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The Lawn-Sign Stealing Professor:

This was Phil Busse, a visiting professor at St. Olaf's College in Minnesota; he publicly discussed his actions on the Huffington Post, calling them "one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done."

The Northfield News reports,

St. Olaf spokesman David Gonnerman issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

"The St. Olaf College administration first learned of Phil Busse's self-admitted theft and destruction of campaign signs on the morning of Oct. 31 as a result of his posting on the Internet.

"The St. Olaf administration immediately referred the matter to local law enforcement authorities and commenced an investigation of its own.

"Mr. Busse has tendered his resignation and is no longer affiliated with St. Olaf College.

"In a statement issued on Friday, the administration made clear that Mr. Busse's actions were in direct conflict with the college's values and mission and that the college did not in any way condone them.

"The statement also declared that St. Olaf College deplores unlawful interference with political campaigns and expression of speech.

"Mr. Busse had a one-semester temporary visiting appointment to teach one course in introductory media studies for the college during the fall term."

Busse was also charged with misdemeanor theft after confessing to the Rice County Sheriff's department that he took three McCain/Palin yard signs, said Sergeant Dave Stensrud of the Rice County Sheriff's Office.

Glad to hear it. Thanks to The Virginian for the pointer.

FantasiaWHT:
I'm not really shocked that college professors aren't above this sort of petty behavior, but this actually scares me:

"'one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.'"

misdemeanor theft is politically empowering? Exhilarating I can understand, lots of criminals get a rush from their crimes, but politically empowering? What kind of juvenile mind does this guy have? Please get him away from any sort of teaching position until he grows up a little.
11.5.2008 9:50am
Stephen Hawking (mail):
I was once told that stealing signs from people's yards is illegal, but if a campaign puts up yard signs in a public right-of-way, it is legal for anyone to take them down. Not sure if that's true or not, it probably varies from state to state.
11.5.2008 9:52am
Happyshooter:
Let this be a lesson to any would be profs out there. If you are going to steal stuff or fake a hate crime against yourself, wait until you have tenure.

(Please note, however, that tenure will not save you if you are caught faking Indian blood. see Ward Churchill.)
11.5.2008 9:53am
therut (mail):
Poor guy. He is sick.
11.5.2008 9:58am
Bama 1L:
Phil Busse's bio is up at his day job. He's not an academic, more of a journalist/activist who stumbled into teaching. He guy used to edit a free weekly and ran for mayor in Portland, Ore. He's got a law degree, too.
11.5.2008 10:00am
JB:
Fantasia,
What's worse is that he hasn't done anything -else- he considers more empowering. I can see how someone might think stealing stuff is empowering (and be wrong), but -the most empowering thing ever-?
11.5.2008 10:01am
Hoosier:
Let's not miss the Big Picture here . . .

There now seems to be an open position at Olaf. Anyone know when they will post it in the Chronicle?
11.5.2008 10:03am
JB:
It's also worth noting that the comments almost uniformly bash him for being a jerk. Compare that to the trolling at Freerepublic castigating Bush for congratulating Obama.
11.5.2008 10:03am
therut (mail):
JB------What has that got to do with the price of rice in China???????? Surely you can go troll DU for some dumb ass stuff. Care to point it out to us????
11.5.2008 10:09am
DonP (mail):
Exhilarating, empowering?

This guy sounds more like 14 year old that just lifted a pair of earrings from Claire's Boutique at the local mall.

But stealing and/or defacing election signs does qualify him for a job here in Chicago working for the Daley organization and I understand that there is an opening as of this morning.
11.5.2008 10:13am
neurodoc:
"'one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.'"
I'll bet that causes Mr. and Mrs. Ayers to snicker.
11.5.2008 10:18am
wfjag:
From his posted bio:


Phil also has worked with other programs in higher education—including working as the Program Director for School for Field Studies sea turtle program in Costa Rica and as the head coach for crew teams at Lewis &Clark College and the University of Portland.


With that type of experience, petty theft being

one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.
\
is a believeable statement.

Any St. Olaf alumi posting here? That college always had a good rep. Have standards been lowered so that someone with such a history of nonaccomplishment is now considered qualified to teach there?
11.5.2008 10:20am
glangston (mail):
Media studies....please.

This guy's the equivalent of a guy copping a feel in a crowded subway train and telling the guys.
11.5.2008 10:20am
I Know It All:
If he has a law degree, then he's more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin or John McCain.
11.5.2008 10:24am
Hoosier:
From his aerticle of admission:

Rolling through pumpkin patches and apple orchids

"Rolling through" pumpkin patches? "Apple orchids"?

