Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yet Another Attack by Herald-Leader on UC

The Lexington Herald-Leader renewed its attack upon the University of the Cumberlands in its issue of 07 May, featuring another condemnatory “news” article on the front page above the fold, with headlines designed to draw attention to “reporter” Frank Lockwood’s latest diatribe against the school, located in Williamsburg, Ky. UC administrators expelled student Jason Johnson in early April after Johnson had “outed” himself on two Web sites as a homosexual, presenting pictures of men kissing each other and even describing his “dating life,” or some such thing. Apparently, he had already decided to transfer to another school and may not have figured that UC would expel him so near the end of the school-year.

Homosexual behavior is prohibited at the school, along with other behaviors such as drinking, fornication, etc. Johnson knew this, of course, so his “outing” of himself served a purpose perhaps known only to himself, though it opened the opportunity for that “15 minutes of fame” thing. The account was carried by newspapers and TV throughout the country. The school receives some of its funding from the Kentucky Baptist Convention and holds to traditional Baptist beliefs, makes no apologies for its stands, and has not backed away from its position in the Johnson matter, though it allowed him to send in the course work necessary for him to receive credit for his studies.

On seven out of nine consecutive days during a period in April, the paper placed accounts relating to the school on the front page above the fold with huge headlines accompanied by reams of space on both the front page and inside the “A” section, along with huge pictures. It also provided free advertising in its “news” section of a “protest rally” to be held 19 April near the school’s campus and drawing people from throughout the state, supposedly to make the issue an operation of practically unparalleled protest-grandness. Indeed, Williamsburg officials were so concerned that they called in law-enforcement elements from the surrounding area in preparation for what was feared to be an unruly anxious-to-be-arrested group of dissidents. The rally fizzled completely, and it seemed that there was about one officer for each protestor.

The initial thrust of the Lockwood hatchet-piece had to do with the fact that the school actually takes charge of its student publication, thus allowing young minds to do the writing and older minds to do the editing and furnishing the judgment of what will and will not see print. The paper is owned by the school, of course, is a learning activity, and is subject to the regulation of the proper school officials. The students do not own the paper, just as they do not own the classrooms or any other equipment furnished by the school and operated by the proper staff/faculty. They participate in the journalistic activity as learners, not teachers. Part of the learning process has to do with encouraging thought and incentives by students, but tempering everything with maturity and experience furnished by professors/administrators, such things also observed by the students.

Lockwood brings in the usual suspect organization expected to criticize the school, the American Association of University Professors, which last year described a "climate of fear" among faculty. According to Lockwood, AAUP investigators said professors appear to "enjoy academic freedom in their classes in teaching their subjects" but that faculty members "do not feel free to address topics of college concern in any forum." Therein lies the gripe. The school expects excellence on the part of teachers in the classroom, but expects education and not campus politics to disrupt the process of learning. This would be a good rule at any school. By extension, of course, the students are also not expected to run the school. The AAUP became involved at the request of a professor who had resigned after it was discovered he had established a Web site unrelated to the school but used as a vehicle for criticizing the school. In the fallout, two professors were actually involved and the AAUP, which has no connection with the school, attempted unsuccessfully to represent them. The entire report is available on the Internet.

The newspaper may be rankled because UC President Jim Taylor apparently doesn’t care a fig about what it thinks…or what anybody else or most institutions think. Lockwood and his employer should realize that UC is a Baptist-related school and as such is quite different from state institutions. Chapel attendance is compulsory at UC, whether the student likes it or not. The education effort is couched within the framework of faith, and there are rules to be obeyed, even to the matters of dress and hair-style. Dorm-rooms are susceptible to examination at any time and there are strict rules concerning behavior in the dorms. The newspaper sees this as another damnable “diversity issue,” but apparently can’t understand the difference between public and private institutions.

Even with regard to governmental institutions, the case precipitating this latest H-L attack is a case in point with respect to the military and homosexual behavior. Here is a DOD document from 1998: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) April 1998: On February 28, 1994, after extensive hearings in Congress, the enactment of a federal statute, and coordination with Congressional Oversight Committees, the Department of Defense instituted its current policy on homosexual conduct in the military. As required by the federal statute (10 U.S.C. § 654), the DoD policy provides that engaging in homosexual conduct is grounds for discharge from the military. Congress expressly found that service by those who have a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct creates an unacceptable risk to morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion, and that the long-standing prohibition of homosexual conduct therefore continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service. The reasons given for foreclosing homosexual behavior in the military apply at UC, with the added reason that such behavior is expressly and stringently condemned in the Holy Bible.

According to Lockwood, one-third of the freshman class leaves the school at the end of that first year. Obviously, the two-thirds who remain know precisely what to expect. Since both they and the administrators/staff/teachers know precisely what to expect, they can count on being on the same page. This gives a no-nonsense cohesion to the educational process that makes it superior to that which obtains at many, if not most, schools namely, that rules and regulations mean something, that there’s a premium to be placed on morality, and that the faith is important. People who can’t live with that are invited to go elsewhere. Actually, Lockwood’s article probably is the best advertising the school could possibly hope for.

As for placing UC on the front page in order to castigate and ridicule it yet again, worth noticing is the fact that the main front-page-above-the-fold story occupying the 04 issue of the Herald-Leader was an inordinately important account regarding the juicy pickup in business for strippers during Derby Week in Louisville…complete with a huge cheesecake picture of two almost-clothed entrepreneurs. Now, THAT’S NEWS! Perhaps the editors at the paper need some professionals to look over their shoulders and do a bit of censoring. That kind of stuff might be expected from a staff made up of high school sophomore boys.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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