Remember Benjamin Collard? He's the non-Catholic friend of Webster Cook who accompanied him to mass. Collard got rather lost in the shuffle when attention focused on Cook for his “kidnapping” of a communion wafer. It was, however, reportedly to satisfy Collard's curiosity that his friend brought the wafer back unconsumed to his seat. We don't know whether Collard got a good look at Cook's cracker or not, since loving Christians physically assaulted Cook and drove him from the house of the Lord. Well, actually, they drove him from the University of Central Florida Student Union, since religious services are conducted on campus.
Most of the fuss has centered on Cook's initial action (questionably characterized by many Catholics as deliberately disrespectful), the reactions to it, and the reactions to the reactions. Etcetera. You get the drift. Collard just about vanished from sight. Not everyone forgot about him, however. Catholic Campus Ministries of UCF was good enough to file a formal complaint against Collard for “disruptive conduct.” A hold was placed on his student registration and it was reported that he would not be permitted to register for fall classes. Last weekend I zinged off an e-mail message to the UCF president. Today I got a reply from his assistant.
This is what I wrote:
And here is what the UCF president's office sent to me in reply:
Dear Mr. President:
The on-line media reports that UCF student Benjamin Collard is being harassed by Catholic Campus Ministries for his supposed role in the incident involving his friend and fellow student Webster Cook. Does UCF have a policy of "guilty until proved innocent"? Why, otherwise, would Collard find a hold placed on his student account and be unable to sign up for classes? Certainly any complaint filed by any competent source should be investigated promptly and appropriately, but it seems that Mr. Collard is already suffering negative consequences simply because a complaint has been lodged against him. How does he merit this kind of treatment?
I hope the UCF administration removes the hold immediately, allows Collard to register for classes, and spares him further mistreatment unless evidence of actual misconduct is discovered. This pre-emptive penalty is disrespectful of due process.
Professor of Mathematics
I presume it's a form letter, but it's better than most. I am even somewhat mollified, assuming that Ms. Barnickel is correct in saying that the hold does not prevent registration for classes. Preventing a student from signing up for classes can be severe punishment indeed, especially when competing for those courses that fill rapidly and may be graduation requirements for one's major. Benjamin Collard still has to deal with the investigation of the complaint against him, and I'll be interested in learning how that turns out, but at least he isn't being held in academic suspended animation.
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008
From: PresComments [PresComments@mail.ucf.edu]
Subject: Re: Fairness for Collard
Thank you for your e-mail.
Laws regarding student privacy prevent us from commenting about individual UCF students. But, in general terms, when a student allegedly violates student rules of conduct, his or her student account is placed on hold.
The student is notified of this action and informed that the hold will not prevent registration for classes. A student is allowed to register after making a request to release the hold. The Office of Student Conduct follows this procedure for any student who is referred to it.
More information about the entire Golden Rule and the student conduct process is available on our Web site, www.ucf.edu. Please be assured that UCF is committed to following its standard procedures to ensure fair outcomes in all student conduct review cases.
Additionally, it is the university's policy to treat all people with dignity and respect, without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, veteran status, or political opinions and affiliations.
Amy J. Barnickel
Senior Executive Assistant to the President
From Promise to Prominence:
Celebrating 40 Years
Say, do you think Collard is still curious about Catholicism? The next mass service on the UCF campus will be on August 24 at the beginning of fall semester at 6:00 PM in the Student Union. I suggest you don't go, Benjamin.