Free speech was a hot topic of discussion at USF Thursday, but for the first time in nearly eight months, the man whose speech was being dissected wasn’t Sami Al-Arian. It was a University Police officer.
Mike Klingebiel, the UP’s public information officer, sent an e-mail just after 8 a.m with a simple message intended to inform the university community that UP brought in $2,500 at an auction for the USF Student Emergency Loan Fund.
But it was what followed the summary that led to a daylong exchange on three USF listservs.
Klingebiel said in the message that UP “got a little aggressive” and auctioned off a few things that it shouldn’t have. The list included WUSF Radio, USF President Judy Genshaft’s car, the Administration Building and The Oracle.
Two hours later, UP Major Pat Johnson sent out an e-mail of his own, calling Klingebiel’s e-mail a “lapse in good judgment,” saying that it was unprofessional and detracted from UP’s dedication to serving the university community and apologized to those the e-mail “directly offended.”
“The administration of the University of South Florida Police Department extends ourdeepest regrets for this inappropriate act of insensitivity,” the e-mail said.
But even Genshaft was laughing Thursday after she learned that she was one of the subjects at whom Klingebiel was poking fun, as Klingebiel made reference to USF’s faculty union being the high-bidder in the imaginary auction.
“The president was hopeful the Student Government would outbid the faculty union for the administration,” university spokesman, Michael Reich said. “It’s the end of a stressful year, and people need a little levity.”
Roy Weatherford, president for the faculty union, agreed, saying in light of USF’s current controversy involving Sami Al-Arian, the joke was a needed break.
“I thought it was a charming and healthy sign that even though (the president and I) are on opposite sides of the Al-Arian issue, we can still laugh and get along,” Weatherford said. “I’m not the least bit upset.”
Reich said Genshaft was disappointed in Johnson’s reprisal of Klingebiel.
“Obviously, the president supports free and open speech, and that’s what those listservs are for,” Reich said.
Johnson could not be reached for comment Klingebiel said late Thursday that he had no idea his joke would cause such a response.
“The outcome definitely was not the intent,” he said. He said he had not been informed whether he would receive any disciplinary action.
Following Johnson’s e-mail, more than 100 e-mails were posted, none of which expressed any kind of offense to Klingebiel’s e-mail.
In fact, most had a bone to pick with Johnson.
“It’s rather disappointing that in an academic institution where freedom of thought is supposedly paramount and sacred, it was felt necessary to publicly humiliate someone for daring to show a rather lighthearted sense of humor,” Anthony Salveggi, an office manager from the school of social work, wrote.
“No! No sense of humor allowed! We must all sit/stand diligently at our designated work areas and be very, very serious. This is a very serious place. Nothing ridiculous never happens here!” said Vicki Gojmerac, an office manager from the department of criminology.
The USF-News listerv has a disclaimer that says it is “reserved for official University of South Florida news, announcements and other sponsored activities.”
The USF-Talk listserv’s disclaimer reads: “USF-Talk is an open discussion forum for the students, faculty and staff of the University of South Florida. It is established to promotepositive exchange among the eclectic population of the university. USF-Talk encourages creative and innovative ideas that will benefit USF and assist the university’s progress into the 21st Century.”
Contact Ryan Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is Sgt. Mike Klingebiel’s original e-mail
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 08:10:07 -0400
The Police Department would like to thank those who participated in yesterday’s auction. We raised almost $2,500 for the USF Student Emergency Loan Fund. This was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. We look forward to next year’s auction.
The Police Department would like to thank those who participated in yesterday’s auction. We raised almost $2,500 for the USF Student EmergencyLoan Fund. This was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. We look forward to next year’s auction.
Unfortunately, we got a little aggressive and auctioned off a few things we shouldn’t have. The following sales are hereby null and void:
WUSF Radio (Susan Giles your check bounced)
On a different note, next year we will not attempt to sell the Lifsey House. For the fourth year in a row no body wanted it.
Sgt. Mike Klingebiel(MKLING@ADMIN.USF.EDU)