Perry Pelham

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(((So someone Googles “Perry Pelham” … this is what comes up as the first hit, from the Eureka, California, Times Standard, April 12, 20012)))

Professor gives up teaching role, agrees to leave community.

ARCATA - Humboldt State University announced Tuesday that it had reached a settlement with former Professor Perry Pelham, a former dean of the History Department. Pelham has agreed to stop visiting the campus in order to teach what he calls regular classes, and which have actually been attracting more students than authorized classes.

The rest of the settlement is bound in confidentiality agreements, the University said. Pelham, reached by phone, said only that he’s leaving California “and I pity you all. I will miss the students, but quite frankly, I’m done fighting.” He declined to say how much money he is receiving, if any.

If the settlement is ratified by a judge, it will end a long and bizarre saga that began five years ago, a few months after Pelham had been granted rare tenure by the community college. Without notifying the school, against the school’s media policy, Pelham appeared on three episodes of the History channel program “Ancient Aliens Unleashed” in which he stated that aliens were likely responsible for creation of several secret societies that had founded major civilizations and the United States.

At first, as members of the community expressed concern, the school defended Pelham, as his History of California, History of the United States, and History of the World classes were highly regarded and did well in student surveys. Pelham, as dean, announced he would start teaching electives such as “the History of Secret Societies” and “How the Aliens Blended into History So Well.”

California state officials began to publicly question whether Pelham should be allowed to teach, and two years ago, students started to report highly unusual content in the classes, such as Pelham’s insistence all the students remove their clothing during one class so they would all collectively weigh less on a spacecraft.

Student Darcy Taylor was typical of those quoted after the episode: “You know, he’s a nice guy, and it was actually pretty cool. He didn’t mind at all that some students kept their underwear on. He’s smart and you learn a lot, but we all know he’s nuts. So what? You still learn a lot ”

At the time, University President Dan Sleighman said, “We all respect and even love Professor Pelham for his passion for learning, but we’re a bit powerless here. He has tenure, and he’s clearly not a danger to anyone, simply … well, I guess unorthodox is the word.”

The college at first reacted by reducing the amount of credit students would receive for the more unorthodox classes, which meant Pelham taught “The Existential Dilemma of a Secret Society” to only four students. The University however initiated measures to remove tenure last year, when Pelham announced he would teach a class called “The Overdue End of the World.”

“That’s not history,” the University said in its filing to the California Tenure Review Commission. “That’s, as sad as we are to say, insanity.”

Pelham then filed suit against the college, alleging his freedom of expression and First Amendment rights were violated, along with the privileges of tenure.

“Look, you either have academic freedom or you don’t. Just because no one who runs the college is in the right Secret Society, one of the ones that knows the truth, doesn’t mean I can’t share what I know. It kind of sucks that most of you won’t know I’m right until the world actually ends, but that’s one of the lessons of history: people are often not proven right until they die,” said Pelham, who insisted members of his Brotherhood of the Rosenkreutz would in fact be saved by aliens before the end of the world.

Pelham began visiting campus and teaching in the quad, and students said they enjoyed “attending” though the classes were really large social sessions. The University filed for a restraining order that would prohibit him from entering campus, and Superior Court Judge Harkjoon Tang ordered all parties into mediation.

“By way of this settlement, no side is admitting wrongdoing. Former Professor Pelham has our thanks for all of the legitimate history courses he taught, and the people he helped,” the University said in a statement.


Tracy Steen, student “I will be sorry to see Professor Pelham go. He didn’t suck up to the administration, and sure he was fucked up, but in a kinda nice way. You could tell he cared about the history, both what really happened and then what he kinda seemed to make up as he went along.”

Meme Jones “I make a million dollars a week working from home. You can too. IM me.”

Dylan McNamara: "This story leaves a lot of stuff out. He made history fun, but he was getting weirder, and people were afraid of getting hurt. Students know what I mean. I think the school had to do something."

Dallas Cremont. engineering instructor: “I am not a tenured teacher at Humboldt, but I was active in the union with him, and I admire Pelham for standing up for what he believes in. And yet none of us, not even his friends, really knew what to do. Society simply doesn’t know what to do with the mentally ill who aren’t a danger. Well, it doesn’t actually really know what to do with the mentally ill who are a danger, and it sure doesn’t know what to do with the ones who aren’t a danger. I hope Professor Pelham lands somewhere good for him.”

Perry Pelham, Rosicrucian: “Thank you for sharing this story so the students know why I’m leaving town. For the record, I’m a member of the Rosenkreutz Brotherhood. I have no idea if the Brotherhood of the Rosenkreutz shares the true wisdom and practices, as, well, they’re a secret society, so whether they’re going to be evacuated is only something they know. If they exist. I wish everyone at Humboldt State the best and thank all the students for listening so patiently. I know this is challenging stuff.”

August 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm
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