Our tax dollars at work....


...Timothy M. Weil, the practicum coordinator for the master’s program in applied behavior analysis in the university’s department of child and family studies, gave a presentation at an academic conference last month, and allegedly started it with a slide that showed a toilet on the left and a priest on the right, with an equal sign between them. An audience member responded by saying that both were full of excrement.

An unnamed person later contacted the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which calls itself the nation’s largest Roman Catholic civil-rights group, according to the newspaper. The group’s president, William A. Donohue, asked that Mr. Weil be reprimanded.

Mr. Weil told university officials that the point of the exercise had been misunderstood. The objective, he said, was to show how people relate things that seem dissimilar. He said others in the audience had offered positive similarities, including that both the toilet and the priest “take bad things from us.” He said that upon hearing the audience member’s comment about excrement, he had replied by saying that he hoped no one had been offended.

But Julianne M. Serovich, dean of the university’s college of behavioral and community sciences, on Wednesday sent Mr. Weil a two-page “letter of counseling,” and Mr. Weil will also issue an apology...

Apparently it took some MAJOR pushing to get this apology:


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....

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......