Like School, College Hardly Academic Environment Anymore

16 07 2008

School IS Out of Control!

No, this isn’t about the shocking stuff that happens in public elementary, middle and high schools, that’s old news. It’s about the education we all respect, even homeschool libertarians, you know, college!

Pick a frame, any frame. What is a public university all about, really? Higher Education? Bwahahahahah.
And which is really the right frame for news like this to be understood and perhaps acted upon? Intimidation, hazing, politics, religion, minority rights, money, student conduct violations, hate crimes, tyranny? And who’s the victim, who’s the villain, who’s the governing authority, and if there were any actual crimes committed here (hate or otherwise) can you make the case without making it worse in the process? What would be justice, what would be a miscarriage, what would be a dangerous precedent? Is higher education still on the students’ side at least, or would that be bad business, now that even public universities are jockeying for money, clout, reputation and growth any way they can get it?

(No, it’s not about the UF student tasered by a six-pack of university police merely because an officious fellow student was annoyed that he disrespected a politician at a student-sponsored event, but you might want to consider the parallels, I sure am!)


“For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage—regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance—is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done.

All options should be on the table, including expulsion.”

Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, posted on the group’s Web site July 7


“UCF takes this situation seriously and we are glad to know the student has returned the Eucharist and written a letter to the Orlando Diocese. We encourage students to express their views respectfully, and we expect them to comply with university codes of conduct.

Any disciplinary action will be handled through the university’s student judicial system, per our published procedure.”

John Hitt, UCF president


“The church feels that I’m the problem here. . .The problem is actually that this is a publicly-funded religious institution. Through student government here, we fund them through an activity and service, so they’re receiving student money.”

Webster Cook, UCF student government rep accused of hate crime and receiving death threats


ORLANDO, Fla., July 14 (UPI) — A college student in Florida has leveled hazing charges against Catholic worshipers for allegedly trying to force him to consume a communion wafer. Webster Cook, a member of the University of Central Florida’s student government, filed the hazing charges with school administrators after admitting he took the wafer, considered sacred by Catholics, home after Mass June 29 over the objections of other worshipers, WFTV-TV in Orlando reported Monday.

Cook, who kept the wafer in a plastic bag at home for a week before returning it, said the school’s anti-hazing policy bans the forced consumption of any food as a condition of admittance or affiliation with an school group. While the rule generally is applied to fraternity pledging rituals, Cook contends it applies to all clubs, including the Catholic Campus Ministries.

Cook also maintains the Catholic club violates the school’s underage alcohol policy by serving communal wine to minors.

University spokesman Grant Heston said Cook’s charges are being reviewed. The Diocese of Orlando has not commented on the charges, though previously a spokeswoman said Catholic students had filed charges of disruptive conduct with the university against Cook and a friend of his for their “disrespectful” behavior during the June 29 religious service.

And now UM biology professor PZ Myers is the larger-than-life target. HIS public university is getting into the religious judgment and punishment act, too?:

Foley has asked the top GOP brass to provide additional security while in the Twin Cities so that Catholics can worship without fear of violence. Given the vitriol we have experienced for simply exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, we support Foley’s request.

We already know that Myers lost one round: the university has removed the link to his blog from his faculty page. He should be prepared to lose a few more rounds.

“I think there’s also a growing discontent with what the religious have done in politics. The Bush administration is a perfect example of political cronyism and political advocacy built largely on the support of the religious right, and look where it’s gotten us. People are disillusioned. . .
We’re going to see an increasing weakness of the church. This is them lashing out. It’s a d[esper]ate ploy to be relevant and to be important again… They’re looking for somebody to take their ire out on.”

PZ Myers, Pharyngula blog owner, UM biology professor and former Lutheran altar boy


So political or religious, real or symbolic, “disrespectful” behavior could get you killed these days!

Even (especially?) on campus.




22 responses

16 07 2008

While I don’t agree with the student(s) disrupting the service. I think everyone should show respect and tolerance for the religions of others. The Catholics SO OVERREACTED!!!

I would have thought a simple statement of disapproval and I am praying for the student would have been more in keeping with the tenets of Christianity. You know “turn the other cheek”.

Instead one gets the idea that they would have loved to have resorted to the torture methods popular during the Inquisition.

16 07 2008

This student is claiming that people are forced to consume the wafer in order to belong to the Catholic “club”, but it is also reported that he took the wafer “against the objections of the worshippers.”