I think I have found one more reason why he should not be teaching journalism at St. Olaf.
11.5.2008 10:28am
Hoosier:
"article"

Hey, I don't teach journalism.
11.5.2008 10:29am
Federal Dog:
You forgot to mention the most telling part of his quote -- it was the running like a scared rabbit back to his idling car that was so empowering.

All the poisons that lurk in the mud have hatched out during this election. Even the most shameful pathologies are now touted as political virtue.
11.5.2008 10:32am
Monty:
I would be more concerned that he lacked the judgement to see the problem bragging about it would cause...


My only sign story is that when I was a kid, our property extended in front of our neihbors house, and we noticed some signs we didn't like there... Totally by chance I arrived to remove the offending ones at the same time as our neihbor, who apperently had the same inention. Also by chance, we supported the same candidates, and were both happy to leave those ones up. Gotta love the local school board elections...
11.5.2008 10:35am
scotus_ant:
Busse will get probation but part of the deal will require him to sit in a coffee house with stubborn norwegians in Northfield every weekend for 3 years and discuss politics over a plate of lutefisk.... I'd personally do the jail time.
11.5.2008 10:46am
Elliot123 (mail):
"It's also worth noting that the comments almost uniformly bash him for being a jerk. Compare that to the trolling at Freerepublic castigating Bush for congratulating Obama."

Why bother?
11.5.2008 10:48am
Alexia:
It's really kind of sad that that's the most empowering political thing he's ever done. Maybe he should try actually volunteering for a campaign next time.
11.5.2008 10:54am
Anderson (mail):
one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done

Wotta maroon.

"One of"? I would love to hear what the others were. Smoking pot at a Palin rally? Donating $200 to Obama under the name "Dick Cheney"?
11.5.2008 11:00am
BZ (mail):
Might I just point out that the town motto of Northfield, Minnesota, is "Cows, Colleges and Contentment"? Been there several times and never had to eat lutefisk.

As my son, who went to the "other" school in Northfield (Carleton College), points out, it's a wonderful place. Home of Malt-o-Meal, so the name of the cross-town rivalry football game is the "Cereal Bowl." Site of a famous bank robbery, celebrated each year, and recently memorialized in the book and movie: "The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, he of the pre-Obama liberal wing of the Democratic Party, taught at Carleton, and they have a student activism program in his name.

Oh, and Olaf's is a dry campus. Don't think that had anything to do with this episode, though.
11.5.2008 11:04am
trad and anon (mail):
What surprises me is that he kind of admits how juvenile it is. I had been expecting some kind of bullshit about how he was striking a blow against oppression and institutionalized racism the Iraq War, complete with references to Derrida and Foucault. But it's really just the thrill of petty vandalism.
11.5.2008 11:05am
Bruce:
THis goes into the "What in the world was he thinking?" category. Both for stealing the signs, but then even more for bragging about it publicly.
11.5.2008 11:08am
ShelbyC:

If he has a law degree, then he's more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin or John McCain.


Huh?
11.5.2008 11:12am
Wayne Jarvis:
That man brings shame upon Betty White.
11.5.2008 11:13am
scotus_ant:
N-field is a great little place. My grandfather used to manage the S.Olaf bookstore.
11.5.2008 11:21am
William Ayers:
Good for St. Olaf's, but there are many schools out there that will consider his acts of "civil disobedience" as a positive part of his vita. I'll be surprised if he isn't teaching again very soon.
11.5.2008 11:24am
DangerMouse:
I'll be surprised if he isn't teaching again very soon.

Then they should throw the book at him so he spends the maximum time in jail and pays the maximum fine. And hopefully he'll be sued by those whose signs he stole for theft of property.
11.5.2008 11:33am
whit:
this is why (so many) criminals get caught. what a complete idiot. with a side order of hubris.

reminds me of the UW students who bragged about some similar low grade crime they had committed on myspace, and then complained about "invasion of privacy" when their public preening over the crime was used to identify and punish them.

this also is far from the first college prof caught doing this sort of thing. recall the case of the female professor punished for vandalizing a pro-choice display (along with several of her students) on campus.
11.5.2008 11:34am
whit:
my bad. last post should be : "pro-LIFE display"
11.5.2008 11:35am
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
What a doink.
11.5.2008 11:45am
Hoosier:
and they have a student activism program in his name.

