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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University > Alumni & Friends > Stay Connected > Out of The Blue > Posts > An update from Millikin

Millikin psychology professor James St. James recently made national headlines, and our office felt it was important to update alumni and friends on the status of his employment. The university’s senior leadership learned of Dr. St. James’ history last month and has reaffirmed he will teach this fall as he has done the past 27 years. Many alumni and current students, especially those who had Dr. St. James as a professor, have voiced their strong support of this decision, while others have asked for his removal from the classroom. Read more and the August issue of Out of the Blue.

 

Millikin University stands by Dr. St. James in recognition of his record of educating Millikin students for 27 years. Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, his efforts to rebuild his life and obtain a successful professional career are remarkable. After being found not guilty by reason of insanity, he complied with the court's ruling and received help for his mental health, after which he rebuilt his life. Dr. St. James has made a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of students since coming to Millikin in 1986.

Differing opinions about his future employment have been expressed, and we respect and understand that not all will support the university’s decision. We affirm that we remain, as always, steadfastly committed to ensuring our campus community is a safe and productive educational environment, always attentive first to what is in the best interest of great teaching and learning and to our shared imagination of Millikin at its best. We realize that we are a university, not a uniformity; we bring people together but do not demand everyone think alike. The Millikin family is a community of thinkers and leaders with strong voices and diverse views. We are a community of care and respect-- it is part of our excellence. Should you have questions or concerns, please call Deb Kirchner, senior director of communications, in the Alumni and Development Office at 217-424-6383 or send an email to alumnews@millikin.edu.

Comments

Redemption

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Dr. St. James' story is the epitome of redemption.  I'm proud to say I not only was his student, but had the opportunity to learn from such a passionate and intelligent man. I am proud to say I am a Millikin alum and that the university stands behind this great professor.
Guest at 8/20/2013 9:55 AM

Dr. St. James

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Congratulations Millikin for not conforming!   Dr. St. James paid for his crime and he has made such a huge difference to so many young adults at Millikin as well as many of the citizens of Decatur.

I am so proud of MU for doing the right thing and sticking by this incredible professor!

Sincerely,
Renee Lahey Solano -Class of 1992
Guest at 8/20/2013 9:57 AM

Dr. Saint James

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I first heard about this when in Decatur last week for my 45th high school reunion.  He's been teaching at Millikin for 27 years and I see no problem with him continuing.  He paid his debt and became a successful educator.  There are several eastern universities with professors of national notoriety from anti-government activities in the 70's an 80's who are accepted as educators despite their past without any problems.
Guest at 8/20/2013 10:02 AM

Re: An update from Millikin

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Did the employment app ask the appropriate historical question?
Guest at 8/20/2013 10:45 AM

Lowered the Status of "Professor"

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Dr. St. James has diminished the respected position of professor for the Millikin faculty and community.  I would like to hear from him if someone can "pay their debt" and be rehabilitated from insanity.
Guest at 8/20/2013 11:11 AM

There was one person who knew the truth.......

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My issue is that Dr. James didn't mention his past when he was interviewed. Now one can say..would you if it had been you?  And I would have to say yes.  Lies of omission are still lies. Regardless of how things have turned out, if he had been honest and forth coming from the beginning, Millikin wouldn't be in this position of being blindsided like the rest of us.  They would have been able to say.."Yes we knew..and we wanted to give him his chance at redemption."

Now that might be a fairy tale to think anyone would offer that information but in the end there was one person who always knew the truth and that is Dr. James.  He knew that by keeping this quiet he was risking the chance that it would come out and embarrass the very institution that gave him his chance in the first place.

I can't overlook that.  And please..let's not compare an activist to someone who committed an act of violence to that horrible degree.  They are NOT the same thing. 

At this stage, Dr. James needs to resign.  I am sure he knew one day this would happen..and it has.  Step down please. 

Peter Jones  Class of 1985
Guest at 8/20/2013 11:18 AM

Hotbed of Controversy

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An issue of this nature is always going to stir great debate on both sides of the issues.  I applaud Millikin for not making a snap decision to ruin the life of one of their employees for the simple matter of caving in to a media-inspired frenzy.  After 27 years, I would expect that the appropriate people within the University have had a chance to get to know him and make a good decision about his continued employment.  If they had their doubts, this would be an easy way to oust him.  If they valued this person, they could show some moxy and stand by him. 

Too many people have knee-jerk reactions to information they receive without really getting to know an entire situation fully.  I don't know the full scope of the situation any better than most of us who have read an article or two. 

Most people have scandalous issues from their life they would best like to put behind them and move on.  Most people have that luxury and get to live on as thought their "bad situation" didn't occur.  Unfortunately, when someone has that moment of their life come to light, it normally brings their life crashing down around them.

