Tag Archives: university of missouri

“certainly no bimbo”

Did you know the current president of the University of Missouri — Michael Middleton, the man they chose to replace Tim Wolfe — testified about pubic hair and Coke?

This is relevant, I promise. Let’s back up a bit.

Last night, the film Confirmation aired on HBO. Kerry Washington played Anita Hill, a lawyer who worked under Clarence Thomas at the Department of Education. Clarence Thomas. You know, the Supreme Court justice who asked a question in court in February for the first time in ten years. 

When Thomas was going through his confirmation hearings to be on the Supreme Court, Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss.

anita hill.jpg

Well, you know the ending to this story. He was confirmed anyway. And he’s not spoken much since.

I’m not going to write about the film, because I haven’t seen it. I am going to talk about the hearings, though.

I don’t remember the hearings. They were in 1991, the year I was born. In fact, the first time I’d heard of those hearings was two years ago on an episode of This American Life.  And then, back in December 2015, I found myself reading about the hearings again.

I was backgrounding the University of Missouri Pres. Middleton for a story when I found something that struck me.

Middleton was an aide to Thomas during the time when Hill and Thomas worked together. So, he was called to testify.

This is from a Wall Street Journal article:

One of the oddest of Ms. Hill’s allegations was that one day when she and Mr. Thomas were working in his office, he got up from the table where he had been sitting with her, went over to his desk to retrieve a can of Coca-Cola and, after staring at it, demanded to know, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?”

Thomas aide Michael Middleton also says that he heard the pubic hair story associated with Mr. Thomas before 1985, when he too left the EEOC. “I have this vision of Clarence at the EEOC picking up a Coke and saying, ` Who put this pubic hair on my Coke?”‘ says Mr. Middleton, now a professor of law at Missouri North Central University. Mr. Middleton adds that he told his wife about it at the time and that years later, during the confirmation hearings, he turned to her and asked if she remembered the story, and she did.

But the memory, Mr. Middleton says, is quite hazy. He says he isn’t sure whether he heard Mr. Thomas say it or just had it described to him back then. “It could have been a joke I heard him tell in the office,” Mr. Middleton says. “It’s vague. I just know that pubic hair in a Coke can was not new to me {during the hearings} with Clarence Thomas.”

anita hill 2

And this is from a Time Magazine story: 

“She was a real straight arrow,” says Michael Middleton, who worked with both Hill and Thomas at the Department of Education and later at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Very proper and straitlaced. She was certainly no bimbo.”

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Now, back to work.

audie cornish walked right past me today

No, she really did. Probably three feet away from where I stood, if that. I was starstruck.

Photo Credit: Kurt Wilberding, "NPR: What Radio Hosts Really Wear" from the Wall Street Journal (no, really)

Photo Credit: Kurt Wilberding, “NPR: What Radio Hosts Really Wear” from the Wall Street Journal (really)

I shouldn’t have been there. She was speaking to a class at Mizzou called “Cross-Cultural Journalism,” which is a class that I do not T.A.
As it turns out, I was supposed to be entering grades for my own students into BlackBoard. But instead, I was in the back of that lecture hall, my feet glued on the floor as she walked past.

She spoke to the class for a little bit, and I had to force myself to dash out because, contrary to my wishes, those grades were not going to enter themselves.

Ms. Cornish is at the University of Missouri’s journalism school today to receive an Honor Medal for her work with NPR’s All Things Considered. There’s a fancy dinner and acceptance speeches and a whole lot of pizzazz.

I couldn’t go to the fancy schmancy dinner. Instead, I sat in the Jefferson City newsroom behind a couple of sports writers who were cursing at the World Series game playing on t.v.

That’s okay, I thought. That’s okay because for fifteen minutes, after sneaking into that cross-cultural journalism class, I got to listen to the voice of Audie Cornish without the help of the radio. She’s the sort of woman who demands respect, makes you wish that she was both your friend and your mentor. She’s clever and well-spoken. She gets to the point, no fuss. To survive this week, I need to be Audie Cornish.