Good to know. One less college to look at when my kids are 17.
11.5.2008 12:25pm
josh:
Cue the attempts by DangerMouse, Smokey, The Ace, etc. to tie this incident to Obama, liberals or Democrats in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
11.5.2008 12:42pm
Fub:
Busse was also charged with misdemeanor theft after confessing to the Rice County Sheriff’s department that he took three McCain/Palin yard signs, said Sergeant Dave Stensrud of the Rice County Sheriff’s Office.
Maybe after he is rehabilitated by a short "time out" on the Group W bench, he can use his skills to do good. The Garden Gnome Liberation Front can always use fresh leadership with new ideas.
11.5.2008 12:48pm
William Ayers:

Cue the attempts by DangerMouse, Smokey, The Ace, etc. to tie this incident to Obama, liberals or Democrats in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...



I assume that he stole only McCain signs because he was trying to help Obama to win, not just because he's an idiot. My only regret is that he didn't steal more signs.
11.5.2008 12:49pm
neurodoc:
Let this be a lesson to any would be profs out there. If you are going to steal stuff or fake a hate crime against yourself, wait until you have tenure.
Because he was not tenured, it seems St. Olaf had no problem letting Busse go; how difficult would it have been for the school to let him go if he had been tenured, though? I presume that silliness like this political sign stealing stuff would have been insufficient. What does it take to get stripped of tenure once you have it? Does the misconduct have to be as a egregious as Ward Churchill's or that of John Buettner-Janusch, the NYU prof convicted of manufacturing LSD and trying to poison his trial judge, or can it less egregious? How commonly/rarely does it happen that a tenured academic is fired? What sorts of things other than outright academic fraud (e.g., plagiarism, faking results, phony credentials, etc.) and frankly criminal conduct?
11.5.2008 1:04pm
Pauldom:
Neurodoc--it depends on the campus. Where I work, a collective bargaining agreement calls for progressive discipline and due process.

If a tenured prof here did the same thing, as a first offense, I don't think that person would be terminated, but there would be some sanction (options range from verbal or written reprimand to reduced pay to suspension or termination--management decides where on the scale the consequences fall). Then the prof could file a grievance objecting to the sanction (grievances happen less often than you might imagine in discipline cases) and the two sides would duke it out through a pre-defined process that potentially ends in arbitration.

Tenured faculty who the univ believes have committed serious crimes (harrassing students or staff; child porn; drunk driving, etc.) are terminated outright &any grievance would be pursued after that.
11.5.2008 1:45pm
James Lindgren (mail):
He was a visiting professor.

I spent 3 days in Northfield a couple weeks ago. In the town (where both Carleton and St. Olaf's reside), there were only Obama signs. At the farms outside the town, esp. on the highway where the professor stole the signs, there were many more McCain signs than Obama signs.
11.5.2008 3:15pm
James Lindgren (mail):
What's wrong with "rolling through pumpkin patches"?

I assume it was in a car, tractor, or wagon. If not, then I guess it should be "rolling around in a pumpkin patch."
11.5.2008 3:22pm
Hoosier:
What's wrong with "rolling through pumpkin patches"?

I think he was describing driving past them.
11.5.2008 4:01pm
Seamus (mail):
And hopefully he'll be sued by those whose signs he stole for theft of property

Yeah? And what kind of damages do you think they'd be able to prove? Five bucks?
11.5.2008 4:09pm
kmg:
I grew up in Northfield, but on the other side of town than St. Olaf.

In the mid 80s, when I was just figuring out what elections were, we had a Tim Penny sign in our front yard. Tim Penny was perhaps the most moderate politician ever. Pro-life Blue Dog fiscally conservative Democrat. So anyway, right after we put up the sign, somebody put nails in our driveway, and predictably destroyed our car's tires. We're still pretty sure this was election-year vandalism. I think my brother called the vandals "Banana-heads" in his 8-year old attempt at making up clever insults...

However, it still puzzles us that support for Penny could have provoked this reaction...

Maybe the puzzle has finally been solved?
11.5.2008 8:11pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Seamus - some states have laws providing for statutory damages for unlawful interference with exercise of First Amendment rights of political speech. Cal. Civ. Code § 51.7 wouldn't apply here (it requires interference by threats, intimidation, or coercion) but it provides statutory damages of $25000 IIRC. Other states' laws might cover interference by theft.

Nick
11.6.2008 7:30pm
SC Public Defender:
@Pauldom

What has the world come to when we are naming the serious crimes that will get you fired and child porn and drunk driving are compared in the same breath.

Hope I never get anyone from your school in a Jury pool.
11.7.2008 12:44pm