I wish Millikin, Dr. St. James and all of the students that have had and will have contact with him the best of luck.  Be aware of the past, but move forward.
Guest at 8/20/2013 1:49 PM

Applause for the right decision

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I too, am proud that Millikin has stood by Professor St. James.  I was appalled at the way the reporter 'outed' him - ambush was a better term - and feel his record of exemplary teaching for more than a quarter century should in and of itself be a testament to his turning his life around.
Guest at 8/20/2013 2:34 PM

If I hear "traumatic experiences" one more time...

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This is a disgusting absolution of responsibility. Why does Millikin pretend that St. James was the victim? Saying that he repaid his debt by spending 6 years in a hospital is a farce.

Then again, an aging mass-murderer isn't more of a threat than the drug dealers and gang members who surround campus. At least St. James never hit me up for money on the way to class....

Speaking of money, I still have my $2 bill from graduation. Maybe I'll make a donation to Millikin in memory of the Wolcott family.





Guest at 8/20/2013 5:40 PM

Right Decision?

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As an alumni of Millikin University I was shocked when I read the news about Dr. St. James. I find it hard to believe that someone could do those horrendous things let alone that I would know someone involved.

People keep commenting on whether or not he has paid his debt to society. Maybe in the eyes of the law he has but I wonder if that is ever something you can repay your debt to society on. Does the fact that he was found insane have any bearing on it today? What about the fact that maybe they didn't quite understand the disease or what was really going on back in that time. How would we would at it differently if a 15 year old committed the crime in today's society? Would six years of patient therapy be enough?

The other thing that people keep commenting on is the fact of what he has done with his life since that fateful night and how many students he has helped. The old question of, does the end justify the means keeps coming up. Americans and the rest of society have struggled with this idea for awhile. Does the fact that he has helped so many students out weigh the three lives he took? Can he ever make up for it?

I guess I just wonder why certain people are so quick to say that the reporter ambushed him or brought up the past that didn't need to be. The past may hurt but it's not something that we can ever run from. Trying to make the other side feel bad for raising real concerns is never a bad thing.
Guest at 8/20/2013 9:27 PM

Re: An update from Millikin

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I am also one of the individuals who is proud that Millikin has stood by Dr. St. James.  It is refreshing to know that Millikin acknowledges that this situation had been resolved long before Dr. St. James began teaching at Millikin. I have spoken with many fellow alumni and while there have been differing views in regards to this situation, many of those that I have talked to feel that Dr. St. James should be allowed to continue in his role at Millikin.

I am proud to say that not only was Dr. St. James one of my professors, but that he was also my mentor for my senior experimental psychology research project and my academic adviser.

For those who question Millikin's decision, I can say that when I first heard this news that I was shocked and surprised.  However, as my life has been dedicated to working within the field of the behavioral sciences, I remind you that there are many factors to consider in this and I am quite certain that we do not know all of the information.  By all means, feel free to question as that is part of the scientific method, but it is not your job to condemn anyone.  Dr. St. James is an individual who has truly been tested throughout his life and has become an extraordinary individual who is not only intelligent and knowlegable, but shares his passion for psychology with others..

Melissa Chavas Peters, Class of 1999.
Guest at 8/20/2013 11:06 PM

Recent Millikin Alum

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Hello,
I am a PROUD alum of the psychology department at Millikin University. I graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, none the less, all thanks to St. James. He was hands down the BEST professor I have ever had in my five years of college. St. James always made himself available to students at any given time and would go out of his way to help students whenever need be.  He single handedly opened my eyes as well as many others to the mind blowing aspects of psychology and encouraged me to research and dive deep into the realm of the human mind. Through St James’s teaching and passion I realized how much I loved psychology as well as mental health. His passion for psychology and educating others radiates unlike anything I've ever seen before. His classes and his department, that he worked so hard to build over the last 27 years helped me to figure out what I want to do in life and aspired me to chase my dreams. For that I will always be thankful for. I can't imagine all the lives he has touched over the past 27 years.   It would be a disservice to society, Millikin, as well as to St. James to change due to this circumstance.  Despite his actions, he is a profound professor, and nothing can or will change that. I want to emphasize to new students that he is the most brilliant person I have ever met in my entire life. There aren’t many people left today that put in the time, effort, research, knowledge, and experience into classes while captivating each and every individual students minds the way that he does. There was never a moment that I had him as a professor that I felt scared or questioned the integrity of the situation.
 
Ashley Ferrero 
Guest at 8/21/2013 12:39 AM

If safety is not an issue, no need to fire Dr. St. James

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The University made the right decision.  I hardly think that after 27 years Dr. St. James poses any threat to safety.  Aside from that, I do not see any reason to fire him, especially after nearly 30 years of excellent service.
Guest at 8/21/2013 9:02 AM

Re: comments

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Just a reminder that your comments are posted as quickly as possible by our office, but they do not appear instantly.

