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Openness can inhibit search for university leader

Re: Reopen USF search, editorial, Jan. 27.

I write to disagree with the editorial, which claims that the Sunshine Law is not a deterrent to the selection of an outstanding university president. I write from the vantage point of someone who has served on several university president selection committees.

First, university presidents have been selected for more than a hundred years in the United States through the process of secret discussions in committee meetings. It is impossible to be absolutely frank about qualifications of applicants if there is a concern that such remarks will be made public. Having meetings open to the public has an attractive "democratic" ring, but in practice it can be inhibiting if a committee member is worried about being quoted. Thousands of university presidents have served with distinction and honor without the "benefit" of a sunshine law. Does the editorial writer claim that a better candidate will emerge because of the Sunshine Law?

There is another very important consideration. What academics serving in their own universities will subject themselves to the experience of people in their own university learning that they are applying for another position? What happens to the career of those people who aren't selected when their current colleagues and students learn they were applying for another job? This is probably the most significant reason for many top-notch candidates not applying.

This is one instance where the lawmakers made a huge mistake. Because of this law, USF will be deprived of many outstanding applicants for the position of university president.

Frances Bairstow, Clearwater

Hospital agreement needs rewriting

Re: Chance for compromise, editorial, Jan. 28.

I am disappointed in your editorial stand on the Bayfront Medical Center and BayCare Health System brouhaha. You seem to suggest that the current policy of dictation by the Catholic Church is endurable because "the plain reality" is that only a handful of women have been affected by the ban on abortion. Really?

Granted, abortion is controversial. Those whose religious sensibilities are offended by the practice can choose one of the Catholic hospitals in the system. In no way, however, should a secular hospital be drawn into an agreement based on religious dogma. And that's "the plain reality," whether one woman or a thousand women are involved.

Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land. Abortion is a matter of personal choice. There are many people like myself who believe, depending on the circumstances, that abortion can be the moral choice.

In addition to abortion, according to your editorial, the agreement gives the church the right to ask that tubal ligations and vasectomies be halted in the future.

The St. Petersburg City Council should forthwith demand that the agreement be rewritten and, if it meets resistance, go to court. This is St. Petersburg, for God's sake, not the Vatican.

Bob Taylor, St. Petersburg

Resist religious intrusion

Re: Chance for compromise, editorial.

Once again the Times, like my computer, can recognize 256 shades of gray. The hospital operating agreement that is the focus of the editorial clearly identifies an unacceptable modification of operating behavior dictated by a religious organization. This is a black-and-white issue. There is no shading that is acceptable. For a secular hospital's operations to be restricted by its affiliation with a religious hospital is to allow an unwarranted intrusion and must not be tolerated.

If you truly believe in separation of church and state then you will not advocate compromise on this important issue. The camel has his nose under the tent. Stop him now!

Russell Koehring, Oldsmar

Don't link Jesus to an ideology

Re: Jesus as liberal, letter, Jan. 23.

The letter writer asserts that Matthew 5:39-42 is an affirmation of universal health care, abolition of the death penalty and many other ideas. He then goes on to promote the idea that one can somehow equate the teachings of Jesus Christ to today's modern liberalism.

First, to lump Jesus Christ into a category of conservative or liberal shows a minimal understanding of both the man and his teachings. Jesus cannot be equated with either ideology today, but rather an amalgamation of the best of both. Each party, or each ideology, wishes to see the homeless clothed and fed, to see people treated equally as we are all God's children, and to see justice be the foundation on which our society lives.

We ought to understand as Thomas Jefferson said, that, "Every difference of opinion, is not necessarily a difference of principle." Therefore, instead of demonizing conservatives and trying to elevate liberalism to an ideal state by equating it to the teachings of Jesus, why don't we try to understand that both ideologies are seeking many, although not all, of the same goals. Conservatives claim many of the teachings of Jesus as the basis of their ideology and rightfully so. Liberals claim some of the teachings as well, and rightfully so. It is truly a shame when one person during a debate says that Jesus influenced his life more than any other, and immediately, because he doesn't share in one person's socialistic view of the world, is called a hypocrite.

