Monday, April 23, 2018
Education

USF scolds staffer over priest-toilet comparison

TAMPA — A University of South Florida faculty member accused of relating a priest to a toilet at an academic conference last month has been reprimanded by university officials.

On Wednesday, the dean of the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences wrote Timothy Weil a two-page "letter of counseling." Weil, a practicum coordinator, will also be issuing an apology, dean Julianne Serovich said.

The dustup started with a slide in Weil's behavioral psychology presentation at a conference in Daytona Beach:

On the left, a toilet. To the right, a priest. In the middle, an equal sign.

The point was to show how people relate seemingly dissimilar things, the professor later explained to the university. He wasn't looking for any particular response — but he got one.

They're both "full of s- - -" someone in the audience said.

Later, an unnamed person contacted the Catholic League, which describes itself as the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. Its leader, Bill Donohue, demanded a written reprimand from USF.

The league has become known for its aggressive approach during its two decades under Donohue, who has taken issue with certain movies, news reports and celebrities including Jenny McCarthy and Kathy Griffin.

Donohue pressed the university when he did not see immediate action, and USF started to investigate. University officials got a copy of the slide in question and listened to Weil's explanation.

He told them the point of the exercise was missed. He also said others in the audience had shared positive similarities between the toilet and priest: They "take bad things from us" and "they both help us."

Weil told the university he can't be held responsible for the person who shouted the expletive. He said he replied with, "I hope that no one was offended by that."

But that wasn't enough — the trouble had started with his selection of the two images, Serovich wrote in her letter.

USF faculty members have "broad academic freedom" in discussions, extending to provocation or controversy, she wrote.

However, Weil wasn't trying to provoke that particular response, she wrote, and his purpose of showing how two dissimilar objects can be related could have been done with pretty much anything else. "Put another way," she stated, "the issue here is not academic freedom but rather given the potential universe of images you could have used for arbitrary associations, was it good judgment to present a slide with the following equation: Catholic priest = toilet?"

On Wednesday, the Catholic League thanked USF for its "judicious" response.

USF Faculty Senate president Gregory Teague said he doesn't think USF's reprimand will chill professors' lectures — but it might make them think twice as they assemble their presentations.

"My impression is that this was a gross misconstrual of what he was trying to say," Teague said, sharing his own opinion and not speaking of behalf of the Faculty Senate.

To Teague, an associate professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, USF's response doesn't set a precedent. He said he has always considered his lectures to be somewhat public since he teaches at a public university.

"Obviously this was someone else's misunderstanding," he said. "I guess we take those risks."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Comments
Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District is in bad financial shape and its reputation for sound management is perhaps undeserved, the district’s own fiscal team testified Monday in a hearing concerning teacher salaries.The district "made finan...
Updated: 4 hours ago

School news for April 27

School Calendar• May 17-20: High school graduations• May 25: Last day of school for studentsBriefs• School Safety Town Hall Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. May 2 at River Ridge Middle/High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey and 6 to 8 p....
Published: 04/23/18
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18