Hillsdale: The College, The Spectator, The Expulsion

I attended Hillsdale College on academic scholarship.  I founded an independent student newspaper, The Hillsdale Spectator.  Hillsdale College defamed me and expelled me.  What Hillsdale College and its supporters did to me certainly left its mark.  It has been suggested that I suffer from post-traumatic stress that has been undiagnosed and untreated for decades.  If my grappling with this demon provides catharsis for only me, then so be it.  At least I’m not selling grandmothers in Arizona on family, church and local community while screwing my son’s wife.  I’m not presidential or academic enough for such behavior, apparently.  So, let my healing begin!  (Incidentally, I’m known mostly these days by my stage and SAG-AFTRA name “Mark Roman”.  My legal name is “Mark Nehls”, which is how I’m referenced in the articles below.)  This timeline (a work in progress) is the beginning of the story, perhaps someday the one-man live show and/or feature film …

AUG 1989:  I start classes as a freshman at Hillsdale College, a semester’s worth of college credit already earned from honors classes taken in high school.

SPRING 1991:  I publish the first issue of The Hillsdale Spectator.

22 OCT 1991:  Hillsdale College expels me.  I’m notified by a letter handed to me by Carol Ann Barker, Director of Student Affairs and Dean of Women.  She does so as a surprise participant in my scheduled meeting with College Treasurer Ken Cole in his office to discuss student government business in my capacity as Student Federation Treasurer.

04 NOV 1991:  Toledo Blade article “Expulsion of student editor upheld by Hillsdale College”.  The Blade gets it wrong.  I never received any funds from TCB publishing.  I started The Hillsdale Spectator months after my only contact with TCB Publishing, by their rep who solicited me as student government treasurer to receive free folders to distribute to the students.

05 NOV 1991:  Hillsdale College President George C. Roche upholds the expulsion.

NOV 1991:  I contact the ACLU and other organizations.  I discover that free speech is irrelevant at a private college.  Any legal response to my expulsion would have to be for breach of contract.  No law firm would want to take my case on contingency.

EARLY 1992:  I commence the Delayed Entry program for the US Marines Corps.  Remember, I have post-traumatic stress and don’t know it.  My entire world has been destroyed.  I’m desperately grasping at straws, trying to make sense of it all and myself.  I’m not yet old enough to legally drink that glass of sherry William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote me was what “gentleman” shared to settle differences.  (The founder of National Review had told me in early 1991 to not start an independent student newspaper at Hillsdale – what’s the need, son?)  After I realize that wandering the Earth like a zombie Caine (without the ninja skills) is best done outside Marine Corps boot camp, I withdraw from the program.  Later I learn from the recruiting Sergeant that I would have been ineligible to join any military service as my name was on the FBI Subversives List.  Congressman Bill Baker (my college roommate’s father) confirms my subversive status with his contacts at the FBI.

1995:  Publication of the book “The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education,” referencing Hillsdale College, The Hillsdale Spectator and the expulsion of yours truly.

21 NOV 1999:  Time article “A Family Secret Kept In the Ivory Tower?” by Nichole Christian.

19 JAN 2000:  Salon article “Sex, lies and suicide” by Jonathan Ellis.

MAR 2000:  Vanity Fair article “The Right’s School for Scandal” by Sam Tanenhaus, where Hillsdale College defames me … again.  This time I find a way to take legal action.

Hillsdale Liberation Organization website post on “Hillsdale Spectator” and “Mark Nehls Speaks”, as well as links to “an essay written by a former professor about the expulsion”.

MAY 2000: Liberty magazine issue has two articles on Hillsdale College and the Roche scandal that help paint a fuller picture, even if one is not one of the libertarian faith.  In the article “Hillsdale as an Ordinary College” by Robert Campbell, there’s this curious sentence:

But at a college that reportedly didn’t just expel Mark Nehls for publishing an unauthorized newspaper off-campus, but intimidated (or bribed) him into signing a non-disclosure agreement, it is pretty clear which sort of business is being emulated.

To my knowledge, Mr. Campbell never contacted me while researching his article, nor do I believe we’ve ever met.  His analysis and questions of the classic political tool Gary Wolfram I find delightful.  Nevertheless I’m curious as to the source of his information about this “non-disclosure agreement”.  If I ever signed it (perhaps I did along with every other student as part of the admission package?), I certainly was not bribed by Hillsdale College.  And while Hillsdale College certainly intimidated me in many ways repeatedly, I don’t recall this particular one.  When I have access to my Hillsdale files again, I’ll look for any evidence of it, but I feel like that precious gem would have stuck in my memory.

29 NOV 2001:  My lawsuit (PDF) against Hillsdale College for defamation was dismissed by a federal judge.

2007: Wikipedia “Talk” thread gets a few things wrong.  I never solicited advertisements for The Hillsdale Collegian.  I only wrote articles and served as the Opinion Editor.  When I sold ads for The Hillsdale Spectator I founded, I was very proud and clear to advertisers and anyone else who would listen that the Spectator was NOT a college-sponsored paper, it was “Hillsdale’s ONLY Independent Student Newspaper” (the tagline of every issue!).  Hillsdale College’s claim was that the advertising sold by representatives of school folder manufacturer TCB Publishing did so without proper authorization from the College.

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