I don’t get it. If he genuinely wants to belong to the Catholic church, and has learned about what that means, he would naturally want to receive communion. I have never seen it “forced” on anyone, in my 43 years of attending Catholic churches.

It is all voluntary, whether this young man wants to be there or not. If some of what is done there offends him, he is free to not participate. Why the need to go in, if all you feel are objections to what is going on, and you clearly can’t, or don’t want to reach an understanding in a civil manner?

16 07 2008

Deanne, honest, I don’t get it either; it’s just too bizarre. 🙂

It’s like a skit for Jon Stewart or SNL, maybe a summer movie. (Did you ever see Saved?)

In today’s story, the phrase “devil worship” appears and there’s an effort afoot to IMPEACH this offending student from the university’s student government Senate.

Oh, and it turns out the minister upset that the kid wouldn’t swallow, is named Swallows. I am not making this up.

17 07 2008

From what I’ve read, the student wasn’t the cause of the disruption; he was merely bringing the wafer back to his seat to show a friend interested in Catholicism. The crazed woman that accosted him in the aisle and demanded the wafer’s return caused the disruption.

reference: “Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.”

I’ll bet Cook’s friend is no longer interested in Catholicism, along with many, many others.

17 07 2008
JJ Ross

Hi Lynn – what strikes me is what a hodge-podge of frames this creates, so that we’re left with no clear narrative, just a clear sense of foreboding. What about the university police coming in like bouncers to guard the church-goers and make sure they worship properly? Wouldn’t you think that would be ominous to Catholics generally, much more a direct threat than anything a couple of unwelcome young congregants could possibly do?

And what about politician Tom Foley — from Virginia, what business is it of HIS? — demanding that because of this, the upcoming Republican National Convention (in Minnesota, not Florida, at least that’s one break we caught!) must hire pricey bodyguard-type security in case any Catholic delegates feel uncomfortable in the same state as atheist PZ Myers, who might, um, mock their narrative? In these tough economic times, what kind of message is THAT? Way too much authority and law enforcement getting the benefit of whatever’s going on here, for my taste, which is I think, why it reminds me of the UF taser story so much. That wasn’t religious in any way, purely political, but otherwise this plays like a sequel, or even a remake with a twist.

And don’t overlook the School-as-State angle to all this. We are talking young adults with full civil rights, living cheek-to-jowl as quasi-dependents in exactly the sort of “nanny state” that homeschoolers so often warn each other against. The loons screaming about liberal higher education don’t get it though, that’s the opposite of what’s happening. Government is typically entrenched and consolidates power and control, more conservative than liberal imo, or we could just say fascist? Higher education behaves quite like the federal government these days, ever heavier-handed with law and order and “peacekeeper” security visibly deployed to quell undesirable uprising, all the while selling out (privatizing for profit) the student citizens of their communities and their interests, all in the name of serving them.

The more I see about such stories, the more I realize that we haven’t been paying attention while universities both public and private became privateered fiefdoms allied with Big Business and Big Religion, apparently against its people and pretty careless of the CONSTITUTION.

And of course the State (School) acting with its full force against a heretic? In America? The kid’s secular student government peers are impeaching him for a religious crime, there’s not much confusion about that . . .and according to the Catholic League’s crowing, science professor PZ Myers, the famous atheist blogger peremptorily barred from Ben Stein’s movie by private security thugs for fear he would mock their beliefs, has finally got his university to choose between standing strong for his academic freedom or knuckling under to the forces of religious repression. Guess which way UMinn went?

17 07 2008
Student Star Chamber Convenes on Public U. Campus to Punish Catholic « Cocking A Snook!

[…] note – see more Snooking around on this case here and […]

17 07 2008
Crimson Wife

I find it very interesting to contrast the media “take” on the UCF story vs. the one a couple years ago regarding the Mohammad cartoons. Muslims go nuts over some political cartoons, 139 people are killed in rioting, and the media goes out of its way to be “sensitive” to the concerns of the religious believers. A student disrupts a worship service, threatens to desecrate an object considered sacred, files all sorts of bogus complaints against the religious students’ group, and how does the media treat the Catholic complaints? With mockery 😦

17 07 2008

Bogus? If you can tell from all this with certainty what’s “bogus” and what’s not, you must be getting some divine help! And everyone involved in the disruption was Catholic, I think.

17 07 2008

For CW about the two meanings of “sacred” —
“Is Nothing Sacred?”

