Friday, April 21, 2006

Cumberland/Herald-Leader Wrapup

Finally, the saga concerning the student expelled from the University of the Cumberlands, because of his flaunting his homosexuality by describing his “dating life” on two Web-sites, is over, and the Lexington Herald-Leader, which adopted this affair as a cause celebre has had to move onto other areas of supposed discontent/abuse/discrimination/exclusion/racism/whatever for its ridicule and bashing. It bashed Southland Christian Church last December, ridiculed the governor’s prayer breakfast earlier this year, and then tried to make some sort of cockamamie issue out of this business, which might have warranted a small space a couple of times in the regional-news (B)-segment of the paper. UC receives some funding from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, whose churches number nearly 800,000 members in just this state, and so, ipso facto, the school was ripe for degrading on the twin axes-to-grind subjects of church-state and discrimination, since a proposed pharmacy college at UC had been voted funds in the just-ended legislative session.

On seven days of a nine-day period, the paper made the subject front-page-above-the-fold stuff, positioned in the area devoted to the most important news of the world. This says something about the managerial mentality and professionalism attached to this publication. In addition to the huge front-page segments, pictures, and headlines, the paper dedicated a huge plethora of columns and pictures to the subject on its interior pages, all in the front (A) “news, editorial, op-ed” section. In the process, it furnished free-of-charge in the supposed “news accounts” the information that a protest drawing people from all over the state would be held at UC, Williamsburg, Ky., on the nineteenth. On the evening TV news accounts of that “protest effort,” there seemed to be more interviews with law enforcement people, standing around sort of slack-jawed and obviously wondering why they were there, than with the participants. The paper said “about 50” showed up, so there might have been 35-40 actual participants. There are 1,700 students at the school, so it might be correctly assumed that their apathy was evident.

It should be remembered that neither the churches nor most believers nor the school have any argument with homosexuals per se. They are welcome in most churches. It is homosexual behavior that is intolerable. It is and has been plainly stated in the school handbook that homosexuality is grounds for expulsion, though it is understood that this applies to behavior. The same is true in the military, from which homosexuals are immediately discharged when they “come out.” A student’s public bragging about his fornication/adultery would also eventuate in his expulsion, since that practice is also prohibited, so homosexuals are not indiscriminately pointed out for punishment.

The misfortunes of the expelled student are over, at last. The University of the Cumberlands has relented and will give him his grades upon his handing in his work. This is good…also a good way of not having to spend money fighting the inevitable lawsuit. The important protest to which the paper had given significant free advertising came a cropper. Obviously, even though the Lexington Herald-Leader had made this a front-page-above-the-fold issue seven days out of nine and the student had been treated to celebrity status locally and nationally, the affair was not even up to ho-hum standards. The expelled student’s “boyfriend” was there at the protest and was pictured on the front page on the 20th…yep, above the fold just like he’s the king, holding the microphone and giving the word.
The good news for the school is that there actually is no problem with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, its executive director clarifying that issue as quoted in the paper of the 20th. Besides citing the rules, he indicated that in his seven years on the job his agency has never rejected a school’s application because of its sexual orientation policies. The governor, an ordained minister, can line-item-veto the funding, and there’s tremendous pressure on him to do so. However, the university in Lexington has a no-alcohol/drinking-on-the-campus rule, so it seems okay for a school to have a no-homosexual-activity rule, too, and the academic accrediting agencies seem to agree, so the pharmacy agency, by definition, shouldn’t be bothered by such a rule. The religion question certainly has nothing to do with pharmacy or any other area of study, especially since the students are not required to have a specific religious preference and, indeed, may be atheists if they choose.

Editorialist/blogger Larry Keeling had this in the paper on the 21st: All Fletcher has to do is read Section 189 of the state constitution, which says, "No portion of any fund or tax now existing, or that may hereafter be raised or levied for educational purposes, shall be appropriated to, or used by, or in aid of, any church, sectarian or denominational school." What Keeling doesn’t mention is the fact that UC is not owned by any sectarian agency, church, or denomination. It is operated by a board of trustees and financed by tuition fees, grants, gifts, etc., the same as most institutions. It receives some funding from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, but is not operated by that entity. A case can probably be made either way, and the issue may wind up in the courts if the governor allows the $10,000,000 to be allocated, notwithstanding his certain approval of $75,000,000 to build a basketball showplace for the University of Louisville, something that is totally irrelevant to education and society, especially when compared to a college of pharmacy in a state that has only one presently.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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