Also, a request to the individual who edited his or her comment titled "Disgusting." Please contact me. I have a question. Thank  you.

Sincerely,
Deb Kirchner
Senior Director of Communications
Alumni & Development Office
alumnews@millikin.edu
Guest at 8/21/2013 12:24 PM

James St. James needs to go

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I read the Millikin press release about Professor James St. James.   I think it very unfortunate that the university has decided to let the professor stay in his role at the university.  If the university is just finding out about the professor’s past, then this information was hidden and/or withheld during the interview process.  Did it show up on the application for employment?  What history was shown for the time this fellow was in jail, or going through trail and rehab?  What type of medication is he on, and what if he misses a day?  If this has been kept a secret by him for 27 years, what other secrets have been kept?  Did he murder others that you don’t know about? 

I understand and applaud this professor’s work to turn his life around.  And I am pleased that no issue has popped up in his tenure at Millikin that you know of.  But as a CEO of a business, and a former Mayor who had the responsibility of a police force, I wouldn’t want the risk and liability of this fellow missing his medication one day and killing someone on campus due to latent desires or urges – especially now that you know of his past.  Lawyers would have a field day with this.  The cost and bad publicity to the university and its graduates would be significant.  And if the university knew of his past when he was hired, than those who approved of him should likewise be fired.

I was just at a reunion of Millikin fraternity brothers.  This issue was the joke of the weekend.  Those that I had a private discussion with felt that there was no way that the university would keep, or should keep, this professor employed once they made their obligatory public announcement of support.  I would not have kept him one second after this information came to light.  The best case scenario is bad for the university.  No one is going to send their kid to Millikin because of this, but many may, and likely will, refrain from sending their kid there because of this professor.  And what past contributors will likely refrain from contributing in the future because of this professor?  It certainly isn’t going to attract financial contributions.  The risk is entirely on the university because of the past, secret life off this professor.  And our degrees, and the reputation of those degrees, and our memories of our time at Millikin, have all been tarnished by this issue, and will continue to be tarnished as long as he is there.  And this controversy will continue as long as he is there.  

I have contributed modest amounts each year to the university for the past 39 years, and frankly, I am questioning the logic of supporting the school if this professor stays.  My daughter, who is a high school  junior and beginning her search for schools to attend, has said that she does not now wish to consider Millikin because of this.  How many more alumni are like us?   

I would encourage the university to re-think their continued support for this professor.  After his past, plus 27 years at Millikin, he must be near retirement age.  Retire him now.  Compassion is admirable to a point.  He has put the university and its alumni in jeopardy with his secret past.  The university must not make the same mistake and continue that risk in the future. 
Guest at 8/21/2013 3:58 PM

Millikin's Decision

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The decision of Milliken to retain Dr. St. James is really the only action that could be taken. Is it legal to fire a teacher for his past mental illness? I think not. He did not have a felony in his past; there is no reason for a disclosure on his part, nor the school's, even if they were aware of his actions. What would you like to have happened to this man after he was released from the hospital? No matter what he chose for a career path, he would have had dealings with others, which some of you believes puts them in harms way. Unless he was locked away for life, he would have walked among us. I read somewhere that Dr. St. James I.Q. is in the top 1% of the nation. What a waste it would have been to allow this mind to not be used to the best of its ability.  That being said, my child is currently a sophomore at Milliken. She may or may not have Dr. St. James for a professor in the future. I have always taught my children that you learn something from everyone you meet, teacher or otherwise. I believe that my child could learn a whole lot from Dr. St. James based on what his previous students have stated. I have absolutely no reservations if he is her professor.
Guest at 9/6/2013 10:21 PM

Let us all put our stones down!

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I have thought quite a while about the situation re: Dr.James St.James and his troubled childhood. We will never know what happened that night. We will never know intimate details of his family or the state of his mental healt at the time. It is not our job or concern to. His crimes were dealt within a court of law. His rehabilitation was dealt with trained professionals. The case is closed.
For the comments re: his mental health and stability; that is really not any one's business, even if you were a former mayor! His mental health and medication, or lack off, is private information.
Mental health is allowed the same privacy as medical health issues. Sometimes, we forget that.
It is very easy to attack, much harder to try to understand and forgive each other.
My child is a student at MILLIKIN, a sophmore this year. I give lots of money to the school and will continue to do so.
In fact, i have even more respect for the school, that they have taken the more challenging road and stood behind their faculty.
Hats off to Millikin for the bravery to stand up for your decisions. Our children learn from example.
Finally, we must admit our pasts are of many different collections of events; many, less tragic; some, unfortunetly not.
Very few of us would like the past to come over and
Guest at 9/7/2013 8:23 PM

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