17 07 2008
Nance Confer

And I don’t recall the media being sympathetic to those who killed in the name of religion in the Muslim cartoon case.

What is it that we are supposed to respect in all of this? Myers’ bold stand against stupidity? That’s news? Catholic overreaction on the scene and afterward? Again, not news.

That supposedly serious people on both sides of a non-event get riled up invites mockery.


18 07 2008
Six Stages of Moral Development, From Piaget to Kohlberg « Cocking A Snook!

[…] School, State and Church too, all seem Very Authoritarian these days, as playing out in the UCF Catholic communion controversy, for example. Level 1 […]

19 07 2008
Crimson Wife

The “hazing” claim isn’t bogus? I’ve been a Catholic all my life and have never seen anyone forced to take Communion against his/her will. My Protestant mom used to attend Mass each week with my dad and us kids for a number of years when I was growing up. She never took Communion and nobody ever said boo to her about it.

Now as a sorority alumnae married to a fraternity alumnus, I could tell you all some *REAL* hazing stories…

19 07 2008

Well, hmmm. That’s a fair question. If I were simply ruling on the one question (as the school system hearing officer I once was) and I had an anti-hazing rule in front of me that said “no student shall be forced to consume any substance against his will by an organization funded by student government, or the group’s status on campus may be jeopardized” and then the student brought the claim that these individuals DID try to force consumption on him during a group function, how would I proceed?

I know I wouldn’t just impute testimony from Catholics generally, who weren’t there but have never been hazed in church, as automatically establishing that it couldn’t possibly happen in any case, and then just dismiss these charges without any investigation. That’s not what you’re suggesting, surely?

19 07 2008

It just occurred to me that this is could be viewed as more of a “whistle-blower” case, where a group member goes off the reservation at his own peril, and then suffers retribution.

Florida does have a whistle-blower law, I think, hmmm again. . .

UPDATE – here. It says it’s to protect “state employees” but the way this case is going, considering that state universities are state agencies, and his student government role and property interest in his own continued degree-seeking status as a state university student, I wonder if that could be the next complicated wrinkle?

22 07 2008
Crimson Wife

Was Mr. Cook *FORCED* to go up to receive Communion? If he’d simply sat quietly in the pew, would someone have tried to make him consume anything? If that were indeed the case, a legitimate argument could be made about hazing. But if that were the case, the Catholic hierarchy would be going after the rogue Eucharistic Minister for violating Church doctrine.

22 07 2008

I just listened to his radio interview and it was strange, but yes, sort of! He said that he and his friend sat in the very back row alone, but they were exhorted to come forward, ushered up to the tenth row, and then despite their intent to observe and not participate actively, they were continually singled out and instructed to stand, kneel, etc — all before the communion started. So again, this is about more than the Eucharist and I think far more is going on here than you or I might think in a quick pass at it as run-of-the-mill “news.”

The person apparently so focused on him, was a young blonde co-ed who sounds as if she considered herself in charge of everyone else’s behavior because she had some official “public relations role” as an intern, and so made Cook her personal target for her unwelcome interventions. Or there could have been prior conflict between these two that STILL hasn’t come out, almost like a soap opera — who knows? I used to do crisis management for education institutions though, and I can tell you this story has all the undercurrents of a REAL mess!

22 07 2008

Wonder if part of that $40,000 per year for “religious ministries” was being paid for this internship, hmmm? That might explain the animosity between Ducker and Cook, myabe the backstory to this whole thing?? If it were her own status and authority, her own scholarship, salary and/or expenses on the line in Cook’s student government objections to the funding . . .

22 07 2008
Nance Confer

I wonder how long they dated?


22 07 2008

Yeah, that was how it sounded to me too.

25 07 2008

PZ Meyers’ historical post reviewing the human injustice, violence and outright carnage resulting from our either swallowing, or pretending to swallow, the Great Desecration Story.

Comment #12 spoke to me.

24 10 2008
Breaking News - UCF Overturns Catholic Senator’s Impeachment « Cocking A Snook!

[…] You know how I see larger power of story in everything political and religious, and especially where they cross.  So here’s what I remembered and connected, in light of partisan political attacks in the news now: […]

5 10 2013

Just had to throw this in because it popped into my newsfeed shortly after I’d been telling the “disrespecting the cracker” story to flabbergasted friends: Tasteless Or Not? Restaurant Puts Communion Wafer On Burger

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