.
If you think I’m wrong to suggest this conclusion, let’s revisit one more time what this classroom incident involved. This was an acting class exercise. Varlo is trained in acting pedagogy. In his view, he was doing his job, trying to help the student with a scene from a play. No one, I repeat, NO ONE, asserts that Varlo somehow deliberately and blatantly “assaulted” the student. Anything perceived or felt by the student as harmful would have been accidental to the exercise. You know that, Biff, which is why you said, on the record, that you don’t think Varlo intended to hurt anyone. And consider this: when Officer Reid talked with the alleged victim’s parents, both he (Reid) and the alleged victim’s mother seemed to agree that, in their judgment, what Varlo was doing would be appropriate in an upper division acting class but not in an introductory class like the one he was teaching. Now, Biff, I say that’s a pretty blurry line. And it’s a pretty thin pretext for prosecuting someone as a criminal. In fact, I think anyone could rightly wonder the following: what the hell is going on at this so-called “university”? A university professor has lost his job, had his career ruined, and is now facing criminal charges for doing something in an introductory class that even his accusers agree would be okay in an upper division class, i.e., for doing something that even his accusers regard as a legitimate form of acting pedagogy. Is it any wonder, Biff, that the faculty committee who reviewed all of the available evidence related to this whole sad affair recommended Varlo’s reinstatement? I’ll answer for you: No, no it’s not, because the whole thing is ridiculous. It’s beyond ridiculous. But back to the role of Mr. Houser.
Given the nature of the alleged “assault,” it’s certainly possible to imagine it having been handled quite differently than Mr. Houser handled it. I think anyone can see that, Biff, even, and, one would think, especially an experienced administrator like you. And if this were all, it would be bad enough. But, as they say, wait, there’s more.
Over the weekend, you were served with a motion to be found in contempt of court, because you had not turned over alleged evidence regarding Varlo that the court had ordered to you turn over. I don’t know what was going on there, Biff. It seems like another reason to question your competence. And there’s that old integrity thing again. But let’s not keep kicking that dead horse, right? So, sure, we’ll let it go. It seems to pretty much speak for itself anyway. Regarding this contempt motion, it anticipates that the information that you, Biff, have failed to turn over contains “exculpatory evidence that has been purposely withheld from Davenport by the city and the college.” Further, it anticipates that this exculpatory evidence includes “documentation that Dixie State professor Mark Hauser [sic] falsified documents and entered into an agreement wherein the alleged victim was promised an “A” grade in an acting class she was failing and employment with Dixie State in exchange for her testimony against Davenport.” It also notes that Houser, just a few weeks prior, had been denied tenure by a 14 – 0 vote of his university colleagues.
Biff, I’m not in a position to say what’s true and what’s not in every respect. But, as I think you would have to agree, if it turns out to be true that the alleged victim, although she never completed it or did the work required of the other students, did receive an “A” grade for the class in question, that would seem very unusual, and, indeed, unethical. Regarding the job, it does turn out to be true that the alleged victim went from working a job at a local restaurant to having a nice job on campus, evidently in or near the administration building. And what should we call this, Biff? Interesting? I suppose it’s at least that. As for Mark Houser, apparently his colleagues did not find him especially competent and were not eager to have him continue on at DSU. You have to hand it to Houser, though, because he somehow managed—by, as I understand, carefully singing his own praises to Jeff Jarvis—to hold on to his position (he’s still there!) and to exact a little revenge on at least one person who voted against him. Pretty crafty, really. And in that regard, perhaps it is worth noting that a well-known figure in the arts in Utah, someone who knows Mr. Houser, made the following comment to Varlo: “it sounds like you have a bull-headed new president who has had an Iago* whispering in his ear.”
*Biff, everything I know about you leads me to believe that you probably do not know much, if anything, about Shakespeare’s character Iago. Fortunately, it’s easy to find online. I encourage you to google it.