Fred Piccolo Jr., St. Petersburg

Candidate's Christianity is no problem

Re: What would Jesus think of George W.? by Martin Dyckman, Jan. 16.

So what if George W. Bush speaks of his Christianity? I'm sure he realizes that he will be held to that standard as long as he is in the public eye.

No, the president is not the pastor of our country. But we are certainly in need of someone to be a role model who shows honesty and integrity.

We are in dire need of a president who will uphold the protections of the First Amendment so that Bishop David Banke, Rabbi David Saperstein and all of us can enjoy freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, as well as freedom of the press for Martin Dyckman.

As for hypocrites, how about President Clinton displaying the Bible for the cameras each Sunday? Where was it the rest of the week?

Gerald Olesen, Spring Hill

A disturbing relationship

Re: Candidate no longer runs on empty, Jan. 19.

The account of George W. Bush's "acceptance of Christ" is interesting. It is also disturbing. Is this man saying that without a belief in a supernatural teacher he is without an anchor _ a support?

Further, is the headline implying, however delicately, that those who don't cling to Christ (and they are many) are somehow "running on empty"? And what about the sincerity of his words, "That's not a reason to vote for me"?

Just wondering.

Abigail Ann Martin, Valrico

A debilitating disease

I was concerned when I read Mother's fear, welfare's limits collide (Jan. 23), an excellent article by Curtis Krueger.

I have suffered from fibromyalgia for more than 13 years and can understand why Sarah MacLeod lost hope and felt complete abandonment and desperation, causing her to commit suicide.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic, debilitating, progressive, invisible and mysterious condition causing severe muscular pain, uncontrollable fatigue, sleep problems, postexertional malaise, allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities (an intolerance to prescription drugs, all caffeine, alcohol, scents, commercial odors and others). It affects many of the body's functions.

There is no known cause of fibromyalgia and there are no tests or visible signs to identify it. There are a number of painful pressure points that are used to diagnose it.

Due to this, there are many professional and lay people who think it's a mental condition, so they are indifferent, uninterested, unconcerned, disbelieving and often unkind.

I am 84 years old so I do not need disability insurance, but fibromyalgia is now affecting more and more working people who really need the coverage. They also need help, understanding, respect and care.

Elsie Church-Smith, St. Petersburg

Not all teens are rude

Re: Could Britney handle royal rules? Jan. 24.

I feel the need to defend myself in the face of such disparaging accusations on the part of the author, Greg Morago. As a member of the Class of 2000, I do not believe that ours "is a generation moving even further away _ dangerously so _ from decency, respect and basic rules of social conduct."

My peers and I abide by rules of etiquette and understand the importance of social skills to foster interpersonal relationships. Perhaps we are the exception to the rule, but we certainly do not deserve this harsh criticism, which is the result of a sweeping generalization.

Our lives do not mirror those of modern teenage stars, such as Britney Spears, but I would be inclined to believe that not even belly-baring Britney would commit such atrocities as those listed by Morago. No American teenager would greet the queen of England with a bare midriff. Surely Britney's parents have raised her better.

Kathryn Juergens, Dunedin

Avoid sweeping generalizations

Re: Could Britney handle royal rules?

As one of those "ill-mannered teens" discussed in this article, I was extremely insulted by it. It's very easy to make sweeping generalizations about a group of people, and I am sad that the Times felt the need to publish an article that was based on such generalizations. Did writer Greg Morago interview any teens for this article? My guess is no, because I'm almost sure if he had actually done some in-school research on this story, he would have been be pleasantly surprised.

Yes, cynics, there are still teens out there who write thank you notes. I try to make a habit of it. There are still teens who say "please" and "thank-you," and respect adults.

I work a clothing store. Some of the customers are very rude. Does that make all my customers rude? Of course not. In the same way, some teenagers are rude. Does that make all teenagers rude?

Kate Stutzel, Safety Harbor

He was a hero

Lonnie Napier, who died trying to rescue a cat from a tree, is a true hero in every sense of the word.

Thank you, Lonnie. I'm sure a special place in heaven is reserved for you!

Arthur Seitter, Port Richey

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